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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Workshop, 13th August 2019

This week sees the two-hundreth anniversary of a dark time in English history, but a bright moment in the history of poetry – for the Peterloo Massacre may well have been a tragedy, but it was no mere statistic.  It was the still-glowing brand that fuelled the Reform Act thirteen years later, and it was the outrage that sparked one of our finest pieces of polemical verse.  Not the first of course – Johnny Swift and Georgie Byron had both dipped their quills into the bloody inkhorn of anger, but this time it fell to that old Etonian Percy Bysshe to speak out for the workers with his Masque of Anarchy.  Yes, it wasn’t actually published until the reform year of 1832, after its author had died and taken the fight direct to the Heaven he didn’t believe in, but no less timely for all that.

It is also a memory of when a poet could also be a dissident, an agitator, a demagogue, rather than a cosy Radio 4 luvvie or Hay Festival doyen.  Because young Shelley was every bit the radical we all wanted to be at fifteen – moody, wild-eyed and wilder-haired, and probably dressed in black.  Perhaps it’s just as well that he never got the chance to become old Shelley and sell himself out like that Tory lickspittle Wordsworth.  After him, polemical verse was never as good, though honourable mention must go to Alfie Tennyson for his Light Brigade, precisely because such a complaint was so unexpected from one so embedded in the establishment.

Anyway, calmer heads were to be found at this week’s workshop, beginning with a pondering Roger Beckett mulling over what makes writing great, and the world-weary park bench observations as relayed by John Hurley.  A restored painting has struck David Hovatter as losing something as it gained back its clarity, and for Doig Simmonds’ dog, the only part of his master that matters is his feet.  Daphne Gloag brought us two versions of a thought, saying the same thing in rather different ways, and asked us to choose, while Martin Choules has been rallying the modern radicals to favour positivity over doomsaying, and Alan Chambers has been forceably inspired by his cat’s gift of a dead mouse.

But why the delay in the publication ?  Was it suppressed by the dastardly state, or a feint-hearted hothead ?  The Archives reveal a clue on a Tuesday night later in the Autumn.  Leigh Hunt was in attendance and had just received the submission from the Sunshine Socialist on the Italian Riviera, intended for publication in his Examiner.  He read out the Masque of Anarchy in his best lilting, Anglican tones so as to damp down its strident proclamations, but even this was not enough.  The room was outraged, and editor Hunt knew that now was not the time.

But as Sir John would later note, a couple of years earlier such a work would have received, if not a standing ovation, then a very lively sitting one from the salon’s well-stuffed armchairs.  But by 1819, Byron and the Shelleys were abroad, Johnny Keats was suffering from depression that would often keep him quiet in the corner, and Bill Blake was now in his sixties and mostly in a world of his own.  Instead, ever present were those long-extinguished radicals of Wordsworth, Coleridge and Southey, drifting ever rightwards into grumbling fear and comfortable pensions, proving that the new order would be very much the old order.  But the reformers would win the long game, the lions would rise up from slumber, and Leigh Hunt would indeed eventually publish every blooded syllable.

Sometimes, revolutions happen slowly, but away from the middle classes, the spirit of Shelley lives on in the raps and slams of the youth of today.  And still those in power are desperate to keep a lid on things, with coercion, ridicule and even outright censorship, from Rock & Roll to Punk to Drill.  But always remember – ye are many, they are few.

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Workshop, 30th July 2019

In my humble opinion, arguably the most beautiful words ever seen printed in a journal or publication are these; ‘Aubrey Ffinch-Whistler is on holiday’.  This phrase normally makes its modest appearance at the bottom of some column, critique or other article the readership would otherwise have expected yours truly to have penned.  The implication of these simple words being that I am absent, having cast off the cares of this veil of tears, and therefore in a more relaxed frame of mind than the vast maj. of my readership who are either still taking the elevator to the coal face, or are braving the various check-in desks, ticket-offices, ferries, aeroplanes, self-towed caravanettes and pedallos; to whit, your chosen means of escape.

At Pitshanger Poets we have long considered the option of a Summer Break, a couple of weeks away from the ardour of the regular Workshop, to find some shady bower to settle and jot down a few stanzas to bring ease to the world at large.  Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending upon your point of view), poets are simply dreadful at taking summer holidays.  I blame the Irish poets.  Start leafing through some Heaney, Joyce or Beckett and the last thing you find yourself wanting to do is roll out the old beach towel and slather on the Mazola.  No, you’re much more likely to root out the walking boots and three-piece Gore-Tex leisure suit and find the number of that uncle you know with a small castle in Connemara or similar.  In fact, the last time we know of any quantity of Pitshanger Poets going on a holiday in the sun together was in 1937, and a thoroughly miserable time some of them had – it’s a shame there was no ABTA back then as I’m sure some of them would have got their money back after the way they were treated.

You find me hastily jotting these words down on the back page of my Bradshaws as we hot-foot it to the station.  My Man is accompanying me as we find our way to Uncle Archie’s place for a few weeks.  I cannot actually tell you where I am going – Archie persuaded me that there is every likelihood that Interpol read this blog and that this trip is strictly on the QT, but I feel sure the ‘Old Bill’ will catch up with him soon enough, at which point I will be able to tell all.   In the meantime, there is  this-week’s Workshop to tell you about, which description I have scribbled on a largely white illustration of the Jungfrau Railway in Switzerland, so it will not spoil the volume too much.  Who wants to travel to Switzerland anyway?  Uncle Archie perhaps?

This week Roger Beckett got us started with a fine found poem based on the language used by professionals in the care sector.  And they take care of us, too.  Doig Simmons has been spending more time thinking about his corporeal form and wondering whether it is needed on board.  John Hurley made a creative break with his usual style, in this pastoral observation of the nightfall at Glendore.  Pat Francis has been thinking about poetry and the need to be believed.  Nick Barth has noticed that we have a new coven in our midst, and wonders what wild predictions these strange characters will make.  New poet James (we hope you come back to us so that we can get your last name, James) read his slam-tinged work on the superior sex.  Anne Furneaux is ready to share her history of the thousand bomber raid with her Cologne friend, Host.  Christine Shirley’s poem this week wanders a little and is all the better for it.  Finally James Priestman brought back his peon to Andy Murray, as heard from a fanatic, we feel.

If you have been, thank you for reading.

Aubrey Ffinch-Whistler is on holiday

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Workshop, 23rd July 2019

I am no expert in current affairs.  Hang me from the chandelier by my braces and threaten to tickle the souls of my feet with red-hot feather dusters if you like, I could not name a member of the cabinet, the shadow cabinet, the war cabinet or the filing cabinet, whether they be minister with portfolio, without portfolio or without portaloo.  Partly this is a deliberate ploy to maintain some semblance of sanity in the midst of the madness we now call politics, and partly this is to ensure that the newspaper that lines the bottom of Bogie the parakeet’s cage is a fresh as possible.  There it goes, untouched by human hands, by bamboo tongs from doormat direct to collection duties and none of the faces that will soon be obscured by faeces are any the wiser.

Which self-proclaimed ignorance makes me wonder why the media luvvies I so often barge out of the way as I attempt to navigate the West End are so insistent that this, the mid to late summer, is the silly season.  What makes this part of the year any more silly than any other?  Now I can see that the blond Nigel Molesworth character in charge has sillier hair than the poor misbegotten Head Mistress who preceded him, that some of the obvious bounders in his cabinet appear to have sillier phizzogs than their undead predecessors (although that insight is obscured as soon as Bogie’s millet has been allowed to pass on through to the other side), I even get the point that now term time is over at the Big House there’s more space and time for silliness.  But paint me blue and call me Gordon the Big Engine, surely nothing is as silly as the daily debating parties they throw in the House, each and every day?

Fortunately, while political discussion is permitted at the Pitshanger Poets, the vast majority of poets would rather discuss poetry – rather like the famous quote; ‘yes, but apart from that, Mrs Lincoln, what did you think of the show?’

Doig Simmons opened proceedings with a particularly Hades-like view of a retirement home – may we all be spared.  Poetry for John Hurley is a cathartic experience, even when he’s talking about the fish counter in his local supermarket (surely more Waitrose than Lidl?).  Peter Francis appeared to be reading my blog from last week and brought us a double poem – two gags in fact – the last one a notorious one concerning an architect, a surgeon and an economist.  Pat Francis has been remembering Chopin and his benefactor Jane Stirling and the questionable way she got her money.  Michael Harris’ poem this week was less of a dark secret than his piece of last week, but is still enigmatic.  Martin Choules produced another well-wrought rhythmic and rhyming piece on the invasion of the invasive plant in June.  Nick Barth brought back a bit of an oldie about the Summer we returned to the moon.  Roger Beckett brought a concentrated story of his Mother’s girlhood, as related to him.  Finally, David Erdos brought another sharp and erudite poem, the toner apparently still wet, on a memorial to his friend Heathcote Williams, which we understand is something of an annual event for him.

As has been mentioned before, we are a friendly workshop at Pitshanger Poets, and always have been.  Perhaps this is a legacy of our birth, some time around the English Civil War, when people of all kinds were split on their loyalty to either Parliament or the King.  As one might expect, virtually all record of these early workshops has been lost in the mists of time, something we are quite grateful for given the hordes of historians who contact the Archive every year looking for some meaty factoids to spiff up their latest volumes.  It is tempting to surmise that of course John Donne (Metaphysical Party) and Sir Richard Famshawe (Cavalier Party) sat opposite each other at the dining table in the hall at the old Pitzhanger Manor at the height of the Civil War.  Given the tensions between the two camps, all reference to the conflict itself, Religion, King, Parliament and Nobility would have been expunged from the conversation, leaving, given the state of written English at the time, rhyme, meter and most importantly, spelling, available for discussion.  The amicable differences of opinion on the most appropriate spelling for a word, given the demands of the poem at hand would surely stretch on late into the night.

It would be more than a hundred years before one Doctor Johnson chose to volunteer himself as the English language’s arbiter, writing our first Dictionary and ending such debates.  What?  A self-appointed Johnson making vital decisions certain to affect the future of English (and these islands) for hundreds of years to come?  Could it happen again?

If you have been, thank you for reading.

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Workshop, 16th July 2019

It is that time of year when all aspiring poets start to mull over the possibility of a holiday poem.  One might have deadlines to meet, the Editor might be on the blower demanding final copy for the next slim volume, the pressures of keeping up with the twists and turns of Brexit may demand the keenest concentration as one works towards the three-act verse-play cunningly intermingling the themes of Halloween, new beginnings, departures and a buffoon hanging from a zip wire by his undercrackers, and yet, yet.  One only has to find oneself in a deckchair with a notebook, pencil and cold glass of something refreshing to hand for the familiar cues to come flooding in.  The seaside, an old-fashioned resort; finding just the right flavour of ice-cream in that place on the beach.  The shock of the cold sea on one’s first dip. Eating moules frites overlooking the harbour with a demi-pichet of vin rose.  Watching the gruff fishermen unloading their catch in the afternoon.  Staying in that charming Beaux-Arts Hotel at La Rochelle where we met the mysterious Baron.  Visiting the Casino with the Baron and learning Vingt-et-un.  Drinking Champagne and entering into an exciting business partnership with the Baron to build a new and even better Canal in Suez.  Being informed by the bank that one’s current account has been emptied by a mysterious transaction, and that one has no money to pay the bill at the charming Beaux-Arts Hotel.  Slipping out of the back entrance of the charming Beaux-Arts Hotel in the early hours and making a dash for the two-seater.  The strange scent of the La Rochelle Gendarmerie Interview room.  Surely, we all have had holidays like this?

This week’s Workshop saw a fair number of double poems.  For those not in the know, a double poem may be a piece quite genuinely developed in two parts.  Or it might be two poems that just happen to come together by some chance juxtaposition.  Or it might be that a poet has written a very short poem, and rather than just leave it at that, they decide to print a second poem on the same piece of paper and bring both pieces to the workshop in order to ensure that they get a proper turn.  Pat Francis lead out with a war poem with stanzas arranged in two columns which could be read cross-wise or lengthways with fascinating results.  John Hurley brought us a single and singular poem about the battles fought in the streets between bicycles and car wing-mirrors.  I would sympathise, but the two-seater does not possess such hideous protuberances as wing-mirrors; they would spoil its unmatched lines.  Michael Harris brought us a triple poem, no less, concerning a secret he is keeping.  One day he will have to tell all.  Martin Choules brought a single poem telling the story of a housing officer discovering the body of an old woman who died in her flat, and who then made homes for her living cats.  New Pitshanger Poet Mateen Mirza, in a classic double poem ploy, brought us two short poems which he insists are discrete works, yet both feature the theme of roses.  Roger Becket brought us a proper double poem, mainly about metalwork and filing metal away.  Niall Cassidy has been remembering a time when his mother told him he was in trouble with God, but luckily his grandmother was up there to stick up for him.  Caroline Am Bergris has been leaving dogs to lie, imagining their dreams of marrowbone and rain.  Nick Barth has been to Rome and tells us he is going back to revisit his beloved Pantheon.  Finally, Peter Francis rounded off with a recollection of a town on one perfect morning before the errand boys went away to war and the high street filled up with beauty parlours and hair salons.

Perhaps my holiday memories are slightly less halcyon than my esteemed readers’, I do hope so.  In search of reading more amenable to a relaxing time, I started scouting about and alighted on ‘Sand-Between-The-Toes’ by one Alan Alexander Milne almost immediately. His books are a constant feature of my bedside table and are guaranteed to get me back off to the land of nod should I wake in the middle of the night in a state of the screaming heebie-jeebies (screaming heebie-jeebies is putting it mildly dear reader; recently I have been cursed with a recurring and quite inexplicable nightmare that Donald Trump is the British Prime Minister).  You, the innocent (though never naïve) reader might assume that Sand-Between-The-Toes is based on a hallowed memory of father and son, as so much of Milne’s work certainly is; of walking along the beach with Christopher Robin.  Careful reading of the PP Archive puts another slant on things.  My colleague, the Archivist, Ms Chalice points out that Milne was an infrequent visitor to our workshops in the mid-twenties, just at the point when he was attempting to find himself as an author.  Co-incidentally this was the same point in history when a certain Thomas Edward Lawrence was also attempting to find himself.  Both adventurers in thought sought resolution in poetry, both writers beat a path to the Manor’s door.  However, it seems that two such large egos could not be contained by one small Breakfast Room.  Lawrence, a man more habituated to the stick than the carrot as a child was vocally unsympathetic to Milne’s playful stories of days out with his son.  Milne, on the other hand, a passionate pacifist, was unreceptive to Lawrence’s tales of derring-do, trudging round the desert waving swords and shooting Enfields at Ottomans.  Sand-Between-The-Toes was a sly dig, keenly aimed at Lawrence and his near-constant invocations of the sand, the heat and the other privations of life on the Sykes-Picot Line, which, by the way, points from the North to the West, hence the reference to the ‘good Nor-Wester’ in the poem.

The Archive attests that Lawrence either ignored or failed to understand Milne’s subtle dig, as peace reigned that evening.  The scene even made it to David Lean’s epic movie of 1962, with Kenneth Williams brilliantly cast as a serious but wry AA Milne opposite Peter O’Toole’s latter-day, deflated Lawrence.  Unfortunately, the Pitshanger Poets’ first appearance in a major motion picture had to be consigned to the cutting room floor, as earlier that year Walt Disney had acquired the film rights to every goddamned word AA Milne had ever written.  If you have been, thank you for reading.

 

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Workshop, 9th July 2019

Last week, you may recall, we were discussing nonsense verse.  Discussing it, note, in a light playful manner, for when one hears of doctorate theses dissecting just what is a runcible spoon, then one fancies that the academic has spectacularly missed the point.  However, ever since then this archivist has been plagued by the nagging bluebottle of unlooked-for cross references, swooping past my ear every few minutes with its unignorable buzzing until I was forced to spend half a day I could ill-afford to chase down its obscure footnote of coincidence in one of our weightiest and scrawliest tomes, inconveniently located at the very bottom of our tallest bookstack and carrying a Babel’s-worth of more junior volumes atop its fraying boards.  At least its considerable weight, while much straining this archivist’s back, did make it an ideal tool for slamming down on the aforesaid metaphorical fly and crushing its worthless, miserable body to oblivion, and the fact that the antique oaken table upon which it was resting at the time was rent asunder was small price to pay for finally scratching that itch.

So, what was the resulting irrelevant piece of miscellany anyway ?  Well, the archives (eventually) show that Lewis Carroll, was a regular attendee throughout 1871, playing truant from his lecturing duties at Oxford to catch the Great Western flyer down to seeking to polish his nonsensical verses for his upcoming Alice in Wonderland II – Back Down the Rabbit-Hole.  Initially he concentrated on honing what started out as The Baboon & The Blacksmith, swapping out one of the title characters each week for another mammal or tradesman with apparently no logic as to why this latest was any more absurd than the previous.

Nothing exchangeable about this week’s workshop, where the singular John Hurley has been struggling to stem global warming and Alan Chambers has been listening at night to the sound of his house breathing out and fidgeting.  Anne Furneaux remembers the coalmen from her childhood, leaving a film of soot in their wake – perhaps to clean up they needed to take a dip in the sky like the boy in Owen Gallagher’s fantasy.  A similar magical (though not nonsensical) theme was pursued by Roger Beckett as he listened to a tree’s digestion and by Nick Barth as he longed for dirty, noisy, sexy petrolhead machines in a world of batteries.  Martin Choules meanwhile has been looking up and ignoring the dim stars, and Pat Francis has been not ignoring her neighbour at the bus stop and then in the casket, leading us to a pleasant walk into the sunset on the beach with Doig Simmonds.

Which brings us neatly back to the beach of Lewis Carroll’s mollusc massacre.  Once this was set, he turned to the equally-lengthy Jabberwocky –  Alas, here instead of the non sense coming from a joyfully cannibalistic picnic, it seemed to consist of an endless litany of made-up words.  “Cut it down, Lewis !” was the comment each week, and sure enough when it appeared again it was shorn of yet another verse, but its constant wellspring of gibberish would still prove to wearying on Frederica’s gatherings.  Finally, exasperated, they nodded through a twenty-eight line version (but only because the final four lines repeat the first four), yet the upshot of such ruthless editing is that something important had become lost – the battle itself !  We seem to jump from the jabberwocky merrily burbling through the wood when a sudden double one-two is all it takes.  Vorpal blade or no, that has to be chalked up as a major anticlimax.

 

 

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Workshop, 2nd July 2019

Writing a good nonsense poem takes years of serious practice.  Do you think that Alice just tumbled down the first rabbit hole she encountered ?  Or that the Owl hadn’t dated a whole kindle of pussycats before he found the right Remarkable Pussy You Are ?  Many an expedition was sent out in search of the Ning Nang Nong, stocked with provisions of green eggs and ham all stored in a pelican’s beak, that ran into various crocodiles, snarks and enormous bears before coming galumphing back by sea in a sieve – or so I was told by a girl named Matilda, so it must be true.

The trouble is, if your verse doesn’t actually mean anything, it must make it’s pointlessness pretty – no excuses for shaky meter and half-rhymes when another, better rhymed word would make just as much sense (ie none).  The rhythm has to be perfect, the lines rattle off with never a hiccup or emphasissing the wrong syllable, and above all, it must sound great !  It might not mean anything, but who can fail to love with

The time has come, the Walrus said, / To talk of many things: / Of shoes – and ships – and sealing wax – / Of cabbages – and kings -’

Or

‘At whatever time the deed took place  / Macavity wasn’t there !’

Or

‘And there in a wood a piggy-wig stood / with a ring on the end of his nose,’

– hold on, we’re not done yet –

‘His nose, / His nose, / With a ring on the end of his nose.’

But there was nothing but the utmost seriousness at this week’s workshop – Martin Choules read us his dry discourse on the biology of siphonophores with only a brief attack of the giggles, and Roger Beckett has been treating climate change with the utmost gravity, despite it being minus fifteen in Aberdeen yet awfully hot in Aldershot.  For Daphne Gloag, the most pressing question was whether parrots are afraid of dynamite, and Alan Chambers has been off listening to the bells, while Christine Shirley found February to be a time for thawing, and there’s nothing silly about that.  Meanwhile, Owen Gallagher managed to sing a hymn of praise to workmen without a single cliche about milk buttock cleavage or milk-and-four-sugars, and John Hurley’s daydream beside a log fire took him into his sentimental past rather to where the bong-tree grows.  Peter Francis then told us with a straight face that his favourite element is water, but I swear his hidden wall is laughing at us, unlike the skylark in Pat Francis’ ode (who fortunately wasn’t a duck).  And then we came to David Erdos, or rather his cat, sneering at the folly of the human world that the felines are about to take over – it was just a shame he couldn’t have brought his cat along with him so she could have read it out herself, and finally Nick Barth has been down at the seaside looking at the light and wondering what the fuss is all about, which is a perfectly sensible English reaction.

Whenever anyone has brought some nonsense verse to the group in the past, the reaction hasn’t always been as warm as we might wish.  Edward Lear was as nonplussed as a negative integer with the reaction to his early Limericks (especially when they complained that the last lines were just repeats of the first), and Lewis Carroll thought that all the questions over the meaning of vorpal blades and borogoves rather missed the point (because there wasn’t one).  But perhaps their nonsense was just too…sensible.  But then again, I’ve always found the English to be unworthy custodians of their language.  Now James Joyce, there’s a man who could peloother his umbershoot with an agenbite of inwit till his poppysmic quark was a scribbledehobbled tattarrattat.

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Workshop, 25th June 2019

It is a truth not readily recognised by the civilised world that one has to be a sturdy sort of cove to be a poet.  Poets of today are tougher, stronger and have greater reserves of resolve and commitment than any of their forebears.  It’s a man’s life in today’s poetry, even if you do happen to be a woman (and why not?).  By which rambling I mean to say that poets of today are built to last.  Now, I know what you will be yelling at your laptops and other devices; I am intimate with the inner minds of my ineffable readership; surely today’s writers live life on easy street.  After all, poets of the past had to put up with enormous hardships, from travelling long distances in horse-drawn coaches and sailing ships, to lugging huge manuscripts around the place and living in unsavoury and unhealthy conditions, wearing heavy uncomfortable clothes, wigs and shoes, being forced to consume unfeasible quantities of alcohol and narcotics, living on poor diets and subject to a myriad of terrible at that point uncured diseases.  That may be the case, but by and large they were weak, on account of dropping dead the whole time.  QED, as my pediatrist might say.

By contrast, todays poets tend to survive to a ripe old age, churning out a well-regarded collection every couple of years, getting themselves to regular readings and book signings, all the while holding down a day job, or at the very least an academic position or two.  The professional poets I meet are insistent that life as a home-based toiler of the keyboard is a constant trial –  an endless round of dropping the kids off at school, making sure everyone has clean gym kit, being in for the grocery delivery, picking the kids up from school, being ready to cook some brilliantly original creation for the family any given evening, and being ready with shoulder to cry on and a bottle of Pino Grigio for other stay-at-home-spouses who have had one too many run-ins with that harridan who runs the allotments.  All this while developing a startlingly original perspective on the value of skilled manufacturing labour in a post-capitalist, post-industrial society inscribed in a wryly anachronistic Anglo-Saxon alliterative verse form.

Of course, it would be arrogant in the extreme to lump any one of the sparkling writers at this week’s workshop into this bracket.  John Hurley clearly travels for his art as his piece on Guernsey clearly shows.  Peter Francis is no stranger to the harridan who runs the allotments, but would prefer to think of bluebells than prize produce as his wistful poem this week makes clear.  David Erdos is new to the Pitshanger Poets, though as an actor he tells us he is no stranger to Questors.  His evocative poem saw his late parents through eyes that do not need glasses, though he might need them soon.  Michael Harris is no stay-at-home wordsmith – this week’s poem sees him out on the town, just as long as he can return to the castle of his mind.  Nick Barth, never one for a startlingly original creation, does at least manage to remember his gym kit, as he brought back a poem about a friend yearning to reach the edge of space.  Owen Gallagher’s poem about a father’s inner thoughts at a job interview demonstrates that he understands the pressures of juggling career and day care.  Roger Beckett also focused in on parenthood this week, jumping back through a couple of generations to what his father said about his stepfather.  Daphne Gloag brought us to a place, or perhaps two places that meant a lot through her childhood.  Chrissy Holbrook is also new to the PP, giving us an escapist, metaphysical picture of the sky.  Pat Francis is perhaps guilty of spending too much time at home, though it is clear she is even more guilty of spending that time watching sport.  Alan Chambers took us on a visit to St Ives and the Barbara Hepworth sculpture garden, with colour, shape and unwanted interruptions creating a vivid atmosphere.  Finally, Martin Choules gave us another of the songs created for an unheard musical about the first Transatlantic Cable.

Speaking as a modern poet who finds himself juggling the pressures of countless poetry workshops, car maintenance workshops, non-executive board-memberships, committees, charitable institutions, non-charitable institutions, downright cruel institutions, and a myriad other ways to waste one’s time, I freely admit that my existence would be impossible without the assistance, advice and a modicum of succour of my manservant.  Romantic Poets?  Pah! They did not know they were born.

If you have been, thank you for reading.

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