Friday 27 July 2012

Pete 'Cardinal' Cox, Poet - Guest Blog 27th July 2012

July in Peterborough started with the Summer Festival the finale of which is a weekend in our glorious Central Park, except it was raining, as it was over most of the country, so about 3 o’clock the whole event got closed down. Well, I say whole, while the organisers' collective backs were turned Mark Grist kept the Live Literature tent running for another half an hour. The intermittent rain had actually been helping to drive an audience into the tent. Come for the shelter, stay for the rhymes, could have been the motto. I had done a few poems early in the day as part of the general start-up of ‘make some noise and try and attract people’s attentions’. After that an organiser of some local events had asked if I wanted to run a workshop, but the truth is, although I have done a couple in the past, I have to admit I’m not that good at them. I have attended a number of workshops by other people (a particularly good one run by Sue Butler and held at Cambridge’s Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology always stands out ) as I figure there is always something to learn. Plus athletes always train to keep their muscles in top condition, so shouldn’t poets equally train to maintain the old noggin? However many workshops I attend though, I never find I can replicate the ability to inspire others to create. Which is a shame because when you come down to it, workshops are one of the main earning potentials for poets. Back at the festival (or more accurately, after it’s early closure, down the pub) the person who had invited me to run the workshop said that they’d signed up an excellent local rapper to run the day, and I’ll admit I thought good for him.

The week after was the John Clare Festival in Helpston (organised by the John Clare Society ) that I’ve been going to for many years. Ok, not strictly true, I go to Helpston, but never actually make it to the Festival proper. First this year was a visit to the pub The Blue Bell where Clare had been a pot-boy, then to the John Clare Cottage next door ( ) for some cake, Bakewell Tart, I think. Then across the road to an artist’s studio where I chatted with the abstract painter. His wife offered a cup of tea and I declined as I was next going to the village hall where the W.I. put on refreshments. “Oh no”, she looked as though I’d said something terrible, “I promised to bake them some scones”, and scampered off. As I said, next was the village hall for another piece of cake (a lovely sponge with enormous strawberries and thick cream) and then into a local gallery to buy some cards. Then to see some more local artists (one of whom had asked for a poem from me to accompany a piece of work, but that’s still in the creative process) then to The Exeter Arms where John Clare had laid before being buried. The Exeter Arms has just been bought by the John Clare trust so was closed, so a visit to the church was in order before catching a bus home. At the bus stop I bumped into an old school teacher of mine who was bemoaning that she’d been refused service at the village hall. Apparently they’d thought she wouldn’t have had time to drink her tea and eat her cake before the bus came. To stir it a bit I described how tasty the cake I’d eaten had been. Caught the bus and continued chatting and just before I got off (to really put the cat amongst the proverbial) showed her the slice of cake I’d bought for my girlfriend. So no, I never quite make it to the Festival itself.

At the end of the month I took part in a guided tour with various artists and playwrights (I contributed some old riddles I’d written for my first poetry trail for the Cemetery where I’d been Poet-in-Residence for three years) and all went well until we were stopped by the police. Perhaps we were a suspicious looking bunch of middle class, middle aged ne’er-do-wells. Can’t have that sort in the run-down areas of the city…

To finish with, another plug for something from the small-press, this time Leeds’s based poetry publication Krax. 60 pages filled with excellent poetry, plus a fantastic review section covering a good number of publications from Britain and the rest of the world. Well-worth subscribing to, I think, so send an SAE to Andy Robson at 63 Dixon Lane, Leeds, LS12 4RR for full details and buy yourself a sample copy before submitting to.

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