Those of us who enjoy tripping out on a Saturday night, taking in a show and then dropping in to a Dance Hall on the trail of the bright young things hoofing the night away are familiar with the workings of popular songwriters. There’s nary a bright sunny ballad that did not start life as a mournful torch song until the drummer, bored with rehearsing with brushes, picked up his sticks, kicked into double time and took the band with him. Thus Frankie Goes To Hollywood hit on ‘Relax’ and never looked back.
For the poets of Pitshanger the same dilemma applies. A poet may start out with a stab at humour, experiment with a hint at irony or toy with a little bathos, only for his Workshop audience to take the piece to heart and insist that this is indeed the deepest thing they ever heard in their life-long days.
In this way we understand The Old Compton Street Regular Standing Committee in Support of Needful Review and Fabrication of the Work of Local and Esteemed Poets insisted that William Blake’s humorous ode to his troublesome feet be re-worked as an imagined visit by Christ to these shores. Luckily, Bill saw the sense in this and a rousing song resulted. Would that he had taken their advice on that ludicrous drivel he wrote about the Tyger.
We saw more than a little mixture of bathos and pathos in this week’s Workshop. Owen Gallagher imagined a prayer said by a would-be celebrity on the subject of work, or lack of it. John Hurley wrote a true story of an alcoholic brickie, initially considering it humorous but arriving at the tragedy in his situation. Martin Choules wondered why only a few bugs have been named as bugs by science, and if the other creepy-crawlies mind not really being bugs. Anne Furneaux brought us a warning about the folly of believing the blizzard of information on the Internet, simultaneously funny and thought-provoking. Louise Nicholas made another welcome Guest appearance with her imagined message to a fellow book reader and margin-writer. Helen Baker unpacked the current suspected economic recovery, wondering if this is the same old same old. Nick Barth wrote a real-life story of the voodoo of his father’s exploding coffee grinder. Finally Peter Francis described the funeral of Jean Ferrat, encapsulating the pathos of the occasion and the bathos of the young, trendy attendees.
Perhaps as a crew of mostly British poets we are unable, even at the most poignant of moments, of taking ourselves entirely seriously. If you have been, thank you for reading.