Anne-Marie Fyth, well known poet herself, organiser and compere at the Coffee-House poetry nights, manages to get some spectacular poets for her ‘star nights’ and Roger was no exception.
I am old enough to remember Roger from his rock-n-roll days, but now he is considered by Carol Ann Duffy to be poetry’s ‘patron saint’. He is said to be responsible for ‘shaping popular attitudes to poetry over a generation, in bringing a distinctive Liverpool perspective to the wider culture, in crossing media boundaries’ or as in Ann-Marie’s blurb for the evening ‘poetry’s strolling Troubadour, its anarchic court jester?’ Certainly in real life what a wonderful and unassuming person he is. Tonight he also brings with him his latest book ‘It Never Rains’. I can recommend it, also as a great ‘stocking filler’.
Happily an established performer on stage, we learn about being brought up in Liverpool during the war, when at the time there were no book shops or restaurants. Then he launches into his set full of wonderful poems, many about his family including a funny poem about his mother called ‘Learning to Read’. “Yes” he says we “cosied up and she read to us” and turns the image on it’s head, ‘she read jam jars’ along with other obscure labels on packets around the kitchen! Brilliant!
I loved another poem about puberty, concerning chips and visits to fish and chip shops. Wonderful descriptions of the owners and their idiosyncrasies. He finally sees the attractive daughter Linda, who takes a shine to him, as a mermaid.
And what about Aunt Edna, who can resist this cantankerous old lady? Father’s mother gets a poem ‘Hill of Beans’ while mother’s mother would appear to be quite reliant on various angels. Poems so funny but equally full of tender observation.
A brief interlude with Bernadette Reed singing tender love songs, accompanied by two talented musicians Ian Salmon and Le’Voy Wilson before the interval then Roger was back to be interviewed by C.L.Dallat. Dallat who is also an musician and broadcaster which might account for their obvious empathy, a bit like a double act with information bouncing back and forth brilliantly.
We hear a poem featuring an imagined dialogue between Gerald Manley Hopkins and Charlie Chaplin, apparently they went to the same school, Roger’s admiration for Seamus Heaney led to a tribute poem. There was also a discussion about a wonderful poem based on a hilarious re-construction of how Dylan Thomas would have taken note of dialogue of characters in the local pub for ‘Under Milk Wood’.
I loved Roger’s story about writing a book of children’s poetry and then finding some seemingly innocent ‘word associations’ might lead to difficulties for teachers! I think he had to abandon the idea.
Finally Dallat asked how he managed to work through his role as teacher and an avant garde poet. Apparently it was simple – he changed from one set of clothes to another in a local phone box. Superb!!
Bit of a trek from Brighton but well worth it. Up to Victoria and then the C1 to Earls Court. Get off at Radcliffe Gardens. Troubadour is a few yards from the bus stop. Coffee-House Poetry fortnightly on Mondays.