Workshop, 7th February 2017

As the London winter limps on, unable to decide if it wants to be a proper cold snap or a damp squib, dithering its mercury around freezing without ever bringing out the snow, here in the Archives we are resisting turning on the heating to save money and maybe turn few slugs into ice-cubes as an added bonus.  Of course, there are the inevitable whinges from the unpaid interns that they have to cradle their inkpots between their hands for ten minutes each morning just to get it runny enough to write with, or indeed why do they have to use a quill in the first place, but did you ever see Bill Wordsworth waxing lyrical in Word Perfect ?  Anyway, ever since the Archives invested in the Canada Goose Quill Company it makes sense to use our own product, and to promote organic farming and localism – indeed the quills are harvested from the very geese of Walpole Park as they sleep.

International readers of this blog may be less impressed at London’s inability to have a proper Winter, and our whining while basking in a balmy one degree above zero, (or at least the Northern Hemispheroids may, while the Antipodeans just crack open another tinny and toss another prawn on the barbie), but let’s not forget that suffering is as good for the poetic soul as is pure white blankets and frozen nature for metaphors.  So blow, blow thy Winter wind of discontent !  Welcome, wild North-Easter !  Freeze the Darkling Thrush on his branch, greet the newborn lambs with a wretched width of cold, and watch the woods fill up with snow that sifts from leaden sieves.  A cold coming we should have of it, or else a Winter wonderland, but never just a hazy shade with nothing worse than all the leaves being brown and the sky being grey.

Plenty of hearthside huddling at this week’s workshop, as Olwyn Grimshaw lit our fire with her piece on tabloid sensationalism and red-blooded redtops, while Martin Choules has been spending his long evenings pondering the choosing of an English name, and Michael Harris found heartwarming inspiration despite a less than happy New Year.  Katie Thornton then flushed our cheeks with her sestina on a pair of piebald hands, followed by whistles both absent and present and a non-stop bakelite radio from John Hurley.  Owen Gallagher was in apocalyptic mood as he turned up the thermostat and started torching the earth, leaving Alan Chambers to recall the eternal Summer of childhood only to find himself back in the Winter of today.

Once the interns finally got their quills out, we were able to start looking back through the Archive to Winters past.  The obvious place to start was with Robert Frost, whose very name says it all and who once declared that “you can’t get too much Winter in the Winter”.  And indeed, we soon found evidence of his feud with fellow ex-pat Ezra Pound coming to the fore on a chilly Tuesday evening in 1914.  It seems that Ezzie’s faint praise of Bob’s poem led the latter to mutter how, when it comes to criticism, the cold shoulder is as effective as the wrathful invective: “For destruction,” he complained, “ice is also great, and would suffice.”


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