Here in the New Archives, we have a newspaper section that records every mention of the Pitshanger Poets in the popular press, and to coincide with our upgraded facilities we have had to purchase a second manila folder just to fit them all in. We also keep track of more general poetry-related news, including from this new cutting-edge internet, where the relevant ‘website’ is brought to screen, photographed, developed, printed and filed, all within a week. And it is from one such record that we became aware of an incident in the former colony of Connecticut, where a teacher of an A-Level-equivalent English Lit lesson caused a stir by allowing a rather risqué Allen Ginsberg poem to be read out in class.
Of course, the Pitshanger Poets workshops are not intended to feel like school, and our attendees are all consenting adults, so we would like to think that such frankness would excite no more in us than our passion for well-chosen words, but alas our Tuesday soirées have at times been rather partial to prudery. So it was doubly unfortunate that the very week that a Mrs Whitehouse of Warwickshire dropped in for a cup of tea and a chat about her passion for Victorian moralising verse, we also happened to have in attendance both Mr Ginsberg himself and the often salty-mouthed Ted Hughes.
No outrage at this week’s workshop, but plenty of provocation. Alan Chambers brought in a revised ode to the full moon that can sometimes be seen peeking through our modern world, while Peter Francis asked who was the sinister Mr S, but left us without a definite answer. Owen Gallagher showed us the poetry in being an organ donor, while John Hurley told us of a black bull who was decidedly missing a vital part. The weather was on Martin Choules’ mind, and we ended as we began with a chance to see a previous submission by Christine Shirley evolve and improve.
Allen Ginsberg also visited at other, happier times, including one evening in the 1960s when he was explaining the origin of the term ‘beat poetry’. It had, he revealed, originally been coined by Jack Kerouac to mean both ‘beaten down and exhausted’, but also ‘upbeat’ and ‘on the beat’. This led to some confusion by fellow-attendee Harold Pinter, who had hitherto considered himself a ‘beat’ writer on account of his predilection for pauses.