FLASHBACK: Friday Jan 18, 2008
My official take-over as CPL from Jo Bell, CPL 2007. The gig was at Neston Public Library on the Wirral. Neston is an amazing place – a seaside with no sea. Where there was once sea, there is now grass. It’s brilliant, especially when the wind blows the grass into waves. Ironic. I do like to be beside the leaside . . . It got silted up through lack of use. Time and tide wait for no man.
The library has just celebrated 100 years of existence. ‘Neston Free Library’ originally. What a social innovation that was! Books on free loan to the working classes. Many a kid chucked out of formal education early must have furthered their studies there. How many horizons did it widen? How many future trade union leaders did those shelves foster?
It was a good gig. Lynda and I enjoyed Jo’s stuff. Lynda said she thought Jo’s voice had a compelling, sophorific quality that suited her work well. I agreed. Jo read first as the out-going poet then I read as the in-coming one.
There was a bit of a mouthy geezer in the audience who shouted at me in the Q & A session we had at the end when I inadvertently attempted to answer a question addressed to Jo. It turned out to be John Gorman (ex Scaffold with R. McGough, M. McGear). The last time I’d spoken to John was on the set of Ready, Steady Go! in 1965. He was with Scaffold, I was with Cops n’ Robbers. Obviously, I had more reason to remember him that he had to remember me (check out McGough’s ‘Let Me Die A Youngman’s Death’. He does some terrific stuff).
A discussion arose about ‘modernity’. It came out of the fact that I often use rhyme in my poetry. Someone suggested that rhyme might be a thing of the past and, if you want to be modern you won’t employ it. I was surprised. I hadn’t thought about it much – never seen myself as this thing or that thing, modern or otherwise. I’m not consciously trying to belong to any club or society or movement so it has never been an issue for me. I’m lucky enough to be able to rhyme or not rhyme at will (ie. lucky enough to have spent a lot of time reading, had good mentors and to have been free to work hard at writing). I use rhyme when it feels right to do so and prose poetry when ever that feels right. Perhaps it’s probably more to do with rhythm than rhyme because rhymes have got a big elbow when you use them staccato fashion and a more-gentle nudge when you use them legato. What I love about as well is that it brings attention to the rhyming word pairs and you can build up some extra images that way. I don’t think I could I be without rhyme all the time. It wouldn’t feel natural. Nature rhymes. Have a look around you.
A young guy at Neston suggested that maybe the use of rhyme was so retro it represented a new modernity. Take your pick. My compatriot in San Francisco, Jack Hirschman, now in his seventies, doesn’t use rhyme as far as I know. Jack is a wonderful wordsperson. One of the beat generation, a socially aware poet. Maybe that approach to writing is city stuff. Metropolitan – hums of the city. It was great to hear people discussing it all.
When I did some gigs in France, the hosts labelled me: ‘W. Terry Fox (GB) Folk Poete’. I think I like that. Yeah, I suppose that is what I am, a folk poet. Two of my favourite poets, Thomas Hardy and John Clare were rhymers. They, like me, were also folk fiddle players and lovers of traditional folksong. Maybe that’s where the rhyming comes from.
The people at Neston – in the library and in the town – were exceptionally friendly and pleasant. Lynda and I hope to go back there soon.