Workshop, 26th November 2019

I am sure my loyal readership will agree with me, there is a great deal of lying, falseness and downright fakery in the media these days.  The insistent clarion call; ‘It must be true, I read it in a book!’ of our childhoods has been replaced with the no-less strident; ‘It must be true, I read it on the internet!’  It seems that the Alt-Right and Alt-Left have decided that it is just fine to take an Alt-Liberal approach to truth, and that as long as your web site, Tweet or Facebook Post says something we can agree with, we are more than happy to accept that your pants might be on fire.

There is something about this fast-and-looseness with the truth which sticks in the craw of this, your devoted correspondent.  Here at the Pitshanger Poets Blog we have always stood cheek-by-jowl with veracity, shunning the glittering shortcuts of mendacity to tread the longer, less fascinating road with the sacred sword of truth burning there in front of us, dazzling our eyes and generally making it impossible to know where we are putting our feet.  Not for us an easy tale of poets long-dead, caught in slapstick situations at the famous Manor while the indulgent Architect looks on.  Each Pitshanger Poets Blog is a scrupulously-researched detailing of your actual verité, redolent with the smoke-filled atmos of the time and as true as Don Juan is long, unless that is, a big-name Netflix producer reading this just happens to get in touch at the usual address, wishing to turn our epic tales into the next must-see box-set, in which case every last word is Copyright Aubrey Ffinch-Whistler & Felicity Chalice 1610-2019, so there.

Copyright is not something we worry about too much at the Pitshanger Poets Workshops.  We poets tend to be somewhat careless with our hard copies and I do wonder what would happen if some go-getting editor was to simply sweep up the spares following a Workshop and compile a slim volume, they might sell as many as, well, fifteen copies and make enough money to ride the E2 bus all the way to Greenford Broadway.  Certainly, Roger Beckett did not collect the remaining copies of his ‘Poet’s epitaph’ piece, another characteristically amusing and sophisticated poem.  Alan Chambers has several published volumes to his name and this week brought a piece which is no doubt in copyright, for the weird sisters he once met at a poetry workshop.  Owen Gallagher gave us a work in progress, no doubt for his next volume, on the theme of how to sandblast a non-unionised workplace.  Daphne Gloag brought us a revision, exploring the dimensions, all of them.  John Hurley told us a story that he would perhaps rather forget, concerning a series of misunderstandings with a single woman, for whom English was not her first language.  Pat Francis has always been generous with her copyright, as is evidenced by the number of her poems she has contributed to this Blog, this week she continued her Picture Post Theme and the safe birth of the first Rhesus Baby.  Peter Francis has always been adept at adaptation, this week he gave us a ribald story from a woman’s point of view.  Nick Barth is always careful to copyright his work, but no one knows why.  This week he brought us a revision of an old piece, concerning the importance of listening to one’s thoughts.  Martin Choules is so prolific that he has started his own poetry Blog, with a new poem every day, you really should take a look.  This week’s poem tells the tale of a girl mulling over the way angels might fly.

I have been thinking about fake poetry recently.  It’s not something one hears about so much these days, but a few years ago it was somewhat newsworthy.  Who can forget the Lost Poems of Richard Wagner, so enthusiastically promoted by Hugh-Trevor Roper and published at length by Rupert Murdoch in the Sunday Times?  Or the ‘missing’ Larkin poem later discovered to be the lyrics to ‘The Caravan of Love’ by fellow-Hullians, The Housemartins?  How about the forty plays, 154 sonnets and sundry other works attributed to one W Shakespeare but later discovered to have been written by Francis Bacon, the modern artist?  I still remember where I was when I learned that a collection of amusing TS Eliot poems about Cats read to me by Nanny on her knee, was in fact the Book for a stage musical and at least two singularly strange motion pictures with tunes by Andrew Lloyd-Webber.  If that was not enough, we have in these august pages revealed to the world that the poet known as William McGonagall was in fact a fiction invented by Thomas Hardy.

Personally, I yearn for the day when the Conservative Party decides to target my inbox with fake poetry.  If Labour proposed to increase state spending on poetry development and support by £308 billion, I would whoop for joy, even if the only way to achieve that was to ask Mark Zuckerberg to send us the contents of his small change tin.  There is, in my humble opinion far too much reality in fake news these days.  If D Trump started tweeting ‘The Raven’, by E A Poe as his own work, I would take it as a sign that the Dark Times were well and truly over.  One can but dream.

If you have been, thank you for reading.

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