A week on from our sold out film premiere in London we give a live audiovisual performance of My Name Is Swan tonight at La Punta della Lingua, Portonovo, Ancona, Italy. A reading with a slide show of stills from the film cut together by director Adam Carr with a subtitled translation provided by Italian poets Luigi Socci and Francesca Gironi will be presented at Chiesa di Santa Maria, Portonovo, Ancona, lunedì 3 luglio, 21.30.
This is the spot where Mussolini was strung up at the end of the second world war. This is also Piazza Quindici Martiri where the bodies of fifteen ordinary Milanese civilians, killed by the fascists in retaliation for partisan activity, had been put on public display as a warning by Il Duce’s henchmen one year before.
I came here to read a poem (in The Swan bar just across the road). It was always going to be a quiet affair. A far cry from the large and impressive auditorium at MUDEC on Saturday and the historic Teatro Filodrammatici tonight. I had just posted a picture on social media of the bar in Piazzale Loreto when an Italian friend pointed out the significance of the location.
I had begun to feel a little sorry for myself, sat in an unfriendly bar by what is now a huge traffic roundabout. I had begun to think that no one really understood what I did, that no one really cared whether I did it or not before my friend explained the story of the Martyrs of Piazzale Loreto.
It may be glib to say that reading or writing poetry is an action against fascism (it depends of course on what kind of poetry you happen to be reading or writing). It may also be simplistic to suggest that if poetry’s purpose is to make you think a little differently, then a poem can be a weapon against tyranny.
The cars honked and horned around Piazzale Loreto and the locals took aperitivo in the Swan bar on Piazza Quindici Martiri. This was freedom. And I came here to read a poem.
We performed ‘My Name Is Swan’ with a live slideshow compiled by filmmaker Adam Carr as part of Festival Internazionale di Poesia di Milano at MUDEC. We’ll be taking this event on tour after the film premiere at the East End Film Festival on 25th June.
Video projection from performance of ‘My Name Is Swan’ at Festival Internazionale di Poesia di Milano
“Questo è il mio maniero…” (foto: Michele Alessandrini)
The first time Chelsea won the league I wasn’t there. I really wasn’t there, most of us weren’t. The second time (within living memory) I wasn’t there either. I was on stage at a festival in Italy. After the show, I went backstage and found that someone had nicked my Chelsea towel from the dressing room. Yer, I’m not embarrassed to admit that I had a dressing room.
The last time we won it I was on an artists’ residency in France writing a screenplay. While Chelsea achieved yet another success I was off, scratching away, twisting in the wind, missing out on another had-to-be-there moment. But absence is the essence of poetry, loss and not belonging where it finds itself, elsewhere its station and its standing.
Poetry is the art form that isn’t there. It lacks the universality of music, the physicality of image making. If it points at anything it is beyond, away, not here. So as Chelsea fans fought in the stands when their team won the league again last night, where was I? Well, you never saw me. I wasn’t there, right?
[Jan Noble will be performing tonight at Festival Internazionale di Poesia di Milano, MUDEC, Via Tortona, 56, 20144 Milano, 13 maggio, 19:20 h]
The last known ‘breeding pair’ of Italian swans were spotted on Lake Como in 1974. Their union had been blessed by the church in 1969. It was later discovered that both swans were in fact male. The church declined to comment.
It is believed the poet Dante once fell in love and proposed to a swan. Swans feature in much of his poetry: “When at last the swan returns to Italy / so shall be the soul of Lombardy restored.”
Mussolini is said to have ruptured a testicle after being attacked by a swan on the banks of the Po. Alpine partisans in WWII carried the insignia of the swan and two orbs on their berets.
A violent faction of the Juventus Ultras known as ‘Brigata del Cigno’ or ‘The Swan Brigade’ attend matches dressed in black and white swan feather costumes. They intimidate rival supporters by waving their arms about a lot and hissing.
Jan Noble will be performing his poetic monologue “My Name Is Swan” at three venues in Milan. Saturday, 13 May at 19:20h at the Festival Internazionale di Poesia di Milano, MUDEC, Via Tortona, 56, 20144 Milano. On Monday 15th May at 19:30h he will give a private reading at The Swan, Piazzale Loreto, 9, 20100 Milano. On Tuesday night, 16 May at 19:15h he will perform at the spectacular Teatro Filodrammatici , Via Filodrammatici, 1, 20121 Milano.
He is the greatest poet in London. He may not be the best poet in London but he is undoubtedly the greatest. He has never had any aspirations to be either, he has gone out of his way to be neither.
He hasn’t wasted time or money entering competitions, he would never consider submitting careful rewrites to magazines or bother typing up laboured manuscripts for publishers. These pursuits are petty and pointless, contradictory to everything poetry, in its rawest form, represents. Micalef is a purest. His is a life given entirely to the grubby art of rearranging words on a page and growling them at whatever audience happens to gather before him.
He has won no awards, received no nominations, been proposed for no prizes. He isn’t the darling of the lit fest circuit nor the toast of the (small p, small s) poetry society and despite this, and in part because of it, he is the greatest poet in London.
I lived with him in Brixton in the mid 90’s toward the end of his ten year tenure running the Brixton Poets – the only free, weekly poetry night in the city. I would say I served my apprenticeship under him. Back then he made little of his contribution to the legendary Sniffin’ Glue magazine. While his mate Danny Baker had made strides into mainstream media he was still happily stapling our handmade Brixton Poets’ House pamphlet (later The Concessionary) together and giving it away in pubs for nothing.
Steve wrote every day. I’m sure he still does. He’d be up at six and done by nine when he’d knock on my door to read me his morning’s output. Steve wrote fast and fearlessly. Each piece firing and misfiring simultaneously. Although he is the greatest poet in London, Steve doesn’t always write great poetry. His greatness is in that everything he writes is poetry. Every unqualified cough and imperfect croak is a poem. While the rest of us are tightly transcribing Arts Council Grants in iambic pentameter Steve Micalef is gargling turpentine and lighting it.