An evening with the beats…
Until I got asked to review it, I didn’t know that this monthly poetry event even existed. It was set up by The Beestonian’s very own Darren Kirkbride, as a replacement for the Flying Goose event which ended a year ago. He mentioned the idea to Alan Baker when he interviewed him for the January issue, and, with the additional support of Sarah Jackson and John Lucas (the man behind the Flying Goose events) he was able to set it up. There have only been three events so far, including the one I attended, and guests for each have been Alan Baker, Rory Waterman (coincidentally my former dissertation tutor) and Graham Caveney. The event is held at The White Lion, and commences at 7pm.
The event was slow to start, with only a few attendees present at the start time. However, eventually people started to filter in, and there was a good turnout for when Graham Caveney, the guest speaker, began his talk. Graham is a biographer of Alan Ginsberg and William Burroughs, and when listening to him, I found the English Literature student in me was satisfied. It was almost like being in an especially interesting lecture. I admit I’ve never read any Ginsberg or Burroughs, but I have had Burroughs’ Naked Lunch on my bookshelf for a couple of years, waiting until I get round to reading it. And why was this month’s subject on The Beats? It is 60 years since Ginsberg’s poetry collection HOWL was published.
Anyone who finds themselves in a pub on a wet Wednesday in Beeston probably owes that presence to this bunch of psychiatric casualties, self-styled outlaws, and, occasionally, brilliant, inspiring poets.
The talk lasted just under half an hour but covered lots of ground, and many different areas of the Beats and Beat poets. I found out that their influence was far greater than I initially thought, and collided with other well-known figures from modernists to musicians. Graham mentioned that ‘Burroughs coined the term Heavy Metal’, and ended his talk with an apt observation. He said ‘that anyone who finds themselves in a pub on a wet Wednesday in Beeston probably owes that presence to this bunch of psychiatric casualties, self-styled outlaws, and, occasionally, brilliant, inspiring poets.’ This set the tone perfectly for opening the floor to questions.
I’m used to these moments being filled with silence and awkwardness, from my experience in lectures at uni, but here, there were plenty of questions to be asked. Since I felt I was learning about the Beats, I decided to listen to the questions and answers rather than contribute one myself. After the Q&A there were a series of clips from Youtube lined up for us to watch. These included a visual interpretation of Ginsberg’s poem ‘A Supermarket in California’, video footage of Burroughs giving a speech (I really liked this one; there’s something strangely satisfying from having heard about someone, and then actually seeing what they look like. He didn’t disappoint).
At this point, we took a break. I heard many Beat-related conversations going on around me, and I took in the ever-cosy atmosphere and looked forward to the next part of the night: Poetry Readings. The brief was to ‘bring along your favourite Beats inspired poem as well as read your own work’. The readings began with a reading from Tony Challis of one of Ginsberg’s poems, and then a poem he’d written in the fashion of Ginsberg’s. Next, Russell Christie read out another Beat poem, followed by an extract from his novel The Queer Diary of Mordred Vienna. More reading’s ensued, ranging from poems inspired by travelling, to humorous haiku, Primark, and the love of cheese.
All the money raised from the evening was donated to helping the migrant crisis in Calais. All in all, it was worth going. Unfortunately, the event won’t be running over the summer, but I have it on good authority that the next one will take place on September 27.