I have to begin the Blog with the merest smidgen of the most sincere apology. You may have lamented (and you may have not, in which case I applaud your sense of perspective), the lack of a PP blog last week. There was a workshop, and oh, what a workshop it was! It was certainly one of the best workshops, if not the best workshop we have ever hosted, with all manner of exciting and diverting poetic moments. A workshop to sing songs about, a workshop which will be talked about by those who were there and even some who weren’t until their memories fail them and they know not even themselves. It’s a shame you were not there (if you were not), and even more of a shame that there was no blog. A tragedy for poetry in fact, given what occurred.
However, and unfortunately, my notes, hand-transcribed on vellum as is my wont, were lost in the Ealing Bomb Scare last week when a partially-exploded WWII bomb was discovered in a part of Ealing which then had to be partially evacuated by the largely impartial Emergency Services. Because the bomb was partially exploded, its shockwave apparently hovering in mid-air like a soap-bubble, there was the concern that it might fully explode should it be burst by, for example, a schoolboy with a drawing-pin, and take out half the suburb. In the ensuing chaos I think I last saw the vellum pages floating off on the dark waters of the canal but that could have been a partially inflated goat.
This week’s Workshop was not exactly dull, but compared to last week’s… well I should not harp on for fear of being set upon by jealous crowds of poetry fanatics carrying pitchforks and flaming torches, but you had to be there. Michael Harris got us off to a great start with a poem written on observing two boys comparing notes on whose farming father had the most fields. Alan Chambers reminisced about the dying moments of an ocean cruise and that there is never enough time. Time was also on the mind of Daphne Gloag who recognises that the book can be read but never re-written. Nick Barth was remembering a lost friend, reminding himself she will always be there. Christine Shirley has been walking out one midsummer morning. Owen Gallagher, like Michael was thinking about the Spanish Armada, from an Irish point of view. Finally, Ann Furneux has been remembering the Brains Trust on the dear old Beeb, and Cyril ‘it all depends’ Joad.
Anyone reading this blog regularly (who are you? Have you seen a doctor recently?) would be forgiven for thinking that we at Pitshanger Poets are obsessed. It may appear to the unwary that a PP Workshop is a focused undertaking, only to be tackled by the sure of metre and the serious of purpose. Apart from, as related, last week’s workshop, I have to impress upon you now that nothing, unless it is the scoring system on Radio 4’s ‘Just a Minute’ is further from the truth.
Poet after ambitious poet attends our Workshops hoping for a keen appraisal of the work at hand, and our concern is that while they will get a fair hearing they may leave the meeting disappointed. The issue is not the critical faculties of the group nor the depth and breadth of their poetry reading but the fact that at 8 o’clock on a rainy Tuesday evening it is very hard to get away from First World Problems.
Analysis of the PP Archive demonstrates that if the Workshop Chairman is not careful (and if only Nicholas Parsons would reply to my invitations to step in as guest chair, a poet might get the benefit of the doubt for once), well-argued opinion can soon descend into vapid discussions of a purely domestic nature. So, if you find yourself in a poetry workshop in the suburb of a British city, whatever you do, do not mention ‘washing feet in soda water’ for fear of a discussion on paediatrics and the state of one’s plates. Neither should one go near a fox, even a Thought Fox, for fear of sparking one up on the horrors of waking up to a street full of scattered rubbish. The ‘Toad Work’ should be avoided, because of the certainty of a long reminiscence on the last time the cat caught one in the night and how terribly the poor amphibian screamed. Plums in the ice box are right out (should fruit be kept in the fridge?), as are Irish Sixpences (they are collectible now, or are they?). So, when the Workshop morphed into a long and heated debate about the utility of wearing gloves in fields (and whether or not much is missed) given the prevalence of agricultural chemicals these days, it’s a wonder Frances Cornford found it within herself to ever come back. If you have been, thank you for reading.