Workshop, 20th November 2018

There are few things more annoying to a precise and organised archivist than an unshelved volume, a gap in the teeth of otherwise identical tomes, a row of likewise leather and regulation tooling, with only the Roman numeral to distinguish one from its neighbours, but with one of them missing !  It is of course unavoidable if regrettable that these books will from time to time have be taken down from their native land to be read, but should never be travelled more then a dozen paces beyond to one of the reading desks, whence the tutting librarian can harvest them back home once the barely tolerated public are ushered out of the bibliarium a full ten minutes before the official closing time.  (And Lord alone knows how lending librarians are able to cope).

But, the wily reader may be voicing, how does this affect the organiser of poetry’s slim volumes, whose receptacles are less bricks and more slates to be slid passed one another.  Surely a missing volume would be unnoticed, so narrow is its spine ?  Indeed, these booklets cannot even stand themselves up without leaning upon their neighbours (and there’s a metaphor for poetry that has inexplicably gone begging).  But the experienced book-keeper knows the precise volume of each volume, and can spot a short measure down to the millimetre.  And woe betide the desecrating reader who has purloined so much as a pamphlet to use as a makeshift fan or to even up a wobbly reading desk…

This week’s Workshop also took place in a library, this one full of scripts as befits a theatre like the Questors, and under their dramatic gaze Alan Chambers opened proceedings with a redraft of expressions of a expressionist painting, handing over to Daphne Gloag also fine tuning a previous work concerning a petrified lion frozen in a frieze.  Revisions were also being revived as Anne Furneaux looked upon the Mediterranean three times and with a painter’s eye and a storyteller’s ear, and Christine Shirley has been revisiting her imagined grandparents as she went walking back over her walking back, and Owen Gallagher has been tinkering with his working man’s prayer that is no closer to receiving an answer.  There then followed brand new words from Doig Simmonds about seeing ghosts in the mist from the salty sea-spray, and John  Hurley has been hitting a wall when trying to deal with committees, while it is the futility of the stars that has been keeping Peter Francis in their cruel gaze.  Pat Francis has been facing up to the tanks of old age and Michael Harris has felt the longing at the passing of a playwright, while Martin Choules has been having a quite word with America, one old empire to the new kid in town.

Sir John kept a modest library in Pitzhanger Manor from which his guests were wont to borrow books for a week or fifty when penning a particularly obscure ode to some ancient Greek tragic  muse who appears in one line of an obscure one-act farce of Euripides, or to check the spelling of ‘tiger’ in his Doctor Johnson (and then to reject the finding anyway as too modern and Frenchified).  Sir John kept a tally of who had taken what, which makles for interesting reading: “Geo Byron, still has not returned my ‘Trickster of Seville’ – says he intends to write a short Verse or two about its central Character, Don John.  He thinks it should only take him half an hour, if he ever gets round to it.”  In another entry we find “Had to rebuke Wm Wordsworth for once again my first Folio of the Bard for pressing Daffodils in.”  But most telling is the note about Oddfellow’s British Birds and the Hedges they Frequent:   “Pcy Shelley came in wanting my Oddfellow, determined to write an Ode to a Skylark – had Jn Keats in complaining that he needs to look up the Chapter on Nightingales.  Also Wm Blake, who says he has caught the Bug and wants a crack at the Seagull, tho he may be referring to his recent belt of Ague and seeking revenge on the one who delivered it to him.  Alas they must all wait until I receive it sent back from Overseas and young master Poe who though only a small boy has an unusual Obsession with the Corvids.”

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