Friday, October 13, 2006

Warwick Poetry Pub Crawl / Love On The Northern Line

Warwick Poetry Pub Crawl

Leamington Garret. The week kicked off with a marvellous poetry pub crawl of Warwick pubs – and then very quickly became hellish!

I travelled up from the Lewes Garret after Sunday lunch, arriving at around teatime at the Leamington Garret to find it deserted and in darkness with the fire alarm ringing.

This started days of domestic purgatory, living by candlelight in severe cold with no heating, lighting or cooking facilities at the top of a four-storey building.

I was pissed off, shaving with cold water by the light of a solo candle and taking icy cold showers – something I have not done since 2003 when I spent a week staying at the Beda College in Rome (part of The Vatican) when their heating was broken!

The Warwick Poetry Pub Crawl, part of the inspired Warwick Words weekend, was absolutely terrific.

Seven poets we were and started at the Warwick Arms Hotel, a refurbished and quiet venue. The audience comprised one woman, the organiser Sean Kelly's girlfriend!

The intimacy of this set-up gave me the chance to read some poems I had not intended to perform. I did Fourteen Tenants, Egg, and Warwick Wobble, none of which I have even dared to publish on Oliver's Poetry.

I also read the very short Loving You which made the poets laugh. A particularly enjoyable section came when one of the gang read Wendy Cope's Bloody Men and then I recited my response to her poem, Women, which they all clearly enjoyed.

Everyone read or recited. Sheila Cooper and Stephen were particularly memorable.

Warmed up, we went on to the next pub The Zetland Arms. I had lived for five months in Warwick, on St Nicholas Church Street, and my flatmate and I went to Zetland Arms, one of my favourite Warwick pubs. It was by far the best venue on this pub crawl.

Sean Kelly was on good form, especially performing his Minute Poem which he brought in at precisely 60 seconds.

What was lovely about the Zetland Arms was that the locals entered into the spirit of the Warwick Poetry Pub Crawl. A man at the bar instantly knocked up a quick poem about Warwick and read with great gusto.

The drinks were flowing freely; it was turning into a really watery evening. We half-staggered down to the final pub, the Roebuck Arms. I have to say that when I lived in Warwick, I considered the Roebuck the most unattractive of public houses. Even I, with my dipso tendencies, had never supped more than half an ale in it.

So, I was not surprised when the barman seemed bemused that we were to perform poetry in his establishment. Predictably the locals simply ignored us. This was probably just as well as my efforts were going distinctly pear shaped. Sean Kelly had asked for spontaneous rhyming couplets about the pubs on the Poetry Pub Crawl and my contributions were embarrassingly poor in quality.

What was exciting was that Becky (pictured top) read more and more of her poems and a Flippy T-shirt-wearing chap called Dr Mark McLellan read out of poetry volume published by a recently deceased friend. Very moving.

Rather than be tempted by a return to the Zetland Arms for more drinks, I bit the bullet and was transported by the kindness of a sports car driver back to the Leamington Garret. Inside it was grim with a capital G! Bitterly cold, totally dark and terrifying!

Climbing nine flights of stairs in absolute black out is no laughing matter. I bolted the door and got straight into bed, leaving the curtains open in the hope that the daybreak would wake me. As it turned out I would hardly sleep at all for the next two days.

It was Tuesday before the electricity came on again. I found I had melted a toothbrush while shaving by candle light, Various other things had been broken while we stumbled around like blind men in the darkness.

When the lights come back on after two coal-cellar black nights, you appreciated the greatness of Faraday.

Or any day!

Love On The Northern Line (Flashback to May Day, 1 May 2006)

I have been working on a poem called I Fell In Love On The Northern Line which I started after a very brief conversation with a London Underground worker last Thursday morning. It is funny and strange how a little incident can inspire you. Without these moments I could not write poetry.

The weather now is glorious, sunny and warm on the face. I shall do a little more work on my poem and transcribe a Catallus poem or two. I recall sitting next to the Archbishop of Southwark Kevin MacDonald on a flight back from Rome. When he caught me reading some filthy Catullus poems (in English of course), he grinned and said, 'They're so much better in Latin, Ollie!'

I have a confession to make: I have been reading the Sunday Express. According to its magazine, the Poetry Society's membership has increased by 40 percent in the last decade.

So, maybe I am not barking up the wrong tree and Oliver's Poetry will be a big success.

Mind you, the article in the Sunday Express was illustrated by a photograph of a bosomy blonde lying suggestively in the long grass and had the headline 'Bard Company'.

Good old Sexpress!

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