Welcome to the Pitshanger Poets

Welcome to the Pitshanger Poets Workshop Blog.

We hold a weekly workshop at the Questor’s Theatre in Ealing to read and discuss our work; you are welcome to join us. This blog will keep you updated with news from the workshop, poetry events and examples from our membership, old and new.

We meet every Tuesday night from 8pm in The Library, Questor’s Theatre, Mattock Lane, Ealing, London. Bring a poem, bring copies and be ready to discuss it in a friendly, enthusiastic group.

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Daphne Gloag – Pitshanger Book Shop

It would be most remiss of us not to remind you of a rare opportunity to see and hear Daphne Gloag (of this parish) read at the Pitshanger Book Shop, (141 Pitshanger Lane, Ealing) this week on Thursday the 19th April.

The whole shebang starts at 7PM – the first half comprises readings from her Time sequence, How Long Is Not Long. The second half includes extracts from her previous publications, including Beginnings. James Priestman will be there to read some poems, adding his own drama and panache to proceedings.

See you there!

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The Voice Speaks – Martin Choules

(In reply to Rupert Brooke’s The Voice)

Late in the dusk, in the ancient woods
I saw a poet on my stroll
In desp’rate search for solitude,
At one with all and deep of soul.

I bid him “Ho” and “What a view !”
But he just sighed at ‘one-of-those’.
From lofty heights, his dagger-eyes
Shot down along his haughty nose.

So strange, we took so diff’rently
To seeing beauty silver-pearled –
When I see set a sun so soft,
I want to share it with the world.

I guess for really clever chaps,
We little people must appal –
There’s some so full of inner peace,
They need no other folks at all.

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Workshop, 10th April 2018

It’s Spring, both officially and in spirit, which means it’s submissions time again.  Spring is the traditional time for poets of all stripes to start thinking about writing that powerful and incisive sequence, a love story centred on the rise and fall of the Soviet Union’s Reinforced Concrete Industry, for example, so that one can really get going on it during the long summer break from the comfort of the garden recliner when one should really be taking care of the leylandii infestation.  So, while one is sketching out the structure and conjuring up some really powerful similes around forests of steel rods and the hopelessly intertwined affection Yuri discovers he has for Olga on the 7:30 tram to Magnitogorsk, what should one do with the treasure chest of encapsulated veracity that one has been creating all winter?

Now, I would not demean my devoted readership by suggesting you simply send stuff to poetry magazines, that is not the cut of my drift, heaven forfend.  First there is the sheer drudgery of printing out and packaging ten of one’s best recent works to as many as 300 national poetry magazines.  Fortunately, my Man is happy enough to take care of this Sisyphean task for me, and he gets on with it so well that it has been quite a while since I last noticed him printing anything out or stuffing an envelope.  When I last queried him about this, he told me he prefers to carry out the whole ugly business during the late hours, after I am safely tucked up with my Homer and my Horlicks.  He assures me that as soon as one of these hateful organs responds with anything which resembles an acceptance he will let me know, though it has been a while now since we got any form of response from any magazine.  Rotters.

No, what I am alluding to is the growing plethora of specialist on-line publications and web sites springing up all over the world wide wonderweb.  Narrow, and hopelessly dilettante some of these sites may appear but they often serve a discerning group of connoisseurs who would never succeed in getting a publishing house interested in their subject, although some might argue there is a good reason for this.

This week’s Workshop was anything but maven-like.  Pat Francis got us going with a theme familiar to any urban denizen; the neighbour one never gets to know.  John Hurley spun an intriguing tale of the secret left to him by a Great Aunt, but did he tell us what the secret was?  James Priestman, continuing his drive to open the Bible’s stories to people who might count themselves as philistines, told a story of Abimelech, who was, er, a Philistine.  Peter Francis brought us a poem with more than a nod to ‘In The Time Of The Breaking of Nations’.  Alan Chambers is one with the spirit of the season, with his new piece describing a slow walk into Spring.  Nick Barth keeps coming across the same stretch of road, no matter where he goes.  Owen Gallagher conjured the recurring memory of parting in the mind of an Irishman abroad.  Finally, Daphne Gloag reprised a piece centred around an Assyrian lion in the British Museum, captured at the moment of death.

I came to the conclusion that nothing would improve some of these earnest discussion groups more than a poem from your faithful correspondent.  I am certain that there is nothing that Pylon of the Month would desire more than my angry tirade against the ruination of the skyline by the electricity transmission industry.  I am certain that the peaceable and light-hearted Moustache Waxer’s Companion will jump at the chance to publish my wry castigations on the exploitation of bees by the haircare industry.  Likewise I have written pieces for Cheese Monthly, Cravat Club, Crevette Club and Clavier Club just to mention a few targets in the cees on my planning spreadsheet.  Of course, the administrative burden of identifying and sifting all these fine, specialist web sites is considerable, and I am already of the opinion that it might be another area where my Man can assist me with the day-to-day nitty-gritty of actually sending stuff out.  As always, I am sure will be eager to step in.  If you have a gentleman’s gentleman or other staff I hope you have found this idea helpful, and if you have been, thank you for reading.

 

 

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New Year Arrival – Pat Francis

The year came in with snow
and birth pangs. I was afraid
of icy roads. A sour-faced nurse,
glass in hand, greeted our arrival
to the sound of bells.

Alone all day with a new baby
I was fearful. Trees in the park
hung heavy and white, endless
winter; no pushing a pram
through frozen paths.

Alone all day with fretful crying
I felt guilty, heart heavy with love.
When my mother smiled, the baby
smiled back – his first time ever.
My smiles were frozen.

Spring, like hope,
deferred its arrival.

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Workshop, 3rd April 2018

Anyone reader who might be concerned that the presence of the Archives in our vaults beneath Walpole Park are a obstruction to the well-being of the arcadian beauty above can rest easy.  Let us assure you that our concrete tunnels certainly do not hinder tree routes, as evidenced by their many incursions through our ceilings.  Nor are we an obstruction to the local mycoflora, whose moulds and mushrooms are perfectly at home upon our precious manuscripts.  Over our long dwell in subterrania, we have also faced invasions from woodlice, ants, worms, and one occasion even moles.

But the most common and least invited visitor is always water.  Whenever there are heavy rains, so surely come the drips, the puddles, and eventually the stalactites.  The interns soon learn to arrive for work in wellingtons for their shift on the treadmill that operates the pumps.  So it is a relief to come up into the dry on a Tuesday evening to lurk in the shadowy recesses of the Questors Library and record the latest instalment of literary loqutions.  Michael Harris shook out his umbrella and got down to telling his exciting news to the female side of his psyche, while James Priestman imagined the clouded brow of a dying patriarch.

For Pat Francis, the new year drizzle put a dampener on the new life in her life, and husband Peter was showering us with his thoughts on the ignorance of a dying tree.  It was all rainy days and Mondays for Owen Gallagher’s old man, the raindrops forever falling on his head, but perhaps constant precipitation is just the right tone for Martin Choules’ graveyard.  John Hurley was far more thunderous at the plight of the homeless on a night like this, while Alan Chambers well knew from his mountaineering that with climbers, like evaporation, that what goes up will soon succumb to gravity, which left us Daphne Gloag in a riddling mood to while away the hours stuck indoors.

One artist who always enjoyed a good downpour was Johnny Constable.  “You can’t paint rainbows without the rain” he liked to say, until one Tuesday when Frankie Beaufort pointed out that actually you can.  But the man was obsessed by them, as if every cathedral and windmill were a secret Noah’s Ark.  Leigh Hunt somewhat bitchily wondered if he had just acquired a new paintbox, and was determined to use every colour therein.  Indeed, he even observed what a relief it was to see his new 6-footer Landscape: Noon to be as free of rainbows as was its wain free of hay.

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Workshop, 27th March 2018

Office life does not seem conducive to literary endeavours, but never underestimate monotony.  Franzie Kafka toiled the years as an insurance clerk to pay the bills and numb the conscious sufficiently for his imagination to run riot, while Tommy Eliot beaver away on the bowels of the Bank of England, dreaming of a better life in a vast wasteland.

And this week, the Pitshanger Poets have likewise taken up the bucolic bureaucracy of the penpusher and keyboard puncher as we found ourselves exiled from our comfortable Library to the manager’s office as the entire theatre has once again been taken over by terpsichorean children and their ever-doting parents.  But that’s the beauty of words – they’re highly portable.

Michael Harris started proceedings while changing the toner in the photocopier with an eschewance of the almost for an acceptance of the is.  Owen Gallagher peeped out over the sign declaring that we didn’t need to be mad to work here to recount a pop-up market in weaponry and violence among the more pro-active residents of his estate, handing over to Pat Francis as she gave up trying to turn on the coffee-maker and instead took an interest in blackbirds and cocoons.  Anne Furneaux then looked up from unjamming the stapler to recall gossiping mugs and galloping chairs from her childhood, setting up a thorough decrying of the impersonal world of mammon by John Hurley as he totted-up the VAT receipts.

Daphne Gloag then gathered us round the water cooler to tell about a puppet show she witnessed on her holidays in Italy, complete with fast drivers and shipwrecked children, and Peter Francis sat making a paperclip daisychain as he recalled an away-day to Tolpuddle on the theme of how little we can do to help sometimes.  William Morton chuckled over the eccentricities of English spelling in two poems he has recently discovered as he defragmented his hard drive, while Martin Choules left his emails unread to cogitate instead on the nameless wind that made us the island nation we are today.

Sir John kept an small office in a backroom at the Manor, should he be struck by a fine capital or amusing cartouche during his stay.  Mrs Conduitt was under strict instructions not to enter, even to dust, lest her ministration of motes should disturb his precise system of chaos-filing, whereby seemingly random sprawl had a holistic relationship with all other knots of clutter in complex, unfathomable ways.  Sometimes, though, he would be disturbed by a guest looking for the water closet or wine cellar (or more likely both), whereupon a sudden breeze would scatter his entire filigree network of interconnections to oblivion, or as Bysshy Shelley liked to put it “look on my paperwork, ye numpty, and despair !”

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Workshop, 13th March 2018

The Questors is yet again abuzz, an often occurrence for a theatre that stages a middle-teens number of productions each year, let alone those provided by visiting companies.  But on this occasion, the offering is a bit different, being more akin to the variety nights of older-fashioned times, if such nights featured only three pieces, and those tending more to short plays, stand-up and dance than to dog-acts and conjurers.  It is time for the bi-annual Questival, an even-year tri-night cornucopia of (a few of) the entertainments of the travelling player or the rep artiste.

Plenty of good turns at this week’s workshop – opening the bill was Alan Chambers with much Winter cold and muffled voices, warming us up for Daphne Gloag singing about a pretty cactus flower, but in a minor key.  Owen Gallagher then spun us a tale from his rocking chair about the bootless old ghosts in his house, and Martin Choules has just returned from a tour of the working-man clubs in the sprawling suburbs.  Pat Francis then soared us away on a flight of fancy involving a nod to Coward from a raptor’s servant, while her partner Peter led the feather-dusted tributes to the passing of a fellow trouper.  For the finale, John Hurley brought down both the house and the sky with yet more Winter with just a touch of the snows of yesteryear.

Back in Sir John’s day, after he had sold the Manor but while he was leasing it back for tax reasons, the only theatre on offer was whatever was currently occupying the room above the Red Lion.  These would vary greatly in quality, from pocket orchestras showcasing the latest short-trousered geniette (a miniature genius) to a singular man who could mimic the birds of the farmyard, right upto the moment the farmer brought down the axe on their necks.  The Pitshangerers could be a rowdy audience, with Georgy ‘Brian’ Byron chief among the hecklers, often in rhyming couplets.  Bysshy Shelley would sit in the front row and a scowl and refuse to crack a smile all night, while Wordy Wordsworth snored loudly at the back.

Finally, the manager would ask all to be upstanding for the singing of the national anthem, to rouse the spirits of true Britons during these Napoleonic times.  The crowd would give much gusto in the first verse, but then peter out as embarrassingly few of them knew the second, and some merry-andrew would always try to sing the verse about General Wade confounding the knavish tricks of the rebellious Scots, even though they weren’t even the enemy, and even though that verse had never been official anyway.  Such amateur choraling severely underwhelmed Billy Blake, who scribbled some alternative lines on a beermat involving dark satanic chariots of green and pleasant land.  Alas, he was no tunesmith, and his career in showbiz never took off.

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