WHAT ANNOYS – DELIGHTS – AND IS OFTEN UNEXPLAINED.
What is ANNOYING me this week?
What is DELIGHTING me this week?
Feeding the ducks.
Still listening to the Hydranoid Musia – September set, absolutely wonderful.
SOME OF MY DOINGS:
The Fizz last week was a very special evening with guest poet Antony Owen. It was special because it demonstrated my point of last week on synergy. Antony’s poems are without doubt pieces that stand alone in their brilliance and insight; he truly is the modern war poetic voice. His performance on Tuesday saw him use a musical backdrop to his reading, his carefully crafted words delivered to a mix of sounds that brought Sangin, Rwanda and the plight of the Dreaded Boy in to the room with a resonance that left the listener feeling that the heat of battle, the crush of tyranny and the death of so many innocent people was being enacted here in a small North Warwickshire village.
The poetry and the music as a combined force, a force that brought an outer silence, but an inner echo as thoughts crafted emotions into a new understanding.
A truly rare and wonderful evening.
You can see Bernadette O’Dwyer’s review at Beyond the Arras.
A few weeks ago I mentioned The Pitman Poets who will be appearing at the Century Theatre at Snibston Discovery Park, near Coalville in Leicestershire next Saturday 1st October. They will be singing the songs of one of my Lost Poets Tommy Armstrong the pitman poet from the North East coalfields; Tommy is also one of the three poets whose life and work is the inspiration for the GRAFT project. – See Blog 17th May 2011
I spoke to the box office this morning and there are still a few tickets available for what promises to be a fantastic evening of songs from the coalfields. Grafting songs of toil, sweat, danger and hardship that created a tough unbreakable spirit of identity and comradeship. Words that were echoed in the thoughts of the Pooley Miners who shared their experiences in the Polesworth Poets Trail workshops earlier in the year.
I have my tickets so I hope to see you there.
Tickets are available from
The Box Office
Snibston Century Theatre.
Tel: (01530) 278444
As promised I am returning to my search for LOST POETS this week with a poet who lived in the times of the Polesworth Poets, the late 16th and first half of the 17th centuries. He was not as well known as Drayton, Jonson, Donne et al and to some extent he was a very minor poet in comparison, indeed he has been described as more a wit than a poet. He can also be described as one of the GRAFT poets; perhaps the earliest of the poets who grafted for a living and wrote poetry in any spare time, having no patrons or family wealth in which to sustain him as a full time writer.
These two factors of being a contemporary of Drayton and a Graft poet are enough for me to spark my interest in including him as a lost poet. It was confirmed when I read a reference in a 1902 Encyclopaedia that finished with “he wrote nothing worthy of remembrance”. This to me sounded like academic snobbery, leaving me with an inclination to reassess his work. My research left me in no doubt that he if anyone does, really does belong on the list of lost poets.
My Lost Poet for this week is John Taylor – The Water Poet (1578-1653)
John Taylor was born in Gloucester in 1578, it is uncertain as to who is parents were or what their occupations were, but they do appear to have a level of affluence to be able to educate their son. John received his education until he felt he could no longer master the intricacies of Latin Grammar and so abandoned his education and went to London in the 1590’s. He had however the ability to read and write and was articulate despite his choice of not pursuing an academic life.
Taylor was an apprentice waterman, one of the many boatman who ferried passengers across the Thames, as London at that time only had one bridge. His passengers were often well educated and were seeking the entertainments to be found on the South Bank of the river, with the theatres and drinking houses including Shakespeare’s Globe. Taylor was able to engage with his passengers with far more conversation than is more rough hewn counterparts. He was noted for his knowledge and also his politeness.
He soon began to put is education to use and began writing poetry and social commentary. He became a great self publicist and published pamphlets of his poems. He would often poke comments at other writers of his day and was embroiled in a pamphlet war with the established poet Thomas Coryate who was on the receiving end of Taylor’s wit, in his first collection of 1612, The Sculler.
These controversies boded well for Taylor who saw his literary career take off, almost treating his work as a brand, he was one for challenges that saw him stood up by the writer William Fennor in a highly publicised “Trial of Wit” in 1614 and rival petitions to the King which saw his pamphlets burned by the chief hangman. All of this kept his name in the minds of the public and was to offer him a literary career for next 50 year. His performances, readings of his poems were received to great acclaim.
He continued as a waterman, styling himself as ‘The Water Poet’, his verbal abilities saw him representing the Watermen at Court during the Watermen’s disputes in 1641/2, when there were moves to bring the theatres from the south bank over to the north, thus removing the need for people to cross the river and so greatly impacting the livelihoods of the watermen, his protestations were to no avail and so the theatres moved.
He was by all accounts a great traveller, often embarking on great journeys through Britain and Europe, often travelling without money, relying on acquaintances to provide him with food and lodgings. He wrote of these travels, making comment of what he saw and who he met, perhaps one of the first travel writers, which are so popular today on the bookshelves of the retail bookshops.
One journey saw him rowing 40 miles of the inland waterways in wherry made of varnished brown paper kept afloat by eight bullock’s bladders and powered by oars made from dried fish and canes. This was documented in his poem, The Praise of Hempseed.
By the end of his life he was running a pub in Phoenix Alley, Longacre near to Covent Garden, calling it the Crown at a time when the Crown had just lost his head. His loyalty to Royalty did not go down well and when he referred to the pub as the Mourning Crown he found the protest too much to bear and so renamed the pub The Poet’s Head. With declining incomes and failing health, he died in relative poverty in December 1653.
So the question remains did he leave anything of real worth?
There is a pub in Spitalfields called The Water Poet in his memory; of his own ale house The Poet’s Head, the site is now Banbury Court off Long Acre, down the alleyway next to the H&M store.
Of his writings and out the 63 published works there must be something that is worthy of mention.
His writings are of great value to Social Historians, his commentary on daily working lives and his travels give a real insight to the thoughts and conditions of working people of the time.
He is also credited with creating some 75 slang terms that were used in his poetry some of which is still in common parlance today, such as “blind” as in drunk.
He writes one of the first recorded palindromes “Lewd I live & evil I Dwel”.
He also is the first recorded writer to write about the death of Shakespeare, writing this in 1620 some four years after Shakespeare’s death.
In paper, many a poet now survives
Or else their lines had perish’d with their lives.
Old Chaucer, Gower, and Sir Thomas More,
Sir Philip Sidney, who the laurel wore,
Spenser, and Shakespeare did in art excell,
Sir Edward Dyer, Greene, Nash, Daniel.
Sylvester, Beaumont, Sir John Harrington,
Forgetfulness their works would over run
But that in paper they immortally
Do live in spite of death, and cannot die.
This may not be a lot in terms of other writers of the time, but as I said at the beginning of this piece he was a very minor poet. He was certainly a great character and showman. He understood how to manipulate the media of the day for his benefit. NO NEWS IS BAD NEWS – I can almost hear him say it. This mantra of the celebrity culture that says it does not matter what people are saying as long as they are saying it about you.
Finally, if there is any small grain of truth in the forthcoming film on Shakespeare, Anonymous, (and we do know how Hollywood likes to rewrite history, Enigma as an example). But if there is any truth in the film, then Shakespeare, the great showman, the great self promoter, could have learnt something from Taylor, because John Taylor not only had the showmanship capabilities, but John Taylor was also a writer.
The Water Poet Pub in Spitalfields.
John Taylor as a hero of Slang.
Poem – The Praise of Hempseed.
SOME OF MY COMING SOON DOINGS
30th Sept – Launch of Sculpture on the Mound at Pooley Country Park.
Some advanced dates for October
4th Oct Night Blue Fruit – Taylor John’s House Coventry.
Guest Poets Janet Smith and David Calcutt.
8th Oct – 100000 Poets for Change – Bloxwich Library Theatre.
14th Oct – Spoken Worlds Burton.