Workshop, 18th August 2015

This blog can remain silent no longer. Machiavellian backbiting is afoot in the body politic: there is a strain of spineless, weak-kneed, gutless, mealy-mouthed arse-coverers who lack the stomach to make a clean breast of it and take up arms, shoulder their responsibility, lay their hands on the table and stick their heads above the parapet and place their necks on the line. It is a debate that questions just what our movement stands for, amid visions of the 1980s, exile to the wilderness and embarrassing engraved stones: should modern poets aspire to be buried in Westminster Abbey ?

Yes, Philip Larkin is to be remembered with a stone slab within the mother church whose daughters he often visited but never really believed in. Still, he’ll be in good company – Shelley, Marlow and Hardy are nearby in stone if not in spirit. Well, okay, Marlow is technically in glass, which does sound better: more of a glowing tribute, less of a doormat.

Of course, it’s not as if the late lamented gentleman has any say in the matter, but rather it is no more than a testament to the lobbying powers of his fans. One suspects that even Wendy Cope’s supporters, when her time comes, will make a play for the big time, although in her case perhaps she would be more at home in a different wing, beside Thomas Telford and Robert Stephenson.

This week’s potential future internees were all very much alive and kicking: first up was James Priestman, musing on the demons and better angels of a tennis pro, swiftly followed by Owen Gallagher’s memories of a family holiday at Loch Ness that almost got him onto Blue Peter. John Hurley was quite washed away by the power of the ocean, while Daphne Gloag was enjoying a mixed bean soup with an extra dash of universe. Martin Choules was showing sympathy for a thought-criminal, and Olwyn Grimshaw was determined to be well-dressed as she weathered her monster hangover. Finally, the sun in splendour, and other aspects, was gleaming in Alan Chambers’ eye.

The Pitshanger archives recall one evening in 1982 when the thoroughly anti-establishment Dylan Thomas was being officially remembered thirty years after has boozy death. Ted Hughes, (himself to be snagged in 2011), was vehemently against it – he thought that although Dylan was somewhat religious, he was thoroughly low church and not one for incense and hallelujahs. Conversely, Seamus Heaney thought it beautifully showed the Bard of Swansea having the final laugh at anyone who took him that seriously. Oddly enough, Philip Larkin himself was also present, but remained silent, and on his deathbed three years later he insisted that his diaries be destroyed unread, so it looks like we’ll never know how he would regard this latest honour. Maybe, just to be sure, they should use the slab to bury a pair of bicycle clips and an Irish sixpence.


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