Friday, December 12, 2008

Patrick Jones: 2 Poetry Readings

The Christians were gathered opposite the Senedd in Cardiff Bay. About 200, I reckon. They sang O Come all Ye Faithful, Once in Royal David's City, Calon Lan. "Potty-mouthed poet" Patrick Jones and his supporters were condemned. Speeches denouncing blasphemy were made. People shouted out "hallelujah". A man waved a gold flag, another blew a horn. One fellow, bursting with religious zeal, declared that he used to be a drug addict. Now God was his fix.

Television camera crews rolled up. Like flies on a dungheap politicians materialised and provided the soundbites. Strategically positioned coppers looked like they'd rather be at Ninian Park. Office workers peered out of their windows. I bumped into poet Peter Finch - we were both taking snaps. He went inside to watch Patrick Jones; I remained outside and observed the Christians praying.

At 8pm I was having my bag searched at Borders bookshop. This was Patrick Jones's second poetry reading of the day. Security were afraid that fundamentalists might attempt to infiltrate the gathering. It was strictly invitation only. I assured them of my atheism and they allowed me to enter. Outside, Stephen Green, of Christian Voice was still going on about blasphemy. And homosexuality. And ASBOs. His 200 supporters from the Senedd had dwindled to a mere handful. Perhaps the others had gone Christmas shopping.

There's a certain frisson to being in an empty chain bookstore at night, especially at this time of year. I suppressed an urge to shoplift. We made our way upstairs to the instore Starbucks where the poetry reading was set to take place. The irony of one of Wales's most politicised writers doing his stuff in a Starbucks was not lost on any of us. Needs must, I suppose. We helped ourselves to free wine and nibbles. I said hello to Rachel Trezise.

Burly security guards scrutinised us - the audience - as Patrick Jones read aloud his work. It was surreal. But, to the disappointment of those hoping for a bit of conflict, nobody broke ranks and attempted to disrupt the event. Not even when he read from Hymn, the poem which had caused most of the 'blasphemy' controversy. Instead, we clapped politely at the end of each reading. Between poems Jones apologised for all the fuss. He didn't usually have this level of security, he said, not even when he read in Aberdare.

Afterwards I grabbed a quick word with Patrick. I told him that the Christians protesting at the Senedd had been concerned about his soul. He shrugged and signed my book. 'Create dangerously' it said.