Workshop, 1st September 2015

I have always thought of myself as a strong-willed sort of cove, a Chap Who Knows His Own Mind, an individual unlikely to be swayed by the nudges and psychological mind games of today’s super-connected society. I welcome humanity with a sunny disp. and fail to see why I should be drawn in by the cloud of paranoia and scepticism that surrounds so much of the international business world, a point I made clear to the charming official from the Bank of Nigeria who contacted me last week concerning the locked funds belonging to a deceased relative, a person of whom I was previously completely unaware. As I told him, if an honest fellow from Mumbai takes the trouble to look up my phone number for the sole purpose of alerting me that nefarious characters can see through my windows and steal my passwords, why would I not believe him?

Trust in the honesty of our fellow poets was to the fore in tonight’s workshop. Louise Nicholas brought us a labour of love concerning the hair and hair pins of her mother. Daphne Gloag reworked her ‘spilt milk’ poem of last week, and the group sincerely encouraged her to return to the vivdness of the original, demonstrating the value of the group. Owen Gallagher clearly prefers the honesty of a Public Library that’s not just about to close its doors. Alan Chambers has been to a country dance in Cornwall and observed what is being communicated in the eyes of the farmers and their daughters. Nick Barth has written the poem he admits he should have written last week. John Hurley brought us a piece about his grand daughter that he thinks might be just a little too honest. Christine Shirley read us a new piece conjuring the sea.  Finally, Martin Choules is keen to enter the Ealing Autumn competition with another piece following the theme of the Magna Carta and we wish him the best of luck.

As a Renaissance Man I emphatically do believe in the power of science to divine the truth from the previously inscrutable or at the very least confusing. To explain; I have been reading about nominative determinism, the idea that psychology can induce the human mind to be ‘nudged’ by exterior or merely random influences, in this case, their own names. The Data Scientist Boffins that wrote this piece have performed some dashed clever hard sums and believe that, for example, there is a higher than random incidence of the name ‘Dennis’ occurring among people who choose to become dentists, that more lawyers are called ‘Larry’ than would be expected by mere chance.

Filled with inspiration by this idea I fired up the Pitshanger Manor Ferranti Pegasus MK1 (which five ton behemoth was installed by accident in the basement due to a clerical error in 1955) and loaded the PP Poetry Archive Statics Database into the hopper, the data for which I had my man consign to punched cards as a punishment for losing some rather nice collar-studs a few years ago. The machine cranked into life, the lights dimmed and the Nominative Determinism programme was squirted through the cheerily glowing valves.

At last the computer’s fizzing processes were concluded and the streetlights came back on in West London.  A green indicator shone from the console and the ancient golf-ball printer screeched into life. I was astounded when on the archaic continuous lined paper spilled the following:-

Swinburne did indeed support the strenuous sestina,
With Auden an ode is not unknown,
While George Szirtes gravitates towards the tertza rima,
The seeds of Spenser’s passions were in his sonnets sown.
While Gerald Manley Hopkins’ hopping sprung rhythm is statistically more than happenstance.
A knowing Alexander Pope with the alexandrine led us a merry dance,
Finally, William McGonagall,
As all sensible men agree,
Had he been anything more than a fictional poet invented by Thomas Hardy
In 1893,
Definitely dug doggerel.

I do hate a cocky computer, don’t you? If you have been, thank you for reading.

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