In an attempt to prove that I don’t only buy books that were published before I was born, I am writing a post about a book launched yesterday at the Betsey Trotwood in Farringdon.
It was the debut collection of poet and forager Richard Osmond, Useful Verses. Many of the poems are focused on nature, through the eyes of someone who spend a lot of time in it looking for things to eat. In an enthusiastic mood, I might be tempted to connect foraging in the woods to looking through second hand books. Both, at least, share an element of untiring obsession and both rely on training the eye to spot small details and features among largely uniform landscapes (bookshelves/ forest floors).
To get back to the event. It began with an introduction from Don Paterson. I’m not sure if this is a product of living in Scotland but Don Paterson seems incalculably glamorous to me. Then Richard went on to read several of his poems.
One of his poems was designed as a kind of scratch and sniff experience. Osmond passed around several bunches of “pineapple weed”, the aromas of which were to be inhaled at points throughout the poem marked with a small symbol. I kept a few sprigs and slipped them inside the book, as mementos of the evening to be found again in many years, perhaps.
The launch was done under the auspices of the “Poetry Inquisition” set up jointly by Osmond and Will Harris, in response to Jeremy Paxman’s view that poets need to be “called to account for their poetry” by ordinary people. So after the reading he was asked questions about the knickers he had found in the forest, whether poets needed scientific knowledge, and what the point of having so many different ways of describing green was.
I bought a copy of the book, sold by the Newham Bookshop and got it signed with the date and location included. So, I can say that I am not simply a parasite on others’ books but I am making my only contribution to our small world of paper. Perhaps, after I am dead someone will find the book with the sprigs of pineapple weed still inside.