Trouble at t’theatre recently has seen the Pitshanger Poets moved out of their regular room for the spacious, if less cosy, Upper Foyer. There are numerous rumours flitting the rounds as to why half the building is cordoned off, from an outbreak of ghosts awaiting a dour exorcist to an outbreak of pigeons awaiting a suitable pie. Some claim that the building is sinking into the Thames, while others insist the cause was a very precise earthquake. Here in the Archives we have learned the hard way of the dangers when confusing concertina screens with load-bearing walls, but could it be that an over-enthusiastic get-out crew have taken down more than the flats and the curtains ? (The trick is to remember than retaining walls are so called because they should be retained.)
Anyway, this week’s workshop was quite able to fill the extra space of the foyer. Michael Harris took centre stage with his poem about shifting shame, but showed no remorse for its brevity, while Doig Simmonds filled the space with an imagined battlefield, and even had enough distance to look back and reflect, followed by John Hurley declaring his love to the furthest corners, and cheering himself up into the bargain. For Alan Chambers, well used to wide open areas, his triolet reported his unfortunate recent injury three times, but he assured us it had only happened once.
Daphne Gloag meanwhile, freed from the confines of the Committee Room, has been gazing into the vast space around her and wondering if it might all be timeless. Such an unfamiliar space also suited Owen Gallagher’s poem about returning to one’s childhood haunts and finding them all so changed, leading to Aisha Hassan filling the hall with a wake, complete with a closed casket and a river of milk. It fell to Martin Choules to test the echo with a tardy thunderstorm and some basic arithmetic.
Relocation has inevitably happened before during the centuries-long society of the Pitshanger Poets, including one time which saw the reverse of our present circumstances: in 1826 it was customary to meet in the main Salon, but one time when he had the decorators in, they had to adjourn to the boot room. It was certainly snug among the dubbin and lasts, and all those newfangled mid-calf Wellesleys. An aging Bill Blake commented that trying to cram their collected poetic wisdom into such a priesthole was akin to seeing the world in a grain of sand, and grand-tourist Harry Longfellow felt as if the poets were in the place where the squirrels hid their acorns.
But it was a young Joe ‘greenthumbs’ Paxton, just about to quit Chiswick for Chatsworth in the wilds of up-north who summed it up, quoting from the late Jack Keats whose heroine Isabella carries around a pot-plant at all times, containing both a bush of basil and her murdered lover’s head. “I feel as cramped as the wretched contents of that pot !” he moaned. “That poor herb’s root system, crowded out by that bloody head !”