Workshop, 8th May 2018

The Pitshanger Poets have never been ones for what those bright people with coloured frames to their spectacles call ‘marketing’.  I only have to hint that I might be considering the vague possibility of mulling over the idea of dropping a hat, for Parsonage, my resident geek to knock up a stack of punched cards for the Ferranti Pegasus which will calculate how many poets have joined workshops past, their average tenure, word count, the number who have stormed out in high dudgeon, those who have been forced to leave us because they were secretly smuggling dead mice for the PLO or guns for the Cats Protection League, published poets, unpublished poets, published poets on a single-minded mission to destroy every remaining copy of their work, I could go on. The extent of his growing numeromania would be more alarming if it was not so immensely useful, for it offers the chance to dip into the data banks and pull out an intriguing factoid or two.  For example, did you know that the thirteenth least popular theme for a summer poem in our hallowed halls has been the humble beach towel?

We had a comparatively small attendance at this week’s Workshop (and where were you?), meaning there was no need to nip into the library before time and drop one’s beach towel onto a spare seat.  Martin Choules stretched out and let us know what a great talent he has for sleeping.  Anne Furneaux has been remembering London’s Blitz.  Michael Harris was enigmatic about that thing that he used to do, but not any more.  Daphne Gloag recalled a letter she wanted to write, although for her recipient it was probably too late to be read.  Doig Simmons gave us his Swan Song, though we will not be at all surprised if he’s with us again next week with another poem.  Nick Barth rounded things off with a meditation on things seen on a long night flight.

According to Parsonage we should be staking our claim as the premier poetry workshop using Social Media, going viral, spiking the influencers, dropping clickbait, attracting disruptors, introducing gamification, focusing on the hyperlocal, targeting the low hanging fruit, creating an omnichannel presence, becoming thought leaders, leveraging ideafication and developing an immersive, storyscraping on-line presence.  I do ask Parsonage what he thinks the venerable institution of Pitshanger Poets will receive in return for all this sparkly-sounding intellectual labour.  He retorts that the K-Means cluster chart emerging from the dot-matrix printer clearly shows that we will generate an upswing in loyalty from our target age group of between 25 and 50 percentage points, which revelation raised only one question in my mind; does this mean we will need to fetch another chair?

We all know that the dedicated poet eschews self-promotion and involvement in the sordid world of commerce, which makes uncovering a writer eager to involve themselves in the murky business of business all the more fascinating.  I am sure you are all familiar with the fact that WB Yeats lived in Chiswick for a number of years but what drew him from Ireland to these frantic streets?   Yeats was a keen, if unsuccessful entrepreneur with strong memories of trips to the seaside, playing on the beach and the damp, sandy feet which are the unpleasant and debilitating result.  He hatched the idea of profiting from the growing craze of bathing and partnered with a mill back home to create a range of fetching blue and gold beach towels.  Unfortunately, his poetry, while worthy of a Nobel Prize did not equate to attractive advertising copy and his products failed to make an impact on Britain’s leisure market.  He eventually took his downtrodden dreams to New York where the beach towel industry was much more mature and he could focus on his writing.  If you have been, thank you for reading.

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