Workshop, 16th April 2019

Presentation is everything in poetry, whether a crisp white collar and highly starched diction, or sharp white pages and Times New Roman.  And no less a part of the packaging is the choice of meter or even the choice of title – tidy pages show a tidy mind.  Here in the Archive, we also appreciate a correctly-categorised shelf and meticulously-index stream-of-conscious, so we always appreciate when a poet takes extra care to ensure that all of their full stops are precisely the same size.

Talking of presenting poems, may I remind our loyal reader of our upcoming Poetry Evening upon the stage of our genial host, the Questors Theatre ?  Tell me more, you say ?  Certainly, please see the accompanying post, even if it does rather gloss over the vital cataloguing and syllable-counting that goes on here in the Archive.

And an added bonus for followers of these weekly reports is the opportunity to finally meet the poets behind the many names which flit in and out of the workshops, who were out in strength this week as fourteen crowded into the Library and extra chairs had to be stolen from the cafe.  First to breath out was Niall Cassidy, who has been rummaging through old drawers and big-eared wardrobes, followed by Peter Francis musing on the unfortunate uptick in American poetry suicides in the last century.  Roger Beckett recalled when his uncle came home on leave but still very much in the army, while Michael Harris has been looking into eyes of different colours and Caroline Am Bergris has been warming her hands on the memory of warmth.

Pat Francis has been chronicling a seething desperation of many a lonely housewife, leading onto Christine Shirley celebrating the spirit of the ancient cow and the treatment of her modern descendent.  For John Hurley, the Fifties were a time of milkmen and ‘No Irish’ signs, while meticulously documented sexual encounters may have landed Owen Gallagher into trouble (or at least his poetic alter ego).  Martin Choules had been wondering why the Germans need their own fancy (and confusing) ligature, while Daphne Gloag ended with a song about possibilities.

But of course, when it comes to public reading, nothing dampens a poet’s flow quicker than messy handwriting.  How can the words leap off the page when the copperplate has verdigris ?  And imagine being an archivist trying to decipher what was never intended to be coded but which is looks more like it has been written in Cyrillic by tap-dancing spiders.  Alas, so many poets it seems are just so darned scruffy, with a natural inability to keep their paperwork in any kind of order.  Their correspondence (when mercifully legible) so often omits the date, the page number, sometimes even their own name, and worse of all any sort of footnotes to refer back to previous conversations.  Honestly, how is the hard-working literary eavesdropper expected to determine why Alfred Tennyson had been in an odd mood all day, or whether the wine on Virginia Woolf’s shopping list was red or white ?

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