If, like me, you have been called to poetry as keenly as a politician in a pair of green wellington boots is called to a newly-reported flood, you will understand what it is to reinvent this thing we call Culture on a frequent and regular basis. For me, January is when the process starts. This is the time of year when the dice are cast, the rule book is purchased and then torn up, the cards are shuffled, cut, dealt and thrown out of the window. I make decisions in January whose momentous vibrations will be felt all year. What will I write? Where will I write? Which strictures of the over-trammelled framework of post-modern written composition will I choose to revolutionise? Will I wear brogues or the new slippers I got for Christmas?
More importantly, which of my many poetry personas will I adopt to be the Avatar through which the next year’s work will be channelled? Will I become Strident Tone, the protest poet? Dirty Mark the scatalogist, or Cobbler Bob (‘there’s a hole in my soul’) the Shoe Pastry Chef? I could transmute into Tim Buktoo the Vaudeville Performer, Serge Green the anti-war poet or merely spend time as Ian Macmillan the Professional Northerner.
When I have returned from the Dressing Up Shop (there is an excellent place just off Festive Road) with a suitable costume I pick a sharpened pencil from the crocodile-skin case, slide a new vellum notebook from the shelf and have my man unwrap a three and a half inch floppy from the diminishing pile. Whether dressed in baggy blue zoot-suit or fake lion-skin strongman leotard I am now prepared for reinvention; creativity flows.
Creativity certainly flowed at tonight’s workshop. James Priestman opened with a re-imaging of the Garden of Eden tale, with a fateful twist. Nick Barth followed on with a piece about heaven turning to hell and burning down the house. Peter Francis imagined life for someone falling under the eye of her seigneur. Nayna Kumari has completed the poetry required for her planned book, with a tight, precise final piece on the need to freeze the heart. John Hurley is thinking about January and rising flood waters. Alan Chambers brought us a study of a preacher. Finally Martin Choules remembered a rock god named for a frontiersman.
We are an eclectic bunch at Pitshanger Poets and always have been. We frequently welcome musicians as well as poets and occasionally an enigmatic character will simply pop out of an afternoon idly leafing through the Archive. Such was the case when I read of a young beatnik of slight build turning up at a Tuesday Workshop some time in 1966. According to the archivist the young chap was seen working with scissors and tape cutting up lines of scribbled words to form the lyric to a song which he then performed for the group. The Workshop thought his singing style overly-reminiscent of Anthony Newley and the subject matter – a gnome – bemusingly odd. What a strange fellow; I wonder what ever happened to him?
If you have been, thank you for reading.