Well, thank goodness that’s over. Why the human race continues to make such a hullaballoo over St George’s Day is beyond me. I always breathe an inner sigh of relief, enjoying the return to normality as my Man begins the long task of rolling up the bunting, boxing up the inflatable dragon in the garden and packing away the commemorative tea set. I remain bewildered by the stories I hear of people with the most tenuous claims on English descent crowding into the streets of some far-flung city to celebrate the famous saint and their nostalgic connections with the Old Country. I hear that the City Corporation in Boston, Massachusetts had the Charles River dyed red, white and blue and that it was flavoured with Yorkshire Tea on the day itself. Tea shops in Dublin were warned to expect rowdy crowds as so-called ‘plastic English’ swarmed the streets seeking fish and chips, scones, cucumber sandwiches and of course, gallons of the light brown stuff. I do wonder how such affection for all things English came about, but when you see a jolly crowd of football enthusiasts enjoying a half-pint of lager outside a Public House it’s hard not to get caught up in their cheerful love for the fellow man, is there?
Speaking of bonhomie, this week’s Workshop was brim-full of the stuff. Michael Harris was thinking about darkness, proper darkness, not this namby-pamby stuff we get in London and how much he used to enjoy it back home in rural Ireland. Daphne Gloag is still thinking about time measured against great things, such as the giant sequoia she met in California. Aisha Hassan was also thinking about time, stretching into a past in India and the kinds of breakfast she used to enjoy there. Pat Francis is maintaining her thread, going back to her poetic roots, thinking of all the things she could create and coming up with a song. Peter Francis was welcoming someone new into the world, even if it is a slightly old, tired world. Nick Barth has been thinking about paper and its vulnerability. Martin Choules has been taking a look at cities that are -cesters, not -chesters or mere -sters. Alan Chambers brought a classic from the archive, opening his ears to the sound beneath the sound. Finally, John Hurley believes that there should be more love, music and poetry in the world.
I have been putting my mind to the younger generation of poets this week. It’s all too easy to knock the Youth of Today, to criticise their addiction to screens, their aversion to daylight and general lackadaisicalness. The cry goes up; why can’t they be more like the young were in my day? Why are they not reading improving verses? Why are they not writing sonnets and heroic verse ballads? Why are they not gathering in pubs and village halls, regaling each other with witty, barbed commentaries on the world of today to the music of pounding drums and shredding guitars? Why, in short, are the older generation getting such an easy ride from the young?
Certainly, if you were to spend any time with my teenage nephew Hinckley (cruelly nicknamed ‘what is point?’ by his schoolmates) you might detect a certain gothic detachment, as he lies arrayed on his bed, the detritus of his homework strewn on the floor, pale, long-haired, blue-britchéd, wearing a frilly shirt. It seems that Hinckley is not the sort of being to inspire a generation, to take up the cudgels of protest, to create a new generation of artists, to move things on.
Such a contrast to the hard-working, diligent Romantics, eh? There was a group of poets fired by youth, happy to rip up the rule book and write their own while carefully disposing of their litter as they went. They would respectfully raise two fingers to the fuddy-duddy traditions of their time while offering anyone who needed it a restorative glass of laudanum. I heard that the Romantics regarded an obscure poet by the name of Thomas Chatterton as the flint which set a spark to their blue touch-paper, though references to him in the voluminous PP Archive are scant. I did come across an episode in which a chap by the name of Chatterton was refused entry to a Workshop on the grounds that he was too young (he appeared to be seventeen at the time) and should be in his bed at this late hour. Apparently, he was quite well-known in London and a prolific poet by then but mysteriously, he seems to have given up the pen soon after. I do wonder if a few Tuesday Evenings at Pitshanger Manor would have provided him with the inspiration he needed to keep up his passion. Ah, the vagaries of youth, eh?
If you have been, thank you for reading.