Workshop, 20th June 2017

Straight down to business this week, with no time for preamble.  We archivists are but teeming termites in a complex warren of labyrinthine mazes far too engrossed in our own particular cog to be able to stand in awe of the awful, awesome machine that is Poetry.  From the formulation of modern nursery rhymes for a society without nurseries, through the playgrounds of the ever-evolving clapping chants, passed on from one six-year-old to the next with a little bit of mutation sometimes creeping in, to those long afternoons in double English, where a jaded old master must try to enthuse her class that no Billy, poems don’t have to rhyme.  The world of the Word will never stop turning, so neither must we, alas.

It is sometimes quipped that it is an artform with more writers than readers (which would mean that many a versifier does not read even their own efforts, which actually explains a lot.)  But such wags are right about one thing – we all of us are poets at heart, stumbling upon a pithy couplet here while trundling down the pasta isle, or a telling turn of phrase there while insisting that  no, you really haven’t got any PPI.  The human being is a talky animal, indeed it rarely shuts up for long enough to hear the marvellous off-the-cuff bon mot of its neighbour.

And we in the Pitshanger Archive have to keep a record of all of it.  Well…all of it that comes into the Pitshanger Poets, anyway, which is a lot more than just the verse our attendees have printed on the page.  Like the time when George ‘Don Juan’ Byron overheard Percy ‘Bliss’ Shelley boasting about his latest conquest…

No, dammit, didn’t we just say that we didn’t have time for all that ?  Honestly, you can’t trust poets to be brief about anything verbal, and don’t get us started on their famous last words…of course, most of them have them memorised decades in advance…oops, off on a tangent again.  So, on with this week’s workshop, which we are in no illusion is the real reason our loyal readership turn up each week, and never mind all that waffle about the time Tommy Eliot’s cat was trapped in Erwie Schrödinger’s suitcase.

First up was an unhurried John Hurley looking wistfully on his past and failing to take the advice of his own title, easing aside to give Aisha Hassan centre stage with her prose poem about her grandfather’s flight from his partitioned homeland and his subsequent wistful looking-back at the cups of tea of his youth.  Alan Chambers hove into view, island-hopping the Hebrides, but what lies ahead ?  Daphne Gloag then was in no hurry to examine whether there was any such thing as time to enable hurrying in, and Michael Harris has been his lane over the decades, as the trees go up over the decades and come down overnight.

Pat Francis has decided she is not yet finished with her Victorian vignettes about the London poor, and has extended the series with every intension of doing so again, while Peter Francis has time to pity the rich their burden of wealth.  For Owen Gallagher, the road less travelled has become so overgrown it is fair to say that there is no way through the woods – which means a longer way home for him, giving time to ponder if it’s worth the effort to re-cut the shortcut.  Maybe next year…

Time has also been on Martin Choules’ mind as the Summer Solstice approaches, but he knows he only has to wait and it will soon be Winter, and wait some more and before he knows it, next Summer is here.  And finally, proving the virtue of patience, Ariadne Kazantzis has spent the intervening months honing her tale of teenage and alien eco pro-action – for while her superheroes’ mission cannot wait, the telling of their antics certainly can while the perfect metaphor is hunted down.

Well, however languid the readers may be, the Archives must run at their usual OCD-rush, getting the minutes of the workshop written, rewritten, spellchecked, typeset and letrasetted into the Archive’s current copper-bound ledger before being interrupted by the latest Andrew Motion memo on the decline of the comma, or a Michael Rosen round-robin on the many overlooked poems about trousers.

Such busyness did not impress William H Davies when his tramping brought his Ealing-way shortly before the Great War.  He joined a Tuesday workshop and read first, with an early draft of his poem Leisure.  He then spent the rest of the evening stood beside the French windows, staring straight ahead, unblinking, untwitching and unyielding as the others attempted to conduct themselves under his gimlet gaze.  But the longer he watched, the shorter their own attention spans became, and the meeting broke up by nine-fifteen.  It seems that while Bill Davies certainly did have time to stand and stare, nobody else had the time to be stared at.

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Workshop, 13th June 2017

Well, it’s nice to know that some things are still done properly.  I read recently that the Queen’s Speech will be delayed; not because Mrs May’s happy crew have only the faintest notion what to put in it (a bill to remove any mention of dinosaurs from the National Curriculum anyone?) but because, being hand-written on vellum, it takes some days for the ink to dry.  Apparently, the Q of E refuses to read anything not written on the stuff, which plays merry hell with the Palace Laser Printers and the production of the lunch menu.  As discussed in prev Blogs, a similar process is involved in the production of this very hifalutin diatribe, although one doubts that the Queen’s Speech will be knocked up on anything as unsophisticated as my early Macintosh 128k, which I use for anything requiring a nice uninterrupted run-up.  The Macintosh has no truck with the Internet, which does wonders for the concentration.  I’m sure you have found that it’s far too easy to think you have a long, complex document in the bag only to be distracted by a post on the Facebook or a Tweet from a beloved comedian.  As a result you find that you have committed some awful howler and are forced to book a national press conference to get yourself out of a hole.  It must have happened to all of us.

This week’s workshop was certainly not a hole, although it was a very popular sesh (and where were you?).  Pat Francis got things under way in a detailed fashion with a piece on the death of Lallans Gaelic.  Aisha Hassan brought us lovers becoming sea-serpents in a work that took shape upon the page.  John Cheung then refreshed our palates with a darkly comic Haiku on the subject of love and keeping quiet about it.  Peter Francis dug into the past of his father and his reluctantly-opened chest of oiled tools.  Martin Choules also reached for saws, hatchets and other blades to discuss the pros and cons of pollarding.  Owen Gallagher took to the floor and made a return to language to examine the outlawing of the Irish tongue.  John Hurley has been finding it hard to sleep and appreciating the early dawn as a result.  Daphne Gloag has also been appreciating time, in all its forms for the first poem in her new sequence.  Nick Barth brought us a work picturing mankind as passengers under the command of an autopilot.  Finally, Michael Harris capably juxtaposed the birthdays of a strange mix of personalities in an amusing piece inspired by a newspaper.

I am not entirely sure whether poetry and politics should be allowed to mix.  On the one hand, I have nothing against the ‘isn’t it all dreadful’ school of poetry as opposed to the ‘hello flowers, hello trees’ variety, as life can be dreadful whether one finds oneself stuck in a foxhole or mulling over the state of religion while reaching for an Irish sixpence.  The problem with politics is that it’s all very well for a chap to bemoan the current state of the nation and yearn for improvement but it’s dashed hard to outline a coherent set of policies, fully costed and reviewed by the Department of Budget Responsibility within a few lines, sticking to a snappy metre and keeping the rhyme scheme subtle.  It is not as if it has not been tried.  Ezra Pound had a passion for financial detail in his poetry, railing against bankers and usury with the frequent appearance of columns of numbers in the margins of his early drafts.  The irony of Pound mentoring TS Eliot, who actually was a banker, became starkly clear during a Tuesday night workshop at Pitshanger Manor.  Eliot pointed out to Pound that he had forgotten to carry the one in a compound interest calculation and the heated discussion resulted in Pound crossly departing the meeting, threatening to leave Britain to stay with his friend Benito in Italy, ‘where they invented this interest stuff’.  One wonders whether Ezra would not have been far happier with a nice job with a big bank in the City where his somewhat extremist views would not have seemed so unusual.  He could have kept his fascism to the Golf Club bar and made a lot more money without actually being declared insane.

If you have been, thank you for reading.

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Workshop, 6th June 2017

June, it seems, insists on being bright and sunny, which for we basement-dwellers in the windowless world of the Pitshanger Archives is a complete waste.  But for those in the non-troglodyte domain of Walpole Rec above our heads, the roses are red and the violets are blue.  Indeed, it is noticeable how our volunteer internees are picking up the habit of arriving late, leaving early, and taking longer and longer lunch breaks (always a danger when one’s bunker is located beneath a public park), all the while complaining that the cataloguing of punch-cards is no work for the summer, except as makeshift fans.

But poetry will not wait for the nip to re-enter the air and the coffee to replace the soda.  For the past five hundred years, every lord, squire, merchant and dairymaid within an evening’s horse-ride, foot-stroll or penny-farthing-career has descended upon the Manor clutching their sheaves of pentameters, ballads and trochees with an urgent need to share all with sundry, and somebody has to preserve their posterity.

Written in our ledgers we can every one of them is written up, if only we can first find our ledgers.  Clearly what we need is an efficient organisational system, and thus we have undertaken the Great Microfiche Project in the new Theophilus Marzials wing.  This provides a ready reference to our vast catalogue, which will indicate which chapter to search in our many-volume index, which in turn elucidates which of the chronicle tomes is required to find the relevant key to locate the correct directory containing the necessary codex revealing the relevant register recording the particular page in the loose-bound ledger.  We’ve no time for summer.

No such pasty-faced sun-dodging for this week’s workshopees, which was full of healthy outdoorsyness.  Pat Francis has been butterfly-spotting and brought us a poem in two wings, while Peter Francis has been collecting sorrows in a graveyard.  For John Hurley, the trees are on to us even before the axe is swung, and Owen Gallagher has been out doing the rounds of the yards and sites with the exciseman.  Alas, Nayna Kumari must report on a shut-in who’s only sign of nature is in their jigsaw, and Daphne Gloag has been spending her halcyon days with her nose in the a book, but inbetween Alan Chambers has returned us to our wild ways by summoning up an ocean in a prairie.  Doig Simmonds reported a death like the lifting of a summer storm to first allow a final burst of sunshine, and perhaps the weather has likewise been interrupting Martin Choules’ attempts to glumhood by relentlessly cheering him up against his wishes.

A favourite sandwich-spot for the interns to while away their lunchtimes is the beehive in the park.  Ingeniously fitted with a large window to reveal the inner workings, they strangely seem to able to relate to those restive drones constantly hustling along in their dark, cramped maze.  Sir John himself was most keen on beehives, and the tradition has continued, so that when the grounds became the public park it is today the bees were already in residence, although it is unclear if this were officially or as squatters.

In the 1920s, Alan Alex Milne was a regular attendee, and would often wile a while with the bees beforehand.  He was also a honey fiend, and not above knocking back a couple of hexes if he thought he could get away with it.  One summer’s day, overcome by sugarlust, he was determined to snatch a slurp off the Walpole bees, but he wasn’t so reckless as to blunder in unprotected – first he protected his hand from the stingers by stuffing it inside a stuffed bear toy that he snatched off a passing urchin.  Suitably gloved, he swooped, smashing through the comb and using the fur to soak up as much liquid gold as the teddy could bear.  But tragedy !  His now-bulky hand could not retreat through the opening, nor his hand from its ursine protector.  Trapped, he was, yellow-handed !

As luck would fortune, the other poets had decided that such a gorgeous evening was not for cooping up in manor houses, and took their workshop into the park.  They soon spotted poor Al Al, and once they had finally finished laughing they got down to saving him.  Bob Graves suggested they amputate, while Edie Sitwell was more of a mind to try lubricating with creosote.  But ever-practical Graham Greene soon won them round to playing it cool – the problem was that Milney, in his panic, had caused the blood to rush to his hand and swell it up.  What was needed was to read him their poems to calm him down, and at the end of the session they all grabbed a bit of Al Al pulled and pulled while he owwed and owwed until he popped like a cork from a honeypot.  And then the workshop had to be swiftly concluded as dozens of angry bees came pouring out of the hole (presumably angry at the theft of their larder, but you never can tell with bees), and the poets went pell mell for cover, but not before many a sting was landed.  But were these attacks any worse than the stabs of the critic’s stiletto ?  But then, what critic is so incensed he is prepared to die to snark ?

 

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Workshop, 30th May 2017

I wonder if you find yourself, like I do, upon retiring to your wing-backed reading chair, lifting the freshly-ironed broadsheet to the altitude of the aquiline nose and screwing up the marble-like blue ones, wondering who the blazes fiddled with the agenda to the extent that the movie reviews are where the news ought to be.  The truth is that these days reality resembles nothing so much as the plot-line of one of those horrendous action flicks, save for the notable lack of enhanced beings of a cocky nature flitting in and beating the bad guys to a welcome pulp.

It is against this appalling background of sheer appallingness that we may find some respite by making a return to language, to find a little inspiration in the mind of the poet.  Flicking through a snippet of MacNiece, a few verses of Rupert Brooke or even trundling down a length of Tennyson one can find relief in rhythm and wryness in rhyme, such than being blown to pieces by an anarchist with a black sphere marked with the word ‘bomb’ or being cut to the ground by a hail of pungent, synchronised rifle fire from antique weaponry sounds like the very epitome of nostalgia and brings a warm glow to the heart.

We at Pitshanger Poets are glad to continue promote the principles of the open exchange of ideas, freedom, good humour and companionship by gathering together in a slightly stuffy room once a week and reading each other’s fresh produce.  As poets we are not afraid to be witty, acerbic, critical, reflective, sympathetic, cruel, kind, conformist, anarchic and bloody-minded, though as I think we have all found by personal experience it’s a tall order to encompass all of the above in a three-act verse play in ballad form without finding a pal who will let you shack up in his house in Tuscany for a month and be happy to lay on the Chianti by the case.

I do not believe there was a pressing need for Chianti as we kicked off this week’s workshop.  Daphne Gloag made a stand for freedom by continuing her examination of Time with some musings on the beginning of the stuff.  Ann Furneaux fought against totalitarianism with a memory from her husband William of seeing a thousand aircraft sweeping towards Germany to give the Nazis something to think about.  Alan Chambers continued his contribution to free expression with part of a new trilogy utilising the power of the sea to evoke the arc of existence.  Owen Gallagher made a welcome return to the workshop after an extended trip around Asia with a dark memory of his father in Glasgow.  Michael Harris made an appeal to the free movement of people with a piece wondering why he still lives here in dirty old London.  Martin Choules cheered us all up with a short piece about tragic deaths in fiction.  Aisha Hassan brought us a very liberal, LGBT view of two rivers on two continents.  John Hurley has returned to the origins of Western Civilisation for his piece on illuminated manuscripts.  Finally, Nick Barth has attempted to work his way into the mind of the insurgent.

The question I find myself returning to is this; can poetry convey action, or is it the recourse of those attempting to describe a state of mind or rhetorical musing?  In a world of appalling appallingness, should the poet not focus on describing the bang and thud of events rather than the blue remembered lily pads?  Such a contrast occurred to me as I uncovered records of a certain David Herbert Lawrence making the long trip from Croyden to try out some of his early poetry at the Manor.  Lawrence was already gaining himself a reputation as a bit of a ladies’ man and one can imagine the scene as the young, slightly gauche hothead encountered a much more debonair and accomplished William Butler Yeats one Tuesday evening.  The antipathy was clearly mutual and according to the archive at one point they were asked to take their discussion on the relative approaches to language out of the dining room and into the parlour, where a jolly fire was burning.  Lawrence had expressed himself appalled at Yeates’ continued adherence to dreamy Pre-Raphaelite tropes and a heated debate developed. When the Workshop finished, the Chairman looked in on the Parlour, intending to invite the two argumentative poets to the Red Lion for a drink and a handshake.  Instead he found that the discussion had turned into a full-on brawl, with both men stripped to the waist, writhing on the hearthrug.  The Chairman swiftly closed the door and the Pitshanger Poets Archivist later related that she hoped that Lawrence would grow out of his earthier tendencies.  I am not sure such a thing would be easy to achieve.   If you have been, thank you for reading.

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Workshop, 23rd May 2017

How many poets does it take to change a light bulb ?  Pah, real poets only compose by candle-light !  And so, it seems, do Archivists at present, as we are beset by the black dog of no electricity, un-windowed in our nuclear bunker with only a few sticks of hardened bee by-product to light our way and use up all our oxygen.  Still, we’re only surrounded by shelves and shelves of highly flammable paper, so nothing to worry about.

And just what has caused us to wash up upon the night’s Plutonian shore ?  Have we run out of old shillings to feed into the meter ?  Has our Frankenstein-style circuit-breaker tripped the dark fantastic ?  Has our improvised fuse-board made out of old coat-hangers and fridge magnets finally blown ?  Or could it all be a metaphor for the pointlessness of attempting to order and classify something as ephemeral and subjective as the literary muse ?  Or have we simply forgotten to pay the bill ?

But we defeated be not shall !  By touch alone, we groped our way to the boiler house and fired up the emergency cucumber-powered generator, while gig-economy interns kept the treadmill turning until we were generating just enough power to run the office refrigerator, as then we could leave the door open and use it’s light to see by.  Alas, it turned out that the bulb had fused, and it further turned out that we arty types aren’t very proficient at household repairs, and so the answer to the first question is that it takes every poet you have to change a light bulb, and then you just end up with reams of contemplative verse on the frustrations of modern life, and a still-dead lightbulb.
But no dim-wits at this week’s workshop.  Aisha Hassan struck a match when she totted up the cons of her relationship and it’s not looking good, while Doig Simmonds shone a light on an accident and the reactions of bystanders.  Pat Francis has never extinguished her dream of a cottage in the country, but she has modified it to a library in town, while Daphne Gloag was all a-glow to rediscover a lost-one’s smell, and bag, and notebook.  Sparks of creativity came off of Alan Chambers’ concert at sea, and Michael Harris made light of an old English teacher driven to retirement by too much language.  Peter Francis’ minor upset was no ecorching fire, thankfully, (and definitely no typo, either !), while John Hurley brought the disinfectant of sunlight into the gloom of some refugees’ enforced sojourn in a run-down hotel, and Martin Choules gave us a quick celebration of man-size crockery before snuffing out the candle on another successful workshop.

So, you may be wondering how it is you are even able to read about our misfortunes on a website that obviously cannot be accessed without using electricity to move electrons about.  Well, truth to tell, we don’t know if you’re reading this at all, for we have scribbled this entire entry on hundreds of tiny slips of paper by candlelight and sent them out into the world via pigeon-post.  Not  trained carrier-pigeons, mind, but any passing stray in Walpole Park that we failed to avoid out butterfly-net-equipped interns.  Each slip is carefully numbered, and it is surely not beyond the wit of Ealingers to put two and twelve together and realise that they are missing nine others inbetween.  A little community sharing and a sub-eight minute record with the Times crossword is all that’s required.

One small advantage of our pre-industrial predicament is to get the opportunity to commune more closely with the gloomy meetings that must have taken place in Sir John’s day.  Mrs Conduitt ran a very tight house, with no money wasted on fripperies like oil lamps, meaning that candles had to do all the heavy lighting.  During those times of national tallow shortage, these would be strictly rationed to one per residence, and Pitzhanger Manor would more resemble Castle Ortranto.  The whole atmosphere had a profound effect on the teenage Mary Wollstonecraft who insisted in dressing entirely in black and wearing a veil, while Bill Blake was inspired to excise any furious spirits with a quick exorcism, but unfortunately he could only find a copy of the libidinous Tom Jones to be his book, and his bell had the unfortunate effect of repeatedly summoning Mrs Conduitt, how was certainly a furious spirit by the fifth occasion.

On one such evening we find Percy Bysshe Shelley, faced with the prospect of another attempt by Leigh Hunt at shadow puppetry (who never quite mastered his vaguely dog or deformed rabbit), likening the gloom to that faced by Jonah during his long-weekend in the belly of the fish, a fascination he would unfortunately take to its logical conclusion in the Gulf of Spezia.  This set Johnny Keats to giggling as he imagined Jonah accidentally igniting the sea-monster’s intestinal gasses, and made up an Ode to a Fishy Heartburn on the spot.  Eventually, after squinting over their verses and one final round of ‘murder in the dark’, they retire to bed, with a grumpy ‘Brian’ Byron muttering how on reflection he has come to see that walking like the night is less beautiful and more painful when one is unable to avoid walking into the sideboard.

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Workshop, 9th May 2017

After many years in the wilderness, George ‘Bernard’ Shaw is once again in vogue, complete with elbow patches and hipster beard.  His most popular play is currently running at the Questors – Pygmalion.  You know, the one named after the ancient Grecian sculptor we all pretend we learned about in grammar school, and who anyway has only the most tangential connection to the story on offer.

This fact did not go down well with the ‘alternatively paid’ interns, some of who are proud Greeks delighted at the prospect that even in these Eurosceptic times, we English can still host a drama about one of their lesser myths.  “Not a single lump of marble anywhere on stage” one sobbed the next day into his overpriced coffee.  “And what happened to all the songs ?” muttered another.  When asked to describe what they had seen, one summed it up as “a moral tale of a proud young working woman reduced to sponging off others, brought about by the erosion of her characterful accent and her homogenisation into a bland inoffensive RP.”

Plenty of characterful voices at this week’s workshop.  Michael Harris played out a gritty coming-of-age drama of an emasculated boy getting his Man back, while Daphne Gloag choreographed a ballet on the event horizon in a show that will run forever.  Peter Francis opened his curtain on the library of his youth, and had us rolling in the aisles between bookshelves, while Pat Francis’ musical had a showstopping weepy whose cunningly cynical words are no match for the subversive power of a good composer.  Finally, in true ’Enry ’Iggins style, Martin Choules has been teaching us the correct grammar for the counter-factual mood, just to have his selfless efforts moodily shoved up his subjunctive.

Bernie Shaw was a frequent attendee in Edwardian times – and just like his famous professor, he had an annoying habit of pointing out the errors in the speech of the other members, past and present.  In between lamenting the double negatives employed by Jane Austen, the relentless passive voice of Artie Doyle and Bill Shakespeare’s multiple sins of ending sentences with a preposition, he might decry the modern lackadaisical lyricism of the latest literary leprechauns.  One evening, for instance, he upbraided John Masefield to his face for completely omitting the verb in his opening line “I must down to the sea again”, and Thomas Hardy for his excessive use of dialect in The Ruined Maid.  Indeed, when he took issue with Edith Nesbit for her ‘slovenly’-titled Five Children & It, she was so taken aback that all she good plead in defence was “lawks, guv’nah, I’m a good girl, I am !”

But we’ll leave the last word to ‘Hilarious’ Belloc in his typical style of pithy, yet totally off the point:
Bernard Shaw, as sharp as a razor,
Quite at home in a tie and blazer.
But his beard is less Belgravian –
He may be Shaw, but never Shavian.

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Workshop, 2nd of May 2017

Researching, composing, editing, type-setting and binding the blog has had to take a bit of a back seat this week as I have had vital poetry campaigning work to attend to.  The burning issue is the Hanwell Hootie, an annual music festival based in Ealing’s smaller but no less salubrious neighbour here in green West London.  The Hootie has been growing like Topsie over the last few years and now occupies a meadow, a dozen pubs and a Saturday night to a Sunday morning.  The issue is that the Hootie appears to have defined itself merely a music event and offers no space to the declamatory arts.  We at Pitshanger Poets have been campaigning on this issue by the normally effective means of complaining about it in a loud mutter in the Questor’s Bar but so far no commitment has been received from the Hootie Head Honchos.  This week I was forced to take further action and appeal to the Hootie High Head Honcho Himself, I am referring of course to Mr Jools Holland.

You are no doubt eager to hear about the goings-on in this week’s Workshop, where poems of greatness got their first public airing to an appreciative reception.  Nick Barth brought in a revision of something he thought of while repairing a computer, reflecting the birth, death and rebirth of the hard drive.  John Cheung made a welcome second visit to deal copies of his Poker-inflected poem which had us all on the edge of our plastic seats.  Michael Harris brought a tightly-argued and somewhat irrefutable piece on the value of love over narcotics.  John Hurley has got himself into a lather over the inhospitality of the part of the world to offer succour and respite to another part, and will this change any time soon?  Nayna Kumari brought another accomplished, if shocking picture, this time on the ramifications of violence.  Daphne Gloag has been thinking about the word ‘light’ and brought us a villanelle on the very same.  Peter Francis would have us believe he has been over-turning sexism in the golf club with this poem.  Pat Francis conjured a memory of hearing the bombs falling during the Blitz.  Martin Choules has been fretting over Gargoyles and why they are not bigger.  Finally Anne Furneaux has been suffering compassion fatigue in the face of the complaints of a woman she met at a party.

The case I set out to make to Mr Holland is that the Hanwell Hootie always was a mixed arts festival.  As you might expect from this blog, the origins of the Hanwell Hootie have been lost in the mists of time but what is known is that its success is not unrelated to the support it got from the Jim Marshall Company, manufacturers of amplification to the stars.  The Marshall name has a strong association in the mind of the public with popular virtuosos such as Eric Clapton, Pete Townshend, Jimi Hendrix and Mrs Mills, all of whom exploited increasingly huge ‘Marshall Stacks’ in an aural arms race .  What is less well-remembered is that in 1965 poetry ‘went electric’ when an exhausted Roger McGough, hoarse and drained at the end of a long tour, picked up a microphone discarded by a departing Beatle and recited a short poetry set to an increasingly fractious and turgid reaction from the audience.  Roger carried on his performance, to shouts of ‘Judith’ (Roger later insisted he had never been known as Judith and was puzzled by the reference), little realising that the world had now changed.  Before too long the vast majority of live poetry was amplified with poets such as Ted Hughes, Kingsley Amis, Thom Gunn and John Betjeman eager to achieve the now-fashionable Marshall Sound, replete with howling distortion and feedback effects.  Live poetry rose to new heights of auditory and visual spectacle during the sixties, a process reaching its peak perhaps, with Allen Ginsberg’s notorious reading at the Isle of Wight Poetry Festival in which he set fire to his text using lighter fluid while reciting ‘America the Beautiful’, provoking near-hysteria from the vast crowd.

I was surprised to find that I was obliged to remind Mr Holland of these aspects of the declamatory arts’ illustrious past and even more surprised by the deathly silence my increasingly strident emails I have been obliged to write to his ‘people’ evinced.  Finally, I received a very formal note claiming that Mr Holland had no relationship with any festival taking place in Hanwell and that since I was clearly getting Hootie confused with Hootenanny that I should perhaps like to desist contacting him or legal assistance of a particularly threatening nature would be sought.  I think Mr Holland is trying to duck the issue.

If you have been, thank you for reading.

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