Grevel Lindop

Poet, biographer, critic, essayist and writer on just about everything

Cuban Poet Victor Rodriguez Nuñez

I’m looking forward to this evening as I’m introducing Victor Rodriguez Nuñez, a Cuban poet whom I met at the Stanza Festival last year in St Andrews, to give a reading at Manchester’s Instituto Cervantes.

Victor Rodriguez Nuñez

Victor is a fine poet who work is full of colourful imagery and with a talent for linking earthy detail with a visionary scope. I was charmed and impressed by the vitality of his work and by his excellent reading of it when I heard him at St Andrews, and he turned out to be a friendly and really delightful person. So I proposed him as a guest for the Manchester Literature Festival, and now here he is.

Victor teaches at Kenyon College, Ohio in the USA but insists he is not a political exile from Cuba, just a wandering intellectual to whom geographical boundaries don’t mean a great deal.
To my amazement, he and his co-translator Katherine Hedeen have done me the compliment of translating a group of my own poems into Spanish, something I never expected and which came as a complete surprise. It will be great to see him again after so long, and the reading should be memorable.


A Feelgood Night with Wilko Johnson

Had a great night out on Saturday – good old rock and roll with one of Britain’s legendary guitarists.

We went to see Wilko Johnson at the Manchester Academy. Wilko has a unique guitar style that blends what used to be called ‘lead’ and ‘rhythm’ – basically, he plays both at once in a percussive, economical way that owes something to Chuck Berry (and before her to Sister Rosetta Tharpe – see my post on her from way back) but is really all his own.

Wilko’s name may not mean much to you if you’re under 40 but he is still remembered as the star attraction of a sensational rhythm and blues band called Dr Feelgood back in the 1970s – just before the punk era dawned. Wilko was famous for the way he would go whizzing around the stage while he played – he never seemed to keep still and he would slide and tear around as if he was on skates, with a weird hypnotic glare on his face.

More recently the band – and Wilko above all – have been the subject of a fascinating film by Julien Temple called Oil City Confidential about the band, its history and the highly individual Wilko, who is a natural star – quoting Shakespeare and Milton fluently (he read English at Newcastle under my old friend Robert Woof, later curator of Dove Cottage – another crazy genius), demonstrating his highly personal guitar technique, and climbing onto the roof of his house in Canvey Island, Essex, where he has a high-grade astronomical telescope. In fact, he’s such an expert that there’s a Facebook group campaigning for him to take over on The Sky at Night when Patrick Moore finally has to retire!

Amanda and I had a quick chat with Wilko in the dressing room and he told us that he’s now got a solar telescope, which has darkened lenses so you can look directly at the sun, so he’s able to watch the solar flares erupting.

But mainly we listened to Wilko and his band performing a classic set of blues numbers and Dr Feelgood songs. Exciting, energising and great fun. And if you want to meet one of British rock’s great characters, or learn about a key episode in British popular culture, or just see a fine documentary film which I guarantee you’ll enjoy, do get hold of Oil City Confidential .