Workshop, 13th June 2017

Well, it’s nice to know that some things are still done properly.  I read recently that the Queen’s Speech will be delayed; not because Mrs May’s happy crew have only the faintest notion what to put in it (a bill to remove any mention of dinosaurs from the National Curriculum anyone?) but because, being hand-written on vellum, it takes some days for the ink to dry.  Apparently, the Q of E refuses to read anything not written on the stuff, which plays merry hell with the Palace Laser Printers and the production of the lunch menu.  As discussed in prev Blogs, a similar process is involved in the production of this very hifalutin diatribe, although one doubts that the Queen’s Speech will be knocked up on anything as unsophisticated as my early Macintosh 128k, which I use for anything requiring a nice uninterrupted run-up.  The Macintosh has no truck with the Internet, which does wonders for the concentration.  I’m sure you have found that it’s far too easy to think you have a long, complex document in the bag only to be distracted by a post on the Facebook or a Tweet from a beloved comedian.  As a result you find that you have committed some awful howler and are forced to book a national press conference to get yourself out of a hole.  It must have happened to all of us.

This week’s workshop was certainly not a hole, although it was a very popular sesh (and where were you?).  Pat Francis got things under way in a detailed fashion with a piece on the death of Lallans Gaelic.  Aisha Hassan brought us lovers becoming sea-serpents in a work that took shape upon the page.  John Cheung then refreshed our palates with a darkly comic Haiku on the subject of love and keeping quiet about it.  Peter Francis dug into the past of his father and his reluctantly-opened chest of oiled tools.  Martin Choules also reached for saws, hatchets and other blades to discuss the pros and cons of pollarding.  Owen Gallagher took to the floor and made a return to language to examine the outlawing of the Irish tongue.  John Hurley has been finding it hard to sleep and appreciating the early dawn as a result.  Daphne Gloag has also been appreciating time, in all its forms for the first poem in her new sequence.  Nick Barth brought us a work picturing mankind as passengers under the command of an autopilot.  Finally, Michael Harris capably juxtaposed the birthdays of a strange mix of personalities in an amusing piece inspired by a newspaper.

I am not entirely sure whether poetry and politics should be allowed to mix.  On the one hand, I have nothing against the ‘isn’t it all dreadful’ school of poetry as opposed to the ‘hello flowers, hello trees’ variety, as life can be dreadful whether one finds oneself stuck in a foxhole or mulling over the state of religion while reaching for an Irish sixpence.  The problem with politics is that it’s all very well for a chap to bemoan the current state of the nation and yearn for improvement but it’s dashed hard to outline a coherent set of policies, fully costed and reviewed by the Department of Budget Responsibility within a few lines, sticking to a snappy metre and keeping the rhyme scheme subtle.  It is not as if it has not been tried.  Ezra Pound had a passion for financial detail in his poetry, railing against bankers and usury with the frequent appearance of columns of numbers in the margins of his early drafts.  The irony of Pound mentoring TS Eliot, who actually was a banker, became starkly clear during a Tuesday night workshop at Pitshanger Manor.  Eliot pointed out to Pound that he had forgotten to carry the one in a compound interest calculation and the heated discussion resulted in Pound crossly departing the meeting, threatening to leave Britain to stay with his friend Benito in Italy, ‘where they invented this interest stuff’.  One wonders whether Ezra would not have been far happier with a nice job with a big bank in the City where his somewhat extremist views would not have seemed so unusual.  He could have kept his fascism to the Golf Club bar and made a lot more money without actually being declared insane.

If you have been, thank you for reading.


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