The web page of the Albion Beatnik Bookstore in Oxford, now closed (as usual) for business: muses and misspills on books, jazz, poetry, stuff like false flags and smoke screen: was randomly decrepit and proven to be more than neo-bankrupt: it was so analogue it was anal and now deceased.
Bernard O’Donoghue’s poetry collection The Seasons of Cullen Church (Faber, 2016) is lyrical and observant, an elegiac lament, beautiful so often, riddled with memories of a childhood spent near Cork.
In ‘Connolly’s Bookshop’ Bernard writes uncomfortably of an established second-hand bookshop in retreat and describes the bookseller: “bit by bit you’re marooned in the middle on your high stool… defiant Crusoe at the centre of your island.”
We filmed a video of Bernard reading this poem one evening recently in the Albion Beatnik; after this I asked him questions about the poem, the answers were weaved together.
Here is the link: https://youtu.be/JHTtZuMZNcM.
C20th Fox had already declined the film rights of Bernard reading: apparently there was little opportunity for car chases. The Albion Beatnik film is a bit discursive (nearly ten minutes long), but the opening zoom sequence across the piano and back is in fact based on a Starsky & Hutch car chase (blue-eyed Hutch does make an appearance later). It could be that the slow-mo, golden-hued shot of Bernard near the end will stampede sales at Clinton Cards, but if it is crankily amateurish, we hope overall the film can be seen as thoughtful as it attempts to take the poem away from the written page and its Faber museum setting. I like especially the hazy shot brought into focus as Bernard is discussing “social Alzheimer’s” for instance (on purpose, honest, it was a line filmed twice), and Bernard is relaxed and generous. The setting for Bernard’s reading is, of course, here in the Albion Beatnik Bookstore in Walton Street, Oxford. Stella Shakerchi filmed and stitched; the music is by Dennis Harrison.
Bookshops were very much part of Bernard’s youth, a journey to Cork often only a pilgrimage to visit them. Connolly’s Bookshop was opened later in 1982 in the city centre. Bernard got to know its owner on frequent return visits to Cork over the years. The Bookshop had fought two recessions, threat from chain bookshops, rising rent and rates, and latterly the convenience and economies of the internet; it closed in 2014. When Adrian Connolly was asked by the local newspaper what he thought would happen to the now valuable space that was once the bookshop, he could say only that “if it was me, I would open a bookshop.”
(Memo to self: wear better socks for filming in future.)