WHAT ANNOYS – DELIGHTS – AND IS OFTEN UNEXPLAINED.
What is ANNOYING me this week?
Technology that is supposed to speed up my ability to do things, but cannot keep up with me!
What is DELIGHTING me this week?
Pear Cider over ice.
Bert Jansch – Legend the Classic Recordings
SOME OF MY DOINGS:
The last week has seen me updating the blog site for Nuneaton Poetry Day, with the programme for the day and information on those taking part.
Check out the blog at: www.nuneatonpoetryday.wordpress.com
My evenings were filled with readings and performances, with the monthly Night Blue Fruit at Taylor John’s in Coventry on Tuesday last week. The evening started off slowly with a few poets gathered in this intimate music venue with Barry Patterson reading a couple of Matt Merritt’s poems as a way of promoting Matt’s forthcoming reading at The Fizz in Polesworth on 19th July.
I followed this with a couple of poems, finishing with my now well practiced piece “POP”, for which I feel a new found freedom in being able to recite it with out having to read it from the paper, this is so liberating and allows me to deliver more drama to the piece.
During my reading about 20 students fromWarwick University crept in and I appreciated them giving due reverence to me as the reader as they stood and listened.
Following on with Tony Owen whose latest collection The Dreaded Boy gets is regional launch at the Inspire Bar, this Wednesday 15th June.
Colin Dick, the well respected artist, poet and teacher, read from his notebooks and then sat and sketched the performers as they spilled their words into the mike. I think there is something really special to have an artist capture the evening in pencil and charcoal, it captures the atmosphere of the evening with the dimmed lighting creating listening shadows that hang from ceiling and in the corners, these are all flashed out with a photograph, but not so in Colin’s sketches.
Barry Patterson read his poems for the poets trail, of mining and acid ponds and then forgot to read his poem that will appear on the trail about giving advice to the Geordie Lad heading into Pooley Pit for first time.
There were further readings from Martin Brown, Josie Allen and Tori Truslow who read from her macbook, much to the delight of the Warwick University students who had come along especially to support her.
The evening left me tired with the satisfaction of having bathed in real poetry as I arrived home and slipped into sleep at around 12:30am.
The next Night Blue Fruit is on 5th July at Taylor John’s Coventry at 8:00pm – Open Mic. Free entry, all are welcome.
Wednesday saw me attend the Momentum Scratch performance at Nottingham Playhouse where Colin Henchley’s play Sin was performed as one of five ten minute plays that had won a place into this final evening of performance for the Momentum Scratch Competition.
Sin was by far the darkest and most serious of the plays that were performed on the night, which is important as I feel that there is not enough of this type of play being written or commissioned, as writers focus on the public’s apparent need of comedy. Whilst Sin may not pander to this market, it is in my opinion of greater value, because it makes us face our tolerances and prejudices and reassess our values.
Don’t get me wrong comedy very much has its place, but it can only really be a true voice if we understand our values and can then make a judgment on when something is funny and when it steps over the line. Tolerance and Prejudice come from within, from our experiences, from what we consume to feed our experiences. Our diets have to be balanced.
Sin, sees a Jew and Homosexual play out their prejudices’ as they travel on a train. This is all shaped around the sin that they are about to commit, that being, to marry a young couple though neither is ordained to do so, having lied to the couple that they have the authority to perform this ceremony. As it plays out there is a realisation that this train is heading to Belsen and that this act, though a Sin in the eyes of the Jew, would at least allow the couple to meet their fate, thinking they were man and wife.
Colin always tackles difficult subjects expertly, with respect and understanding. He is not afraid to explore taboos to gain a better understanding of our moral make up. He has a great ability to unravel the story as the dialogue progresses and to affect the audience into thinking about the subject. There is humour in this play, which at the beginning raised laughter, it was noticeably subdued after the revelation that they were on their way toBelsen, even though there were still funny lines after this point.
The characters prejudices’ get talked through and there is an understanding that develops as each of them reveals their stories and sacrifices, though neither gives up their on belief in who they are. The barriers are broken down and they declare a friendship and put aside the concerns about the morality of the bogus marriage they are about to perform.
There is no doubt that these two men are courageous, brave enough to stand by what they believe, even though as it is revealed in the play, neither has to be there. The Jew was not born a Jew but had converted to Judaism and the Homosexual was caught in a situation of his own making, so as to implicate his lover who had informed on several of their politically motivated anti-fascist friends.
This was all expertly delivered in ten minutes through Colin’s words, though this would seem an impossible task taking on such a big subject and delivering something of great value in a short space of time. As the intolerance within the greater intolerance is resolved. Colin delivers this skilfully, with a complete, believable play.
The performance was delivered by the graduate actors from the University theatre school and was really well done; however, I do think the director missed something by not delivering the poignant last line of the play as written in the script; an omission, which I did not understand as I felt it hammered home the situation and the conditions in which the characters found themselves. But then I am writer and not a theatre director so what do I know.
I still think the last line as written, is worth repeating, it was the start of the marriage ceremony of the young couple, Karl and Marika.
“Karl and Marika, you come here voluntarily with hearts prepared….” From Sin by Colin Henchley © 2011
Thursday saw me reading in Birmingham as part of week of workshops and performances led by Jan Watts at Erdington Library, it was a really good evening with a range of local poets all delivering their unique voices and styles. It was reviewed by Gary Longden whose kind words on my reading are much appreciated, you can read Gary’s review at:
I also much appreciated Gary Carr reading his poem “50”, which he wrote following my 50th Birthday party last year, it is poem that means a lot too me and really reflects the evening and my relationships, I never tire of hearing it, though some may think that is a little self indulgent, any way thank you Gary.
This week will see me attending Tony Owen’s book launch on Wednesday and at Leamington Peace Festival on Sunday.
Can I apologise to those of you who complained that there was not a lost poet last week, something I will rectify this week, but thank you for sharing my interest in re-finding these poets.
My lost poet this week is John Clare (1793 To 1864)
On Saturday, I spoke with Judith Allnatt, whose second novel The Poets Wife, explores John Clare’s life from the viewpoint of his wife. Her book is written to promote Clare as a poet, using a voice that is even more over looked, that of Clare’s poor wife Patty, who not only had to endure his mad genius, but also the prejudices of the critics, who saw her husband as The Northampton Peasant Poet and left him in the shadow of his richer contemporaries of Byron, Shelley and Keats.
Clare would easily fit into the domain of my GRAFT project which explores the lives and works of labouring poets to inspire the creation of new pieces. I chose a Miner, a Railway Factory Worker and A Weavers Wife for the project as I felt they were lesser known than Clare, but never-the-less had I chosen an agricultural worker then Clare would have been the poet of choice.
Clare was born in Helpston, Northamptonshire in 1793, the son of a farm labourer. His education was brief but gave him the basic skills at reading and writing that allowed him to explore his poetic muse in the nature and countryside around him.
He lived in times that saw great change as the Industrial Revolution forged its way acrossBritainand the enclosure acts saw the English countryside change and many farm labourers abandon their roots to seek work in the towns and the new manufactories.
His first love was Mary Joyce, whose father a more ambitious prosperous farmer forbade her to have anything to do with him.
His break as a poet came in 1820, the same year that he married Martha (“Patty”) Turner. His first volume of poems, Poems Descriptive of Rural Life and Scenery was published too much acclaim and the following year his second volume Village Minstrel and other Poems was also published.
However, following this, his work though admired was not promoted as much as that of his contemporaries, Byron, Shelley and Keats, whose early deaths and notoriety far outshone that of the farm labourer with a growing family and responsibilities.
Clare found himself trapped outside the worlds of early 19th Century celebrity and that of the illiterate farm labourers, with whom he had grown up and lived among. This along with his lack of success in his writing and constant worries about money to support his large family; led to his depressions, diversions into alcohol and his eventual incarceration in the High Beach Private Asylum inEpping Forest in 1837.
He leaves the asylum in 1841 and walks back toNorthamptonto be reunited with his family; he believes he is married to Mary Joyce, his first love. This is a theme that Judith Allnatt explores in her book the Poets Wife, as Patty has to put up with his erratic delusions and though she is the loving caring wife, it is the first love, who is now dead that he visions as his wife.
He was later committed to Northampton General Lunatic Asylum where he wrote perhaps his most famous poem I am. The poem reflects on the sanctuary of the asylum and the alienation that he feels from his friends and family, his love of nature and the countryside, reasserting his individuality. It seems ironic that his poem entitled “I am” is written at a time when he thinks he is Lord Byron, whose work he has re-written, or Shakespeare.
“I am”, is often referred to as Clare’s Last Lines, it has a metaphysical feel to it, and is certainly of the quality of his contemporaries and his earlier poems.
Clare is often seen as being only a nature poet, but he is more than this and wrote on themes of love, religion and politics. Following his death in 1864 – he disappeared and remained unnoticed until the late 20th century when there was an academic reassessment of his work, which saw him rise to be recognised as one of the most important poets of his generation.
But despite this recognition by academics, he is still more widely lives in the shadow of others.
Links for John Clare:
John Clare at Poem Hunter
Judith Allnatt author of The Poets Wife : http://www.judithallnatt.co.uk/
The Poets Wife (Amazon Link)
The John Clare Cottage Trust: http://www.clarecottage.org/
The Selected Poems of John Clare – Penguin Classic (Amazon)
COMING SOON DOINGS
Readings in June and July.
17th June – Spoken Worlds – Burton upon Trent.
19th June – Leamington Peace Festival – Bandstand Stage – Time TBC
2nd July – Summer Poetry Day – Nuneaton.
5th July – Night Blue Fruit – Taylor John’s Coventry.
15th July – Spoken Worlds – Burton upon Trent.
16th July – Lichfield Festival – Lichfield.
19th July – The Fizz 8 – Polesworth Abbey.
23rd July – Love Parks Festival – Polesworth Abbey Green Park.