Sunday, February 22, 2009

First Birthday of Oliver's Poetry / The Pi House

Mural in Leamington Spa, UKTomorrow is the first birthday of Oliver's Poetry Garret - and what a strange 12 months it has been!

Looking back, it is hard for me to get my head around some of the things that have happened. Also, at times, I have to confess it's not easy for me to see why I created this blog.

My interest in poetry started back in December 2004 when, under not entirely happy circumstances, I was leaving a job in London.

I won't go into the details of what happened then, apart from to say that for the first time in my life I turned to poetry.

During my last week in that job, I attended a poetry night in a bar in Brighton. The following day I wrote a poem about my situation at work and my feeling about the previous two-and-half-years working there. From that point I have not stopped writing poetry.

In the meantime, I had moved to a new day-job out in the countryside, and was initially living during the week in a converted woodshed in Cotesbach, Leicestershire (see flashback below). Eventually, I moved to Warwick and then Leamington.

The blog I instantly found addictive. Long before it was even launched, I was 'blogging' every day on a computer I had installed in my bedroom in Leamington.

The idea dawned on me of the blog moving forward and backward in time simultaneously. With regular blogs and flashbacks to my past (called backblogs). It all coincided with strange things happening in my personal life in Leamington, making the blogging all the more compulsive.

And, of course, there was the poetry. I had to write enough poems to put on the site and also to encourage other poets to submit their best work.

It was all most exciting for me. The problem was I soon found myself spending more time blogging, taking images for the site and doing technical stuff, like HTML, than actually writing poetry! This is an issue I have never truly resolved.

Pavement dwelling childHowever, an anniversary is always a good opportunity to reflect. And for this first one, I decided to return my  focus to poetry - and have re-read and revised all of my poems.

I was amazed to find that I had written 110 poems, although in a way this alarmed me. A poet needs only write a few great poems in a lifetime, and this high production of mediocrity in the first 30 months - while working full-time and doing numerous other tasks - struck me as excessive.

I have also written 48 blogs and, therefore, 48 flashbacks or backblogs and taken many of the images on Oliver's Poetry Garret. (I have picked out some of my favourite photographs from the first year to illustrate this anniversary blog.)

The blogs and flashbacks started out on the same day, of course - 2 June 2006 - but are now some 20 months apart. Writing the backblogs or flashbacks has become more difficult because now I am relying on memory or what few notes I have of my mis-spent history.

Image of silhouetted man on bench at Hove seatfront, UK The past year has been an interesting ride for Oliver's Poetry Garret which to a large degree reflects my personal journey.

What happens to me in life is my main inspiration for all the poetic writing I have done for this site and elsewhere.

And it has been through promoting the site that I have come to realise the link between the live comedy world, in which I was active for more than a decade performing and running a comedy club, and the burgeoning performance poetry scene.

Indeed I even ended up reading some of my poems at Leamington's uniquely brilliant comedy club, The Reckless Moment, in one of the gigs I have enjoyed most this year.

Sign of the Reckless Moment comedy club, Leamington Spa

Drinkers boycotting the Lewes Arms, Lewes

Sitting here in the Leamington Garret, overlooking the Pump Room Gardens, as the sun sets, I can see what a strange year it has been. In Leamington and Lewes, so many memorable things have happened.

The remarkable boycott of one of my favourite pubs, the Lewes Arms, in Lewes, by its customers - because the brewery removed their favourite ale - was subject of one of my blogs.

After running the famous public house virtually without a clientele for several months, Greene King realised they were never going to win and caved in.

Also in Lewes, being approached at random by a woman who asked me to be Father Christmas at a school fair was another strange occurrence.

Up in the Midlands, the death of my old friend Sam Towers, in Cotesbach, Leicestershire, was profoundly sad.

After the funeral I wrote a poem and blog and thought nothing more of it.

I was surprised to find Sam's relatives from around the world visiting the site to read them, and, touchingly, emailing to thank me.

I even received a missive from a youngster also called Sam Towers who said he was unrelated to the Sam Towers I had written about but 'was proud to share this gentleman's name'.

Also in Cotesbach, the estate dog Bruno died. He had been a great friend during the years I lived there (from 1999-2002 and 2005). Whenever I visit, it seems sadly strange not to have his great hairy, loving bulk jumping up at me, trying to lick my face!

All in all, the past 12 months have been rich in events and experience. I have greatly enjoyed my poetry slots at the tremendous PureandGoodandRight club in Leamington, and my other performances at Six of the Best in Birmingham, Word in Leicester and on the Warwick Words pub tour.

Yet what I am struggling to get my head around is what I really want to do with poetry. Reviewing comedy shows up at the Edinburgh Fringe last summer, I gave it a lot of thought. I saw the buzz around the Pleasance Courtyard of an evening and thought that I wanted to be part of it, but as a poet.

When I see my friends and mates branching out creatively - as comedians, musicians, poets, artists or whatever - I wonder what I am doing artistically.

ceramic artist Chris Bramble
Even when I get hooked into an art form, I feel myself hopelessly waylayed into a geeky backwater such as web design, digital photography or blogging!

Sunrise in Chester, UK

I often wonder why it is I have written 110 poems in 30 poems but only committed three or four of them to memory.

Or why I am currently terrified of standing in front of an audience without a piece of paper in my hand.

Sunset over Foulden Road, Stoke Newington, London N16

The Pi House (Flashback to Saturday, 15 October 2005)

The Pi House, Cotesbach, Leicestershire, UK This is my last night in the Pi House - so-called because one of its windows is hewn in the shape of a Greek letter Pi - after almost 10 months. I am sad to be leaving but, with winter round the corner, it is definitely the right time to go.

I have loved living in this converted woodshed from Spring onwards (despite its lack of bathing or showering amenities).

It is a remarkable, ingenious building, with the shelter afforded by the indoors but the feel of the Great Outdoors.

In the winter, however, it is too tough for me. I have never known such cold as I experienced in this sweet little abode in January, February and March this year!

I recall awaking one morning thinking I had been frost-bitten, the ice forming on the inside of the windows.

Tonight I am going to the Sickle & Stick for a valedictory drink and traditional game of Staghorn. I know I shall miss my friends here as I prepare to move to Warwick and who knows what.

I am rather proud to have lived in the Pi House.

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