Workshop, 10th September 2019

In my position as champion and unifying focal point for Ealing and Acton‘s poetry activities, I find myself in demand for critical advice on poetry from the moment when I leave the flat until the moment I return and close the front door, drained intellectually and emotionally.  No sooner have I broached the borough’s fine thoroughfares than I am accosted by one or more fellow denizens, eager for recommendations.  I am often hailed by workers at building sites with a friendly, ‘Oi, read us a poem, then!’ Market-stall holders will raise issue with my choice of reading, insisting I ‘have a listen to a real poem’ and then assail my ears with a succession of bawdy limericks, such as can only be set in Ealing.  I am given to understand that this quest has become even more desperate for locals since the large and important Ealing Central Library started selling camping gear and fitness clothing; something readers will need to visit the Broadway Arcade to appreciate.  It’s not just the heavy-handed sons and daughters of toil who seek me out; I am often asked which schools of poetry I favour.  This is a question which often puzzles me.  After all, the poem has been written and can not help what it is.  The reader, on the other hand has tastes and proclivities.  I think it is more helpful to talk of schools of listener, and have been drawing up a handy list.

Schools of listener were flitting through my mind during this week’s Workshop.  John Hurley frequently appeals to the ‘it’s not poetry if it does not rhyme’ school of reader, this week reminiscing about lost crafts of Ireland.  Owen Gallagher often finds himself read by the ‘grit beneath the finger-nails’ school, but this week’s piece offered a little more whimsy as he mused upon the mode of his final disposal on the seas of Ireland.  Pat Francis’ poetry is frequently bemusing without being overly-enigmatic.  This week she examined how to become a cat, in the Daoist sense, a move which I feel will appeal to the Cat Poetry School of reader.  Peter Francis also appeals to those interested in ideas, but this week’s poem had more than a nod to the school of urban realism as he played out a conflict amongst neighbours over the fence.  Claudia Court, new member of our humble workshop explored life and hope in a poem which is bound to appeal to dance poetry enthusiasts.  Nick Barth is clearly looking for readers in the Polonius School of tragical-comical-historical-pastoral poetry, though this week we could add political as well, as he examines a diplomatic mission by a new leader with a deadline to hit.  Martin Choules appears to be appealing to the ‘What’s My Line?’ school of poetry reader with this week’s examination of the role of the Registrar.  Roger Beckett was definitely appealing to the pencilphiles in his readership with this week’s confessional vignette.  Daphne Gloag’s poem this week will definitely appeal to the Christmas-obsessed reader, despite being a light-touch invocation of the visitations of the three wise men.  Finally, Doig Simmons poem will appeal to the photo album school of poetry reader as he paged through a life in a few short couplets.

There is a temptation to believe, as poets, that schools of readers will match schools of writers, however I fear that we are deluding ourselves.  Just as 62.5% of all internet traffic is devoted to images of cats, some 59.8% of all poetry read is devoted to our feline friends.  As a result we have to declare Pat Francis this week’s winner.  A sobering statistic from an enjoyable meeting.  If you have been, thank you for reading.


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