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Interview with Ian Davidson of Gratton Street Irregulars

Gratton Street Irregulars publishes poetry and is run by Ian Davidson and Kelvin Corcoran.  Each chapbook costs £3.00 post free.  Available so far: ‘The Size of a Human Dawn’ by Ralph Hawkins and ‘A Haunting’ by Nathan Thompson. Future publications will include new poetry by Alistair Noon and a selection of Simon Smith’s translations of Catullus.

How/why did all this start? And how do you and Kelvin share out the responsibilities?

I've known Kelvin since the 1970s. We met in Ralph Hawkins' practical criticism class in Essex University. Ralph was a PhD student and used to turn up with a variety of work from the poets he was writing about: Frank O'Hara, Ted Berrigan, George Oppen, Louis Zukofsky, Anne Waldman, Denise Riley, Tom Raworth, Lee Harwood etc. That was my real education, not the big lecture courses. He'd only get half a dozen or so in his class.

I remember Kelvin, in his donkey jacket and with his head thrust forward in a post punk attitude, giving this brilliant reading of Zukofsky's Crickets/Thickets/ Light/delight etc, and so went over to see him in St Osyth. I was living in Brightlingsea. Kelvin was writing this sub Olson stuff about the Essex landscape and I was writing sub O'Hara stuff about stumbling around Brightlingsea.

So that's how it started. Both of us have done bits and pieces of publishing over the years, and then we gravitated together a couple of years back. It's been a slow start, but it's coming together now, and we've pamphlets by Alisatair Noon and Simon Smith coming out in autumn.

I do production, Kelvin does marketing. We live a few hours from each other so it works well.

Gratton Street Irregulars is a/ lovely/ imprint name. What's the background to that?

Kelvin lives in Gratton Street. It's a name he used some years back, and one I was very happy to inhabit. He says it’s a name that comes from a conversation with Alan Halsey (of West House books), and I can believe that. It has a Halsey ring to it.

I infer from the comment on your website 'Meeting The Enormous Demand For Poetry In The World' that you have a sense of humour. Do you think that's something in relatively short supply in PoetryWorld?

I like poetry that has wit. Is that the same thing? Poetry that is really quick, that unsettles you a bit and makes you look at the world while you are off balance.

It’s not that I’m against a cool, steady, controlled gaze. Just that I’ve never achieved it.

Maybe going to poetry for the kind of laughs you get from stand-up comedy is difficult. There is a kind of strand of that, and Charles Bernstein seemed to be working quite successfully with that idea for a while, as did Mairead Byrne. Randolph Healy is funny too, but in a different way. Just looking at him read gives me a kind of bubbling joy.