Workshop, 11th February 2020

As you might expect, I have mixed feelings about the significance of January the 31st and the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union.  On the one hand, the mood at the Golf Club has been nothing short of jubilant since our own blond bombast came to power, with the committee quickly passing a motion to name the Seventh Hole (the See-Saw Bridge with the tricky final putt through the clown’s legs) after our glorious leader, and as a result it will be known as the ‘Boris Bridge’ in perpetuity.  On the other hand, one is still somewhat rankled, riled and irritated that the impact of Brexit on International Poetry has been barely mentioned.

Things were very different when we were trying to join the European Community.  I’m sure we all remember Jacques Prevert’s infamous ‘non merci, si ça ne vous dérange pas’ when faced with the prospect of British poets coming to Europe and despoiling his beloved Parisian Café culture with readings in English.  How times have changed.  Poets across Europe now enjoy writing and declaiming in English, and while we have enjoyed hearing these talented writers on many occasions, there is the slightly creepy suspicion that some of them (especially the precocious Dutch) may be better at writing poetry in English than we are.

We do occasionally hear poetry in other languages at the Pitshanger Poets, but sadly not this evening.  Pat Francis got us started on a decidedly British subject of the ordinary, common-or garden Nineteenth Century Explorer.  Rithika Nadipalli has been thinking about dolphins, bringing us an acrostic for the occasion.  Nick Barth brought back an old villanelle concerning the pact humanity has signed with the automobile.  This week Roger Beckett described the broken line back to his grandfather, a man he never met, who was killed during World War One.  Daphne Gloag had clearly been on a journey with her poem describing an absent man who used to feed the birds, but has she returned from that place?  Martin Choules gave us a Valentine’s poem, questioning the validity of comparing any emotion to hulking great celestial bodies.  John Hurley has also been feeling some romance while he walks along an English strand, but lets us down with a satisfying bump at the end.  Michael Harris has also been troubled by feelings of the heart, but we cannot be sure whether his heart attack is genuine or an intricate metaphor for a recent Irish election.  Doig Simmons brought us a poem reflecting on the defence of Leningrad, while Peter Francis rounded us off by touching on the result of another aspect of World War Two and Coventry Cathedral.

We are assured that now we are out of the EU, British Poetry fans will be better able to indulge in works from many other parts of the world.  Tariff-free poetry from the United States is promised, though I observe that American Poets do process their work differently, clipping the odd letter out of some words to fit more of them on to a line, and spelling some words differently in order to use up more of the letter ‘z’, which otherwise gets under-used, and can lead to that key on the keyboard becoming dangerously atrophied.  Of course, as a friendly, open-minded country, the United Kingdom does not mind who listens to our poetry and what means they use to experience it.  I am particularly in admiration of the Chinese, who, according to my computer expert associate, Parsonage, have included listening devices in every piece of equipment that they have sold to major British Mobile Phone network operators.  What an enlightened age this is when an entire country of over a billion people can improve their English language skills in such an unintrusive manner.  ‘Oh, Brave New World that has such people in it’, as I am sure Donald Trump is often heard to say.  If you have been, thank you for reading.

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