This week we were denied access to The Library, our rather grandly-titled home within the very bowels of the son et lumiere that is Questors Theatre of Ealing. Each year the theatre is descended upon by what would appear to be a troupe of Shirley Temple Tribute Artistes. However, we recognise that these trippy Bright Young Things are the burgeoning Talent of Tomorrow and we welcome them, even if they are utilising our cosy Poetry enclave as a Dressing Room.
The upshot of this long rambling Intro, more typical of other contributors to this Blog, is that we were given keys to ‘The Lodge’ and told to exit stage left up the long and winding external staircase which surmounts the Grapevine Bar. Now I don’t know about you, but I was a fan of Twin Peaks back in the age of VHS and when I hear the word ‘Lodge’ I recall short men talking backwards and Laura Palmer reclining about the place in watery clothes. Not an auspicious start for a fruitful meet.
As it transpires, the Lodge was once a residence, occupied by the hermit-like Administrator of the Theatre and offered, ‘butt of malmsey style’ to the holder of that post. The gloomy atmos and sparse furnishings reminded me of the bare rooms of the notable American poet Emily Dickinson, who many years ago entered the famous Pitshanger Poetry Competition.
In those slightly chilly surroundings we nevertheless managed to enjoy a great evening of poetry. Helen Baker blew her cover in a typically enigmatic work. Nick Barth remembered the big buildings and big gods of his childhood. Alan Chambers recollected in tranquility. Christine Shirley brought us a poem describing an unlikely victim of adversity. David Hovatter brought a hugely enjoyable cowboy soliloquy. Finally Martin Choules commemorated the death of Pirate Radio and Tony Benn.
The Archive relates that Miss Dickinson stuck closely to the strict rules of the Pitshanger Poets and kept her powerful, dense works below the stipulated twenty lines. In return, however she received a terse, typewritten note rejecting each entry on grounds of ‘florid long-windedness and most excessive circumlocution’. Unfortunately she had been the victim of a clerical error and had received the rejection letter intended for Mr. Tennyson, then hawking the garrulous ‘Lady of Shalott’ around the more gullible poetry groups of the time. While we are entirely sure the rejection was immaterial to the staunch Yankee Poetess, the fact remains that Emily spent the next twenty years upstairs in her room perfecting the use of the short line and the hyphen.
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