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, 2nd August 2022

When schools are out, libraries and archives breathe a sigh, mop their brows, open the windows and turn on the radio.  Nobody wants us in August, and that’s just how we like it.  Words, language, information, it’s all a cold-climate game, when brains need to keep flexing to keep warm.  In many ways, the newspaper silly season is a favour to us all, as headlines need to be forgettable and crosswords unfinished.  So I’m not expecting too many readers for this entry, and honestly that’s alright – we all have to keep our diaries free for wilting in the sun. However, those with good air conditioning  who have made it here should not be ignored, so I shall fan myself some more with a handy poetry competition pamphlet (“only £8 per entry, top prize £8”) and dap by forehead with my John Milton reproduction embroidered kerchief (“Under Brows of Dauntless Courage”) to summon up some little sap of energy before it evaporates away.

It doesn’t help that I was attending one of Aubrey’s champaign and shepherd’s pie soirees last night (or is it shepherds’ as in the pie of multiple sheep herders ?  Or even the pie of Mr Shepherd ?  You see what I mean about the overheating ?)  Anyway, I regret to inform that the fizz of the former did not play so nicely with the generous glug of claret in the latter, and neither one mixed well with the questionable guest-list of endless Jemmas and Adrians in identical haircuts and anecdotes, and instead of banging on about their own jobs in personnel property futures as would be polite, they all bore these same inquisitive looks when they heard I was an archivist and actually wanted to know what that was.  Now, I have no problem filling an hour or two with the minutia of the importance of the fourth decimal place in the Dewey system, but asked to speak about my life’s profession in generalities and I find all I can say is “I file some things next to other things”.

I think things might have really gotten out of hand had Aubrey’s man not intervened with a steady arm and helpful suggestion that perhaps I’d wish to see his master’s latest diorama of Robert Frost’s Fire & Ice, which turned out to be located in the kitchen and indeed a little in-joke for the curry powder ice cream about to be served as the dessert course.  But it did give me the opportunity to have a sit down as Mrs Flittersnoop bustled around me, carving up huge trays of shepherds pie (I hope it’s not a pie made of shepherds !) with an authentic 18th Century rapier and scooping it up with an equally-genuine solid silver coal-shovel.  When my head and stomach felt a little less like a hot air balloon, I risked standing up – and right on cue, there was that man again to help me rejoin the fray.  I tried to tell him how much I appreciated the attention he had shown me, and would he like to come by the Pitshanger Archive next week to sample some of my homemade jam, but alas my tongue had rather gone to sleep and now was so busy trying to tie a bowline in itself that I may have sounded less girlishly bashful and more lushily slurred.  Nevertheless, I have decided to boil up a big batch of blueberry just incase, which of course has made the kitchen hotter than Hades, but at least that has given my cheeks a rosy glow.

So, without further doings, let us address this week’s Workshop: which was surprisingly well-attended for the middle of Thermidor – David Hovatter was first to lay out his towel on the sand and muse about two kinds of wall, the literal and the literary, while James Day paused his inflating of a beach ball to recall when his online fantasy proved too expensive to make real, such is the exchange rate these days, and Michael Harris then recounted some juicy gossip he heard at the bar and found its frankness refreshing.  New member ClaireYvonne Naisbit then delivered a spirited demand to be respected from atop a wooden sandbar, prompting Anna Matyjiw to cool us down by imagining escaping the Winter’s cold into an intriguingly overgrown metaphor.  For Doig Simmonds, as he plopped-out a perfect sandcastle, brevity’s the thing as his eleven lines contained three distinct ideas about time, including what its colour may be, while finally Martin Choules washed the sand from his toes and rolled down his trouser legs as he declared he had no truck with magic, but his subconscious had other ideas as his common sense was sawn in half.

So, for those of you not yet napping by the poolside, let me briefly recount an August in Sir John’s time that comes to mind.  He had been hard at work on plans to develop Ealing as the latest spa resort, and had become so carried away he had quite forgotten he was supposed to be going away with Eliza to visit William Wordsworth in Windermere.  When she came into his study, she found lots of papers and no packed trunk, and she didn’t hold back her frustration.  Realising his lack of time-management, Sir John called on Mrs Conduitt to bring forth all of his finest buckskins and waistcoats.  Alas, they all were in need of repair or missing a button, and there was no time to order a new wardrobe, so he had to make do with just one suit of clothes for the whole week.  This did not go unnoticed by the Lakeland Bard, who congratulated him on his rustic simplicity, and he might have gotten away with it had they not gone boating and sir John not fallen overboard.  He had to spend the next three days hiding indoors while his only means of dignity refused to dry out in the good old English humidity.  And when it finally did, it proceeded to rain for the rest of the week.

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Workshop, 26th July 2022

You may have noticed that last week was officially Too Hot For Poetry.  In a rare showing of unanimity, the Pitshanger Poets collectively decided that record-breaking temperatures were no place for sonnets, and stayed home to sweat the bed instead.  It seems an ironic side effect of giving up its empire that the British are no longer able to withstand the Indian heat, and it makes one wish we could have pursued those Edwardian dreams of colonising Venus to really toughen-up.  Of course, we would by now have seen a great influx of Venusians – taking our jobs and complaining about the rain, no doubt.  I type this with a wry smile, crossing a sea myself to get here, but in truth the literature redistribution industry has a considerable number of Eastern Europeans staffing what few branch libraries remain, and of course until a couple of years ago this very Archive was full of unpaid interns who sounded like sexy cold war agents.

Speaking of which, and dragging ourselves back onto the path, things in the Pitshanger Archive have remained consistently jumper-weather of late, with the usual goosebumps and double-held coffee mugs.  The heating system, such as it is, was actually on full blast, not that ‘blast’ really describes its efforts, maybe ‘full wheeze’.  I really must ask Aubrey to send his man round, who’s always handy with an AJ and produces such satisfying whistles when bleeding the radiators.  It’s just a shame he insists on keeping his blazer on while he works, for I feel he would be far more comfortable in rolled-up shirt-sleeves and unbuttoning one, two, maybe even three to let the breeze reach his glistening chest…

Sorry, where was I ?  Oh yes, Venusians.  No…heatwaves, that’s it.  I remember 1976 as well as Aubrey, which was every bit as spectacular over in the old country.  I always feel that the slow take-up of the British to the disco craze was down to the undesirability to dance that Summer.  Of course, in Ireland dancing anything other than a jig was frowned upon, not that it stopped, but it’s a shame that no-one was able to work in a harp and a bodhran into a floor-to-the-four groove before punk came along and made all of that redundant.  No, not redundant, they’ll have to sack me before I give up my official gold-plated spectacles-chain, I arranged my entire wardrobe especially to set them off, and it took me years to find the perfect length for a string of pearls to sit precisely along my clavicle while having just enough slack to make them clutch-able…Oops, there I go again.  I’m beginning to suspect that this heat might be getting to me…

At this work’s weekshop we had Amir Darwish give a personal take on Kipling’s famous…hang on…no, it’s gone, but Amir clearly remembers it as he reinterpreted it.  Doig Simmonds then weighed his heart in a set of celestial scales, the good in his life on one side against the bad…I forget who won.  Nick Barth then made a metaphor out of the bees in his garden, which one suspects he was watching when he should have been working, and Martin Choules has been comparing tartans, checking checks all for the sake of a weak pun, and that’s before he started fiddling with a fiddle.  Next was Michael Harris, watching the choreography of a skilful waiter…I forget if he ever got served…maybe it was the same restaurant where Owen Gallagher witnessed a weeping couple, maybe not, I think it was on the cover of Vogue.  Anna Matyjiw has been listening to the rain that sounds like gunshots and remembering a fantastical sky, it all made sense when she read it, and David Hovatter has been revisiting a poem from his youth when he still composed them on a typewriter and said things he wouldn’t say today, all about using poems for seduction which certainly give me the tingle…

Oh dear.  I think I had better stop now before I say anything embarrassing.  Not that I ever have anything embarrassing to say, but one lives in hope…you know, I think it might not be so chilly down here after all, perhaps I should call Aubrey’s man to come by and fan me all over…give my thermostat a could tweaking…maybe even to softly whistle my wind out…excuse me, I seem to have split an infinitive, but I know I have spare one around here somewhere…

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Workshop, 12th July 2022

As you are probably tired of reading, this summer is turning out to be one of the hottest in living memory, isn’t it?   Even if your memory is not all that reliable, you’re probably still working up something of a sheen just toddling along to the shops and thinking back to the last time the newspapers got this worked up about summer weather.  The last summer which was this sweltering was not actually that long ago, but I believe we all put knowledge of the climate dreadful dreadfulness away in the mental cupboard under the stairs when Covid-19 became dreadful dreadfulness number one.

Some of us are old enough to remember the long hot summer of ’76 as it is termed, and based on a radio phone-in I happened to catch (it’s actually Mrs. Flittersnoop’s radio but it does seem to switch on all by itself when I go into the kitchen), those of us old enough to remember the long hot summer of ’76 have been physically hardened by the experience.  According to the person who called in, we, specifically are not required to carry water bottles on public transport, insulate our homes, drive an electric car, get another jab for any other damn thing or help people who arrive on these shores by small boat.  I was heartened by his assertions as it certainly seemed as if many of us might be spared the responsibility to assist in the various dreadful dreadfulnesses which this country faces in the years to come.

It is certainly true that we were better equipped to deal with the long hot summer of ’76 than the modern generation is finding the long hot summer of ’22.  For a start, we were better dressed in those days. The fashions of the 1970’s involved synthetic fabrics, flared trousers and maxi-skirts, all of which served to increase the airflow around moist neighbourhoods, while footwear with platform soles are required equipment when attempting to cross a road covered in melting tarmac.  While we are on the subject of roads, the wide, flat bonnets of the typical motor-car in those days (purposely designed for scantily-clad models to luxuriate on), provided a much better surface for frying eggs than today’s jelly-mould shapes, which is, as any fule kno an essential part of the heat-wave experience.

Another part of the heat wave experience in the long hot summer of ’76 was the public information film.  The two BBC TV channels were the home of short films designed to inform, terrify and subdue in equal measure.  By the way, Inform, Terrify, Subdue was a close runner-up for Lord Reith’s Inform, Educate, Entertain mission-statement for the BBC.  How different broadcasting would be today if that slip of paper had been picked from the top hat instead.  Public Information Films covered subjects as diverse as Children- Don’t lick the power-lines, Escapologists- Take care escaping from barrels.  Remember, barrels and precipitous water-falls don’t mix, Pedestrians- Stay off the streets at pub-closing time.  If you must go out, take care to avoid dangerously meandering motor-vehicles, and Children- Never enter trans-dimensional portals.  Always seek help from your local Time Lord.  

The drought caused by the long hot summer of ’76 called for its own Public Information Film and the government set about making one.  Given the highly-secretive work he performed, my father was well connected with various ministers, some of whom were regular guests at the house and this gave us a particular perspective on the inner machinations of government.  I well remember one sweltering July garden party in which ‘Uncle’ Ted (Minister for stand-pipes) and ‘Uncle’ Nigel (Minister for buckets) got into a blazing row as to who would appear in the soon-to-be produced film, in which there was a scene of a bucket being filled from a stand-pipe.  Naturally both men thought the role was theirs.  I seem to remember that Uncle Ted won the day, but due to a strike at the BBC the film was not actually aired until February ’77, by which time large tracts of the Home Counties were beset by record floods.  Confuse, Dither, Alienate, which coincidentally were the words on another of the slips of paper in Lord Reith’s Top Hat.

Thank goodness that we are not ruled today by a zombie government unable to formulate a policy to get itself out of a damp-paper bag.  This leaves us calm and relaxed enough to enjoy a poetry workshop in the Library at Questors, and even if the collected poets were a little steamy, no one got exactly steamed-up.  Tariq Hassan brought another one of his slightly other-worldly prose-poems, this one about a war amongst the stars, out there in the depths of space.  John Hurley has every excuse to get steamed up, and as a retired steam engineer he sometimes does.  This week he wrote about man’s love for setting light to things, even when we should be burning and emitting less.  David Hovatter brought a fascinating poem about the life-cycle of memory, what we choose to share, and what we choose to keep to ourselves.  James Day brought a highly personal poem about Tinder, the dating app, and the mind-set it engenders.  This week Anna Matyjiw looked back to a less pressured, more psychedelic time before we had email.  We have always suspected that Doig Simmonds had a roving eye, in this week’s poem he admits to it as he mused on wedlock, and what that actually means.  Caroline Am Bergris brought a fine miniature of a marriage, in which a disabled wife is not entirely sure she wants to pay the price of having such a devoted husband.  Michael Harris brought us another ‘double poem’, two small pieces which when read together add up to more than the sum of the parts.  Today he wondered about the more monk-like aspects to his character and whether he really needs to get ahead in life.  Owen Gallagher brought us a true romance emerging from a conversation in a Job Centre between a job seeker and an attractive member of staff.  Finally, Nick Barth appears to plagued by small birds in his garden, but is it a curse or actually a blessing?

If you have been, thank you for informing, educating and entertaining. 

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Workshop, 5th July 2022

This week’s Workshop occurred just too late for American Independence, so an opportunity to delve into the many visiting Statesiders to Pitzhanger Manor over the years has been lost.  I know Aubrey was a little put out by the calendrical shenanigans, as he loves to show off his Englishness on “Four-Seven”, as he insists on calling it.  In past years, he has Bertied his Wooster to billy-o in his tweeds and Wellingtons (both of which look far too hot for July), but by the Fifth he just looks late-to-the-party.  I remember one year he even attempted to dye his moustache with a Union Jack design, but it just looked like he had been eating cupcakes and let his ’tache dip into the buttercream topping.  And yes, I did just call the flag a jack.  And no, I will not be issuing an apology.

Strangely, both Aubrey and I do not have reliable national days to call on.  We both have patron saint, but neither really fills the bill.  His George was an Anatolian who had never even heard of the British Isles, and who’s only claim to fame was to hunt down an endangered specie (that’s right, without a final ‘s’), while my Patrick was a Welshman who likewise extirpated the snakes and thus doomed the nation to never produce any decent heavy metal bands.  I suppose there is something heartwarming in a former slave returning to forgive his former masters, and his being an immigrant is very on-trend, but it doesn’t bode well that the only thing he can inspire in the modern world is the piss-up.  But the biggest problem is that their respective feast days are in the changeable Spring, when organising a barbecue is a dicey affair.  The Yankees certainly got this one right – only ever fight for freedom in the Summer.

So, at this week’s not-at-all-American workshop, John Hurley has been grumpy about critics, and who better deserves some harrumphing than those-who-can’t.  Owen Gallagher, meanwhile, was imagining an outgrowth of Dorset sycamores beside factory gates, and Michael Harris has been lurking in the nether regions with the dancing chairs.  Next up was new member Anna Matyjiw’s mixed emotions on leaving one home for another, to the rhythm of the banging radiators, and the worldly-wise James Day knows all about how life goes, or does he…?  More trees from David Hovatter, these ones growing outside the British Museum, so often overlooked by those exiting with their heads still in Ancient Egypt or Mezzo-America, while Martin Choules has been casting his line back into his memory and musing on the poem that got away.  We then witnessed Doig Simmonds pleading with an apocalyptic clock for a little more time, and finally Nick Barth calmly transitioned past the Midsummer of his life.

I have suggested to Aubrey that he could pioneer a revival of his wardrobe in modern English society, particularly with global warming making our Summers ever hotter.  Perhaps the one-piece Victorian bathing costume could make a comeback ?, particularly for when lying on the beach and in need of protection from the Sun’s rays.  Or with music festivals increasingly banning flags and banners, there could be a place for the top hat in the blocking-the-view-of-those-behind-you role.  And never underestimate the condescending possibilities of a pair of half-moon spectacles to peer over when disagreeing with somebody in the comments section.

Of course, Americans have long been trailblazers of fashion, and indeed the well-dressed cowboy would never be without a trail-blazer to wear to dinner of jerky and beans around an open fire.  Ezra “Ezzy” Pound was particularly sharply-turned out on his visits to the Manor, always with collar and cravat, shoes and cufflinks strictly worn on the correct side.  But according to the Archives, on the hot evenings of July he was wont to complain of the humidity, comparing it unceasingly with the thoroughly-modern heat of his homeland.  As for celebrating Independence Day, (I know I said we were too late, but what with the time difference and daylight savings we might just squeeze it in) he would insist they all build a bonfire in the now-public park to grill slabs of sirloin and fire off revolvers into the air.  Needless to say, the good burgers of Ealing were not impressed, and no number of boozily-shouted haikus could make amends – which the locals rather looked down upon as failed-Limericks without a decent nudge-nudge final line.  Why couldn’t those noisy Americans have a nice boring national day like the English did in…March ?…April ?…well, whenever…

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Workshop, 28th June 2022

I have to admit that this year’s fantastic summer of sport is severely impacting my writing schedule.  I find myself spending inordinate amounts of time in front of the television, watching one pundit or another commenting on the day’s events, who is on the up, who is down and who is bound to go out by the end of the week.  Of course, I am somwhat drawn to the scenery which accompanies these gladiatorial bouts, the familiar, ivy-covered English architecture, the green of the grass, the blue skies, the long summer evenings stretching into a sunset over London.  The BBC does such a wonderful job of covering these jewels in the schedule, doesn’t it?  The commentators are so even-handed, showing respect and sympathy to each and every contender, giving even the sorest loser a valedictory platform to claim that they had in fact won the crowd over, and still had plenty of time to come back a winner next time.

Alas, it will be over all too soon.  After all, Boris does appear to have resigned and another sweaty, ill-prepared amateur in an ill-fitting suit will be Prime Minister by the time the football season resumes.  Up The Bees!

Clearly some actual sport would be some distraction from the endless soap-opera of politics, but one would rather not miss anything important.  Wimbledon is whizzing by, the Women’s footy World Cup is like another country and I have still not managed to catch any of the cricket.  We are entering the arid month of July when nothing really happens.  It looks like it will be too hot to do any campaigning, so will it be too hot to write any great verse?

Sports poetry is a sometimes-ploughed furrow, and you have only to skim through a bit of Betjeman to see how, like nature, it can be used as a proxy for all the things that he variously loved, hated or needed to write about.  “The greatest dread of all was the dread of games”, as he put it. As a callow youth, the game of golf (always ‘goff’) was seen as a variety of torture as he was forced to caddie for his father.  School sport was again described in the negative – associated with winter, torture and the wrong sort of chaps, who talk, “of sport and makes of cars/In various bogus Tudor bars/And daren’t look up and see the stars/But belch instead”. This pattern is repeated right up until Betjeman discovers the joys of tennis, and specifically the joys of mixed tennis.  At this point nasty tweed is replaced by sleek shorts, winter with summer. He even tried his hand at being a games master himself, a poacher turned gamekeeper if ever there was one.

In later life Betjeman turned to golf as a way of puttering around a links course on his own and doing what he pleased.  Which tenuous connection brings us to Ealing, as he might well have enjoyed a few rounds at my own beloved Golf Course, if it wasn’t for that unsavoury business with Perivale Rectory.  This grand old pile fell down in the middle of the night in 1956 when no-one was there to see it happen, and the golf club benefitted from the land upon which it stood.  Strongly-worded letters from John Betjeman to the Spectator followed.  But Perivale is far, far over the other side of the A40, and today is hardly thought of as adjacent to Ealing at all, unless you happen to be at the wheel of the family saloon and on your way to Halford’s.  It surely cannot be tall tale to say that by the early sixties, JB was a regular in the Breakfast Room at Pitshanger Manor.  Some put this down to the PP Policy of laying in a stock of good sherry, while the Slough Prosody Group was still just getting by on Watney’s Red Barrel.  The dues were a lot steeper in those heady days, but sherry was sherry.  In any case he felt enough affection for this borough to write Return to Ealing which ends with the sonorous “And a gentle gale from Perivale/Sends up the hayfield scent”. 

Sadly, few gentle gales waft over the Westway from Perivale these days, there are too many trucks whizzing past.  Which is unlike Walpole Park, just over there, which regularly contributes to the fresh breezes we experience in the patio area at the front of Questor’s Theatre.  This week we were consigned to the Lodge again, while the kiddie dance troupe known as Twisters made our Library their dressing room.  James Day was brave enough to get us started, in a poem which covered most of what is usually meant by the term ‘paranormal’.  It was very atmospheric, and did I mention that The Lodge is a little ‘atmospheric’?  Nick Barth clearly likes music, however the types of music he likes can be regarded as questionable.  What of Progressive Rock?  Is that worthy of a villanelle?  Nick thinks so.  John Hurley tells us that he can write several acerbic pieces before breakfast.  This week he brought a poem with a title which, coincidentally I saw printed as a slogan on t-shirts belonging to a group of young, beer-drinking types celebrating a pal’s Stag Night, to wit; ‘Boris Johnson’s Ethics Advisor’.  Doig Simmonds has a fascinating life story and we often prevail upon him to write it down.  He is an expert in the African Slave Trade and once ran a museum, in Africa, devoted to it.  That this week’s short poem touches on that story makes it all the more tantalising.  Finally, Martin Choules brought two short pieces – a tale from the Menin Gate and the examination of a finger full of fool’s gold.

When discussing poetry and sport there is another charismatic performer who is just as likely to spring to mind.  I write, of course of the sublime Vivian Stanshall who composed Sport (the Odd Boy) for The Bonzo Dog Doo Dah band.  It is a charming, if somewhat disturbing listen, containing one of Stanshall’s Pythonesque-before-there-was Python monologues.  I would love to be able to tell you that he came to the PP to discuss his lyrics with the group, but the group could not have contained such a firebrand as Stanshall, just as the cellars of the manor could not contain enough bottles to keep him refreshed while he was there.  The Bonzos played the Ealing Jazz Club in Ealing Broadway (see passim), which has a well-stocked bar, and that will have to be that.

If you have been, thank you for reading.

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Workshop, 14th June 2022

Regular readers of this blog will of course be familiar with the Pitshanger Poets’ relationship with the architect Sir John Soane (or Soan, the ‘e’ was added upon his marriage).  While Soan (or Soane), born the son of a bricklayer had lowly origins, he was encouraged into architecture by his elder brother William and became apprenticed to George Dance the Younger.  Dance (the Younger) had accepted a commission to remodel part of Pitzhanger (or Pitshanger) Manor, which had been moved from Pitshanger (not Pitzhanger) Village to Walpole (not that Walpole, a different one) Park in Ealing.  Thus did the young Soan (or Soane) become familiar with the house which he would later as Sir John Soane buy, and out of enormous respect for his former master (Dance), demolish and rebuild according to his own tastes.

This straightforward introduction takes us up to the year 1804.  Soane (or Soan) had desired a grand house in the country to invite his friends to. Unfortunately, his wife, Eliza (nee Smith) did not desire a house in the country and insisted he move the family into London.  Soane duly purchased three houses in Lincoln’s Inn Fields which he respectfully demolished and rebuilt according to his own tastes.

Soane had already begun his later to-be-unrivalled collection of fine art, valuable antiquities and chipped old bits of masonry.  He dedicated the middle of the row of three houses to displaying his vast piles of objects d’art, and this was to become his own passion; a personal museum devoted to the study of architecture.  The Soanes produced two sons who survived into adulthood, John (the younger) and George (the elder).  It was John’s hope that his boys would follow him into the profession, but out of a touching respect for the craft of architecture both offspring refused to do so. 

It is fascinating to note that Sir John’s unrivalled collection of bits and bobs only survived because of the inability of his children to further his legacy.  John (the younger) was a sickly child and died as a young man, while George (the elder) being less sickly decided to take up a career as a dissolute rake, gambler, libertine and author of plays for the stage.  George (the elder) even threatened his father with extortion, claiming that he would become an actor, no less, should regular envelopes full of readies not be provided.  As a result of this and many other slights and misdemeanours, Sir John cut George (the elder) out of his will and left the houses at Lincoln’s Inn Fields to The Nation, with the express instruction that his unrivalled collection of antique paperweights should be preserved, unaltered, as a free-to-enter museum in perpetuity.  One shudders to think what would have happened to Sir John’s unrivalled collection of gew-daws and foilderolls had George (the elder) inherited the place.  Lost to the promise of a royal flush in some den of degenerates, or frittered away on a successful career in the dramatic arts, creating a series of increasingly poignant and hard-hitting plays focusing on the trials of growing up in a claustrophobic family ruled by a domineering father, no doubt.

Unfortunately for Eliza Soane (nee Smith), her son’s behaviour, obvious to all in the hothouse atmosphere of London society proved too much for her health and she died in 1815.  Eliza is buried in the Soane family tomb, which was designed by Sir John himself and was clearly influenced by Giles Gilbert Scott’s classic red telephone box of one hundred years later.

But what, I hear you ask, of the Pitshanger Poets?  Our workshop, as pure speculation demonstrates, predated Sir John’s ownership of the Manor and succeeded it as well.   It is true that poets were welcome at Lincoln’s Inn Fields, Samuel Taylor Coleridge being a regular guest.  I know Ms Challiss has scoured the archive for evidence of a PP Workshop in the Breakfast Room of the London house, but I don’t believe we have anything more substantial than stories of the odd rowdy party during which a nameless poet, typically the worse for a glass too many of fine oak-aged laudanum, collided with an antique bust which had to be caught in the nick of time by a keen-eyed Soane.

Which preliminary ramblings lead us into an unreliable commentary on this week’s workshop.  According to my notes, Tariq Hassan was passed the pipe of prosody first, giving us another of his speculative tales, this one being about the Peace Trees.  Tariq writes in an almost psychedelic style, which would no doubt have found favour with ‘ST’ himself.  Owen Gallagher brought his own take on surrealism with his piece, highlighting the ghost-like presence which office cleaners occupy in the lives of the people for whom they work.  Mrs. Flittersnoop’s sister Aggie would only agree.  Next around the table was Amir Darwish, who read a revised version of his pean to his homeland, Syria.  A powerful piece.  Michael Harris is famous for his short, highly concentrated poems.  This week he brought two related pieces and it would have been churlish to insist he choose between them.  Michael’s double poem explored identity and illusion on two sides of one small piece of paper and inspired a fascinating conversation.  John Hurley has told us about his attempts to join England’s Middle Class before, but his tale of attempting to seduce the factory owner’s daughter never fails to raise a wry smile.  James Day would like to go running up that hill, but in the meantime a walk up that hill will do instead, as long as he can think of the large hill he is attempting as being made up of the smaller easier hills he is walking up right now.  Nick Barth has been seeing spooky images of someone familiar, though lost, in the corner of his eye, according to the piece he brought in this week.  Finally it was Martin Choules’ turn to have a drag on the poetry pipe.  His poem mused on the position of Falcons in the hierarchy of noble birds and how long it took them to live with humans in their castles.

Of course, there is a reason for my diversion to Lincoln’s Inn Fields and that is that I thought it would be a jolly idea to take an excursion there a few Sundays ago.  My man and I broke out the two-seater and while he folded himself up into the dicky with the picnic hamper, pride of place in the passenger seat was taken by Mrs Flittersnoop who rarely has the chance to leave Ealing due to her husband’s lumbago.  The drive towards Holborn passed uneventfully, save for the glad oohs and aahs emanating from Mrs Flittersnoop as she took in the sights and sounds of the West End.  Upon arrival, my man was given charge of the two-seater, with instructions to find a single yellow line and guard the vehicle until we were ready to return home. 

I can confirm that the museum is free to enter and a delight, cluttered as it is from basement to attics with Sir John Soane’s unrivalled collection of priceless bric-a-brac, and is well worth a visit.  Soane left his museum without the superfluous clutter of labels or instructive cards, so it is up to the visitor to guess the origin of every bust, figure, lump of chipped stone, plaster cast or picture.  To abuse Kipling, here one walks by oneself and all pieces are alike to one.  There are helpful guides in each room who seemed happy to listen to some of my many tales of the Pitshanger Poets and their residency in Sir John’s other, less crowded abode.  However, I am ashamed to say that I had not fully recognised the emotional impact the museum would have on my housekeeper Mrs Flittersnoop.  She spent the entire visit wandering from room to room, peering at the many and various ancient objects crowding every surface and alcove, muttering clearly under her breath: “but the dusting, the dusting.  Who does all the dusting?’  We had to take the poor lady to a nearby tea-room and feed her fruit scones until she calmed down.

If you have been, thank you for reading.

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Workshop, 7th June 2022

I see that Aubrey has been twirling his Terry-Thomas ’tache again, something he certainly shouldn’t be allowed to do while driving his two-seater.  It did remind me of my own brief bushiness with some rather fetching facial-hair, and I don’t mean the bi-quarterly trip to the bleaching salon that befalls all women of a certain age.  Honestly, I am increasingly thinking that Frieda Kahlo was less of a self-appointed freak and more of a fashion icon we should have heeded.  But I don’t think we’ll be saying the same for Conchita Wurst, whose full-on hipster lumberjack approach is a look that requires far too much attention.  After all, the hair on a woman’s head already requires more upkeep than it should, so the last thing we need to worry about it setting our beards in rollers every night…

Anyway, where was I ?  Ah yes, back in my student days when I attended a sorority party where a full-on Captain Haddock was the compulsory dress-code.  I have to say that there is a real art to slinging a G&T in a way that wets one’s whistle but not one’s soup strainer.  Indeed, I distinctly remember awaking next morning with the whiskers AWOL but beard still firmly in place, and I don’t know which of those is worse.  But it also gave me a small insight into the itchy life of the hirsute goddesses of the circus, and goes some way to explain why all those Victorian gentlemen had such stiff upper lips.

Of course, poetry is full of outrageous face fungus, from Edward ‘Teddy Bear’ Lear to DH ‘Supply Teacher’ Lawrence via every single ancient Greek except Sappho (though rumour has it that she was often an altogether more metaphorical kind of beard).  Indeed, I have often suspected that the philosophical stroking of one’s silky chin to be just the thing for summoning the muse – or alternatively for casting dispersions on a colleague’s tall tale, which has become a particularly stinging attack in the modern era of the confessional style.  Of course, the Romantics were strictly clean-shaven shenanigists, and Mr Darcy had to do all of his brooding with his eyes.  But it seems that the day Victoria was crowned was a black one for the manufacturers of razors, and countless Sheffield foundries had to turn to promoting cutlery just to keep food on the table.

Speaking of which, Ealing was awash with the red, white, and blue this past weekend in celebration, and not only because I am reliably informed that the Brentford Young Men Who Run Around After A Ball All Afternoon Club recently avoided ‘the drop’ – which I must admit does sound rather like a lucky escape from some sort of social disease.  But I digress.  Walpole Park had its share of flag-flutterers cheering on the status quo, and an equally present cohort of vive-la-revolutioners, stomping about with their hands in their pockets and their sneers on their lips.  For myself, I have to side with the former simply because there is no such thing as a People’s Laureate, nor a structure dubbed a ‘rhyme republic’.  The fact is, poetry has always been elitist, and despite the best efforts of hippity-hoppers and Gruffaloonies to take it back to the masses, it always will be about as everyman as Glyndebourne and the Henley Regatta.  For all a pithy couplet might cheer up a bedraggled zero-hours wage-slave or a knowing verse might stave off a commuter’s nervous breakdown, they will never know it and thus continue to suffer in un-lyricked oblivion.

So let’s forget about them, and turn back to those great patrons of poesy, the Royal Family – it is well known among lyrical circles that the late Prince Philip loved a good limerick, and Her Majesty always keeps a miniature of haikus in her handbag, presumably in the place where her purse is not.  Prince Charles, alas, only favours the heaviest, most turgid Victoriana which is presumably why he’s so gloomy at parties, and what with Princess Di being all about the most modern of free verse, their marriage was doomed from the start.  But the great unknown is Prince Wills – he keeps his preferred wordsmiths close to his chest, never letting slip which slim volumes cosy up to his Who’s Who and Debretts.  Now I have a suspicion he has a liking for Larkin, modern and businesslike, but with just a hint of rhyme and racy magazines behind the scenes, but Aubrey pegs him as a Betjeman man, with a headfull of Home Counties nostalgia and not a profanity in sight.  I suppose we won’t know until his coronation when, to a hushed Abbey a twelve-year-old child will approach the lectern and recite either Whitsun Weddings or How To Get On In Society.

At a thoroughly patriotic workshop this week, Rithika Nadipalli took a trip to an Indian meal via rhyming haikus, while David Hovatter has been moonraking in puddles and finding sympathy for its fragmentary flashes.  Martin Choules it seems has been looking up at the Sistine ceiling and noticing all the wrong bits of it, before a sensibly-shod Doig Simmonds has been losing his love in a hall of mirrors.  Over to James Priestman, who has been communing with Jeremiah communing with God, and one suspects that something has been lost in the Chinese whispers, to the betterment of the poem.  Nick Barth meanwhile has been outsourcing his poetry to a machine, but is it sentient or have humans redefined the term ?  For James Day, debate is a contact sport and the real audience are the chemicals in the brain, but Michael Harris called for a point of order as he presented evidence of a top footballer’s humility, and John Hurley mused over our mechanised future and were things simpler in the dimentioned days of old ?

Of course, facial hair has been absent from the British throne since George the Vth, and before him (and his father) one would have to hark back to Henry the Murdering Bastard, who despite being a tyrannical monster is still rightly regarded as a cuddly uncle because he was a king, dontyaknow ?  Hang on, haven’t we forgotten the proper Charlies ?  And James, of course, but he doesn’t count on account of having two numbers, which proves he literally couldn’t count.  So, Charles the First invented the goatee, whereas his son could never decide whether he wanted to sport a moustache or not.

And come to think of it, didn’t Charles the Third do the same thing in 1975 ?  And is it a coincidence that this was  precisely the time that punk poetry was rising to prominence, and that his mother’s silver knees-up two years later was completely ruined by a bunch of potty-mouthed herberts declaring ‘she ain’t no human being’ ?  Admittedly, it is a double negative, but one feels that grammatical subtlety was not their desired legacy.  And anyway, she will clearly have the last laugh when she proves she is most assuredly human by finally meeting with her divine-right giver.  But she will also leave a long shadow over her now clean-shaven-but-still-decidedly-shady-looking son, who may very well decide he now has no future in England’s dreaming  Will the monarchy even survive in the hands of a one-time Movember cosplayer ?  For want of a razor, it would seem, a kingdom was lost.

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Workshop, 31st May 2022

Working directly beneath a popular public park brings one into close contact with trees, to the extent that the poor things are often taken for granted.  Want a hit of inspiration about nature’s ability to tower over adversity ?  Well, here’s a handy redwood head and shoulders above the surrounding villas along Mattock Lane.  Need an timely metaphor for strangeness and exoticism ?  Then look no further than the twice-as-large-than-in-any-garden monkey puzzle.  So that’s what theydevelop into, don’t envy the marmosets trying to crack that one…

All of which causes the poor old native speciesto be rather overlooked.  Planes and limes ?  We’ve got a forest’s-worth in the surrounding streets, aren’t they those things for causing trip hazards while displaying lost cat posters ?  It’s telling that for all their gushing over wild nature, few poets have ever blunted their pencils over the joys of urban branches.  Alfie Housman’s loveliest of all trees was definitely not in Cherry Tree Drive, nor Gerry Hopkins’ Binsey Poplars anywhere near the East End.  Only Johnny Betjeman could appreciate a suburban spreader, and even then as more of a backdrop to homebound-commuters and golf-club dances.

So it was with some trepidation that I recently attended a local open day in a pocket parkland surrounded by the blander end of the Twentieth Century.  It was run by Trees For Cities, a group who specialise in planting greenery in the urban grey, and were here to remind us that trees are actually really great.  They promised a back-to-nature afternoon that was as unkempt as it was opportunist, and the self-seeding wildwood location didn’t disappoint.  Of course, what with it being family-friendly, there was rather more face-painting than hemlock-poisoning, but still managed to feature a decent number of twigs-in-hair and burrs on trousers.

In the heart of the Frosty ways through the woods was the mask-and-poem-making, where DIY eyewear could be blinged up with oak-leaves and sycamore keys while cogitating on a suitably sylvan sonnet.  And who should I bump into hiding behind a fetching tartan mask with a Dame Edna flair around the eyes abovea pinecone nose and mossy moustache, but a very un-cognito Aubrey, somewhat given away by his man trailing along behind with the picnic hamper.  Emboldened by my own ivy-wreathed camouflage, I asked this be-leafed stranger if to read out his fresh green verse.  Alas, I did not expect the resulting multi-part bildungsroman detailing the many adventures undergone by an especially peckish caterpillar.

This week’s workshop was a shrubbery of mixed conkers, led off by Michael Harris’ pair of seedlings seeing the circle of life in an empty room, and Doig Simmonds’ green shoots as he observedhow the old colonies had their own different concepts of work, followed by that whippy young sapling Owen Gallagher looking for gainful employment in the lonely hearts column.  Meanwhile, upwardly-reaching David Hovatter has been gazing at a landscape painting for inspiration and seeing the trees in the blobs, teeing-up the evergreen John Hurley to recall his early mentors like tall trees which sheltered him and pulled him up between them.  Well-branched James Day then mused his surreal way through an apocalyptic love story, picked up on by exotic-species Amir Darwish as his love swallowed immigrants to her belly, and stout-trunked Martin Choules finished off by taking an axe to the head-of-state’s family tree.

Looking in the Archives, I can see that there was a rather solemn meeting in October 1987 after the great storm had strode through this leafiest of suburbs, with barely a street not mourning its losses.  Pitzhanger Manor’s was mercifully spared in its newly appointed role of art gallery, but Walpole Park lost several of its most upstanding citizens.  The ledgers record how a dismayed Ted Hughes commented to a visiting Seamus Heaney how “God must really hate trees”, to which the latter replied “Yes, it’s arbor-geddon out there”, at which Teddy called for a point of order to strike down such a lacklustre pun.  But he was over-ruled when the chair allowed the old chestnut to stand.  But it was clear that nobody’s heart was in their groaning that night, and the meeting was soon uprooted to the bar.

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Workshop, 24th May 2022

Here in ffinch-Whistler Towers we are hard at work preparing most earnestly for Her Maj’s upcoming Platinum Jubilee.  This might sound like something of a contradiction to those of you who know me well.  You are probably aware that I am firmly in favour of the country unshackling itself from the self-imposed prison of an entitled over-class and should instead become an anarcho-syndicalist collective, but such views do not go down well at the Golf Club Bar, and besides I love a bit of bunting.  The pragmatic, realist side of me recognises that we are unlikely to see the wholesale reconstruction of British society while Queen Elizabeth the Second is on the throne, so we might as well ask Mrs Flittersnoop to produce a significant quantity of Coronation Chicken and get cutting the crusts off the sliced bread with gusto.

It is perhaps serendipitous that as a result of the delays, over-runs, extensions, needs for re-engineering, postponements and hold-ups, London’s new underground railway is due to be opened within a matter of days of the Jubilee, almost as if this was the plan all along.  My biggest concern about the whole project, apart from the fact that the concourse at Ealing Broadways still appears to be unfinished and is marred by hideous pedestrian fences, is of course the name of the thing.

Firstly, it has been decided that the new purple signs should say ‘Elizabeth Line’.  This is despite the fact that the word ‘Line’ is redundant on a London Transport sign.  The Piccadilly, Central, Northern, Bakerloo, District (I could go on) go without the word on their signs, the Line is implied.  Does this mean that the Elizabeth Line is, in fact the Elizabeth Line Line?

Secondly, most of the London Underground Lines have shortened, colloquial or compressed versions of their original names.  The Bakerloo was named for the Baker Street to Waterloo Railway.  The Piccadilly was originally the Brompton and Piccadilly Circus Railway.  The Northern has had perhaps the most tortuous gestation, name-wise, being made up of the City & South London Railway and the Charing Cross, Euston & Hampstead Railway.  While the Northern Line in no way adequately describes this stretch of the network, it could have been much worse.  I am of the opinion that the Elizabeth Line Line will itself be shortened, perhaps to the Lizzie Line Line, and since that is a bit of a mouthful, waggish Londoners will start to call it the Li Lay Lay for even more short.

As a demonstration of how this sort of shorthand can develop almost without one being aware of it, My Man and I have been engaged in another of our extensive Lego Projects, this time constructing our own representation of the Lizzie Line Line in the flat.  We have, bien sûr started referring to the Lego Lizzie Line Line as the le li lay lay and it has developed its own little tune, which readers will immediately recognise as being from the chorus to the song The Boxer by Simon and Garfunkle.  I recall that this little earworm used to go li lay lay, le-go li lay lay, for quite a while towards the end of that track and if the tape got caught up in the moebius loop of the Eight-Track cartridge player in Father’s Mercedes in the just right way, would repeat ad infinitum.  While we did all enjoy Simon and Garfunkle, more than one copy of Bridge Over Troubled Water ended up being flung into the scenery, to be replaced with Tubular Bells, which while it never got stuck in a loop, always sounded as if it was.

While I have yet to experience the newly-opened underground stretches of the Li Lay Lay, here in West London we are already accustomed to the purple trains themselves, as they have been shuttling backwards and forwards through Ealing to places as exotic as Reading and Paddington.  The new trains are very long and have those wide inter-carriage corridor connection arrangements, the better for passengers to distribute themselves along the length of the train like toothpaste in a tube or water in a hose.  However, this does mean that the passenger requiring some space and privacy while riding on the Li Lay Lay must go to extraordinary lengths, and faithful reader, I am that passenger.  I have taken the advice of our former Poet Laureate, Andrew Motion and have, obviously and ostentatiously, taken to reading poetry on the train, the better to dissuade other travellers from sharing my personal space.  I only came across this piece of advice when I came across the same sage wisdom in the wonderful poem by Wendy Cope, From Strugnell’s Sonnetts.  Seek it out if you value a double-seat on your next journey.

My chief excuse for not yet having experienced the Li Lay Lay is that on the opening day I was preparing for another enticing Pitshanger Poets Workshop.  Doig Simmonds was asked to begin proceedings and responded with a heartfelt observation of an addict in the street, with Doig wondering what circumstances brought him so low.  Owen Gallagher errs on the side of realism in his poetry and brought us a warm reflection on his own parents who were loving if taciturn.  Rithika Nadipalli on the other hand has written an amusing, if somewhat fantastical story of a young woman fallen head-over-heels for Batman, The Batman, if you prefer.  John Hurley found himself writing this weeks poem at the same time as he was coming down from a dose of local anaesthetic.   John recently had a routine procedure, and we wish him a speedy recovery, however, he felt his poem was perhaps a little distracted and unhinged.  Martin Choules surprised us all this week by revealing that he is not fond of the ‘Martin’ part of his name.  His piece made the case for other such benighted offspring to feel free to change their names later in life.  You will understand that it has never crossed my mind to change my name, but then, for a chap in my profession a name is as substantial as a hat or a silk dressing-gown, ready to be cast off in favour of another one, when the moment demands.  

To round off the evening, James Day is thinking not so much of names, as of anthropomorphism, this week imagining that the village vicar is a fish (not that Fish) and that there is a fisherman out to get him.  Michael Harris brought one of his excellent condensed works, this one following two brothers who followed different lives, but with a similar outcome.  Nick Barth visited Rome and followed a priest (not a fish, or even that Fish, do you follow?) into a confessional for a momentary exposure to a taste of spirituality he instantly regretted.  Finally, David Hovatter brought another of his lockdown poems, this one following the fates of three lives, one a snail.

While I am not-so-secretly hoping for the wholesale destruction and rebirth of British society, I do hope the jubilee goes off well.  I have found a suitable excuse to escape the capital, the rest of you will have to muddle through as usual.  If you have been, thank you for reading.

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Workshop, 17th May 2022

The high streets, thoroughfares and byways of the Queen of the Suburbs appear to be permanently thronged these days.  With the longed-for return of BAU, Ealing resembles the chaotic Turin of the intermittently tolerated 1969 movie, The Italian Job.  The Turin, I hasten to add, after the hilariously-cast Benny Hill character has sabotaged the traffic computer and sent the lights all loopy.  Of course, I exaggerate for effect.  Ealing is not quite the excuse for a healthy dollop of foreigner-stereotyping which that film exemplified, the streets do not exactly echo with the repeated reedy blasts of Fiat 500 car-horns, but it is getting close.  The Ealing motorist is not wont to step out of his chariot and gesticulate wildly like an irritable Roman from Asterix the Gaul, which is fortunate as the two-seater offers only meagre protection from flying spittle.  Even so, it is surely the end of days.

Despite the crowds, yesterday I found that it is still possible to have a friendly conversation with a stranger while waiting for the temporary lights outside Ealing Broadway station to change.  A very athletic-looking, though obviously mature lady pulled her upright bicycle up alongside the two-seater, and in a kind of bellowing roar (the two-seater’s exhaust is blowing more than usual) had the great temerity to comment on my moustache.  What I found more than daunting was that she expressed herself entirely in favour of the thing.  This was beyond the pale.  I don’t grow it because I like it; I don’t expect anyone else to like it either.  I grow it so that should I need to go incognito, as seems more than likely with each day that Vladimir Putin remains in the land of the living, I can snip the thing off and assume one of my many cunning disguises.

Even so, it was quite a boost to receive words of encouragement from the energetic old bird.  I decided to return the compliment and praised the exciting purple knickerbockers she was sporting.  In a surprising turn of the card, she responded that they represented a warning to her children not to take her relative health and sanity for granted, and instead to be aware that at any moment she could turn into an outrageous old lady and start misbehaving in public.  Of course, I instantly recognised the reference to the estimable Jenny Joseph’s poem Warning, which is about precisely this thing.  It is a highly recommended read for anyone with parents, guardians or indeed any other more senior folk they are obliged to rub along with.  Consequently, I launched into a short introduction to the Pitshanger Poets, extolling the virtues of attending a weekly workshop, praising the brave camaraderie of the fellow poets, the fine beverages of the Grapevine Bar and the simple encouragement to be had by being a member of such a supportive group.  At roughly the half-way point in my presentation the temporary lights turned green and with a hearty cry of ‘not on your life, carp face!’, the irascible old goat rattled off on her bike, steaming in the direction of the town hall.

To say that I was surprised by this encounter would be an understatement.  I was not even aware that my mother was in the Borough.  In truth I am glad our conversation was curtailed. It would be a mistake to tempt her back to the Workshop, especially after last time.

Speaking of the Workshop, while we are always glad to welcome new members, my advice would be to get there early.  The finer weather has attracted a fine crop of poetic talents from their lonely garratts and the folding table in the Library can barely support the quantity of fine poetry placed upon it in recent weeks.  At least we were in the Library.  I could not help noticing that Ms Challis failed to mention that we were consigned to ‘The Lodge’ last week, in punishment for what I am not sure.  Participating in a poetry workshop in the Lodge, the remaining upper stories of the Ealing townhouse which became Questor’s Theatre, specifically the bit over the Grapevine Bar, is as disturbing as it sounds.  While The Lodge is a ‘space’ to use that dreaded term, it must be accessed via a narrow external staircase and more than resembles the kind of safe house I would find myself hiding in with my parents as one mission or another came to a sticky end and we awaited transit to our next assignment.  There is even a kitchenette with a water heater.  Horrors!

In any case, the Lodge is a rare experience.  This week we were back in the Library.  John Hurley looked most ready to start and read about his memories of Buddy Mulligan’s Pub in Kilburn, long before it was bombed by the IRA.  John writes eloquently about the role of the ‘chaplain’ or landlord, if you will in all such establishments.  We turned to Amir Darwish who brought an enigmatic reflection on Syria through the eyes of Soukina.  Amir often writes of love, and we in the group are beginning to suspect that more of his poetry is about love of his homeland than we had at first suspected.  Fascinating.  Martin Choules is adept at picking an original subject for his weekly mission in poetry.  This time he talked of trees, tall trees, and in fact tall, unrelated trees, which are nevertheless all, er, tall.  This is evidence of natural selection, green in tooth and claw, as tall is obviously a good thing to be if you are a tree.  Rithika Nadipalli has made a welcome return to the PPs, this week she has been thinking about fireflies, and writes about them in Starlight Square, a landmark in Boston.  Now fireflies are much more fulfilling creatures to photograph.  Caroline Am Bergris has been striking out on a number of avenues of exploration in her poetry recently.  This week she brought an example from a poetry genre which is somewhat under-rated, the science-fiction poem.  Based on a genuine magazine article she wrote about those who bemoan the loss of the truly-pale-skinned human as sunlight gets stronger.  Incredible but true, some people genuinely think this is a ‘thing’.  Michael Harris also regularly turns in a fine piece about love.  This weeks’ poem warns of the danger of projecting oneself onto ones’ object of affection, accomplished in Michael’s impressive, condensed style.  A poet should have a go at a form or two from time to time; this week James Day chose to take a crack at a villanelle, and turned in a fine example.  David Hovatter has been tapping into another renowned technique to free up the poetic juices, that of using a picture or photograph to lead one into a subject.  David’s picture was of Mount Rushmore in the process of being carved, and an excellent sourdough starter it turned out to be.  Finally, Nick Barth has clearly been Googling his own name and has come across a quote by Karl Barth which he used as a hook from which to hang a poem questioning the motives of those who would see the world as being made up of two types of people.

Which fine poetry brought our workshop to a close, and we adjourned as usual to the excellent Grapevine Bar.  I have to admit that this pleasure was somewhat marred for yours truly by the very real fear that a woman I know only too well might be there in the bar already, dressed in purple and behaving outrageously.  If you have been, thank you for reading.

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