Sunday, October 28, 2007

Resting in Lewes

For once I am writing from the Lewes Garret (with images recently taken of Lewes rather than Leamington).

Although the Oliver's Poetry Garret blog was always intended to be split equally between Leamington and Lewes, the majority of the entries have ended up being written in Leamington.

Keere Street, Lewes, East Sussex, UK

This entry is entitled Resting in Lewes, but in reality the only rest has been from the day-job. On all other fronts it has been full systems go on that seemingly impossible dream of sorting out my life.

I have been feeling upbeat during the last few weeks, and set about this week off with a determination to get things done.

Of course it is never that simple. I am writing my set for my performance at the Reckless Moment comedy club, Leamington, on Monday - and struggling. But I have edited two new poems for the Poetry Society's National Poetry Contest and sent them off.

 I have made a massive effort of late to enjoy life more, and not to let the minutiae of living in two places drag me down.

For instance, last week in Leamington I went out three nights in a row - seeing my old mate Andrew O'Neill at the Reckless Moment; quaffing a gallon of ale with a new Pole in town; and checking out Barnstormers Comedy, at the Spa Centre.

The latter event, which I have reviewed for Oliver's Poetry's sister site StandupCom Magazine is extraordinary in that it is the only connection between Lewes and Leamington I have ever found (apart from myself, of course).

King's Head, Lewes

Barnstormers used to be Lewes's comedy club, but now its compere Kevin Precious has taken it on the road, with a monthly residency at the Spa Centre in Leamington.

A very fine night it proved too, with former Joe's Comedy Madhouse acts Steve Day, Gary Delaney and Kevin Precious putting on a superb show.

And the week before I performed at the special Warwick Words edition of PureAndGoodAndRight, at the Zetland Arms, Warwick.

poet Laura King

My attempt at a slam poet rather bombed I'm afraid when I opened the evening, but I returned later with I Fought The Law (And I Won) which went a little better.

Overall it was a fine evening, wtih some strong poetry from Laura King (pictured above), Scrubberjack (Jackie Smallridge) and the usual enormous range of performers.

Chores of various kinds have kept be hectically busy this week. When you spend your time working and travelling between two medium-sized towns, you don't get round to doing the routine things: going to the dentist, cutting a spare key for the car, pruning the trees in the garden, digging the allotment et cetera.

My allotment is at a place which glories in the name Earwig Corner. A pleasant spot in a pie-slice betwixt two roads. On Sunday we had a lunch party there which worked out brilliantly. The weather was amazing; the Sussex countryside stunningly beautiful. We cooked a couple of organic chickens and vegetables and transported them up there with the required furniture.

I made a fire and warmed up some mussels on it for a starter. Then, with our guests, we ate and drank wine in the warmth of the October sun, before walking over the neighbouring Malling Down. A wondrous afternoon.

The day before we watched the rugby. Of course it was disappointing that England lost to South Africa, although I felt we did extremely well to be second in the tournament.

My personal theory - unsubstantiated in fact, of course - is that they lost in the final because Gordon 'Mr Bean' Brown was in the crowd. The sight of his dour Scots mug nominally egging on a team he would love to have seen beaten by Scotland would be enough to anyone off. Just a hunch. . .

I have read quite a lot of late which has been good. I read the Irish novels Butcher Boy by Patrick McCabe and Reading In The Dark by Seamus Deane. Two of the most depressing books I have ever read.

Butcher Boy is at least compelling, albeit gruesome, reading. The latter I found painfully hard to complete, with its infinitely depressing take on guilt and betrayal and Irish family life before and during The Troubles.

Why do they inflict this material on teenagers? Even at my age I find it hard to cope with, although there is good writing in both books.

I have also embarked on reading the New Oxford Book of English Verse. Currently, I am on page 159 of the 945 pages, and, coincidentally, on poem 159 of the 884 poems contained within.

It is in chronological order. I have thoroughly enjoyed the 14th, 15th and 16th centuries and part of the 17th century and poets including William Langland, Geoffrey Chaucer, William Dunbar, John Skelton, Sir Thomas Wyatt, Sir Edward Dyer, Sir Philip Sidney, Johy Lyly, George Peele, Christopher Marlowe, Sir Walter Raleigh, Michael Drayton and Samuel Daniel.

The poet I have found toughest to read so far is Edmund Spenser, and the one I have enjoyed most is, predictably, William Shakespeare.

Now I am reading Thomas Campion (1567 - 1620) - poems such as Laura.

It is Sunday afternoon now. My time resting in Lewes is almost at an end. In an hour or two, I shall have to drive through the atrocious weather back to Leamington Spa.

On a brighter note, I went to the opera at Glyndebourne yesterday to see Macbeth, which was very good. And this week off has given me the chance to catch up with some old friends. 


The highlight of a good week off has been the Lewes Live Lit festival - an amazing series of events for a small town to stage.

On Friday night I went to the Lewes Live Lit Cabaret - a great event with excellent acts and Harvey's ale flowing freely.

All the turns were good. I enjoyed guitarist and singer Peter Blegvad, and the enormous eccentric Jane Bom-Bane, performing with her funky harmonium and mechanical hats (it is pretty bizarre) and accompanied by the superb multi-instrumentalist Nick Pynn; and also the raunchy dancer and chanteuse Pam Hewitt. Very sexy.

But the highlight of the evening for me were the West Indian poets. Jean 'Binta' Breeze was a self-proclaimed 'song and dance woman' who truly sang her poetry, and John Agard was excellent - his poetic voice is erudite, rhythmic and subtly humourous. I particularly like the poem Sloth.

Two nights before, we went to see Adrian Mitchell perform upstairs at the Royal Oak in Lewes. It was the veteran poet's 75th birthday and he read poetry about old friends, young relatives (some of his grandchildren were in the audience) and death, with a sidekick at Blair and Brown over Iraq.

I was struck by what a magnificent performance poet he is - fluent, emotional, naturally funny.

Modern performance (and published) poets could learn so much from him.

French singer at the cabaret of Lewes Live Lit, Lewes, East Sussex, UK

Afterwards, we got him to sign one of his books and I said hello and that I had started to perform poetry.

The great man grinned at me and said: 'Keep on keeping on!'

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Anonymous a poet's life is not an easy one said...

Did Jane Bom-Bane have her scenic hilly hat on with the train going round it?

Really enjoyed her in Edinburgh the other year, but not sure I'll be buying the LP!

Thursday, 01 November, 2007  
Blogger Oliver said...

Yes, the train was running, but I wasn't toward the CD stand!

Friday, 02 November, 2007  
Blogger Michael J. Farrand said...

I hope you don't find all of Irish literature quite so depressing. Thought you might enjoy a list of classic Irish novels.

Monday, 10 December, 2007  

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