[ ` A Slovak tear, a tattoo signifying the burden of sorrow – Ed’s note ]
This week I witnessed the most pitiful sight imaginable, a true end-of-an-era moment. As a gun carriage dragged a dead woman in a box covered with a decorated piece of cotton through the cleared streets of London to a performance by a man dressed in the garb of a witch in front of an assembly comprised of charlatans, chancers, and class warriors, I saw a man burn his own poems.
In north west London, in front of the state-sponsored pantomime showing on his muted television Gyorgy Petch took the poems he’d made for what should have been his latest collection, his 15th book of verses, and he put a match to them.
Yes, that Gyorgy Petch, the same Gyorgy Petch that readers of this organ who have been with us since our early days will recall from our 25th anniversary issue of 8 years ago when we celebrated his arrival on these shores.
Let’s cast our minds back to those days when poetry bestrode the country, when poets were feted, when even watching and listening to performance poetry was regarded as an acceptable way to spend an evening.
Back then, when Gyorgy Petch first arrived by coach in London with just one suitcase, a notebook, and no discernible skills, and certainly no tool kit for plumbing jobs, the immigration authorities at Dover must have been tempted to advise him to get back on the bus, forget about us, and head back to the Hungarian/Slovak border.
How amazed they would have been in those days to have followed him into the streets outside Victoria Coach Station and witness the tumultuous scenes there. Word had already got out that Gyorgy was arriving and the streets were packed with families desperate to secure his services. His services? Some mistake surely? What services could Gyorgy Petch possibly offer anyone, least of all the families of north west London who were out in great numbers vying to outbid each other to get Gyorgy to ride home with them. After all, Gyorgy had no degree, no plumbing skills, had never picked a strawberry for financial gain in his life, had never fixed a towel rail over a radiator and had almost certainly never even seen a cockle, let alone picked one.
Well, the secret resided in that notebook which Gyorgy carried everywhere. And what was in that thar notebook. Was it gold? Oil? Not quite, but not so far off the mark either. Why, you cry, then what exactly was in this magical notebook? Poems of course. Hundreds of them. Sonnets, sestinas, rhyming couplets, comic quatrains about the accession of Eastern European countries to the European Union. Page after page of black ink gold.
Poets, for all those who had been on Mars for the previous five years, were BIG, and they were in demand, and though the world was full of them and even fuller of their verses it is undeniable that demand back in those halcyon days was outstripping supply. In a recent survey over seventy three per cent of households on Hampstead Garden Suburb had been found to employ at least one poet. At least?! Yes, at least! You read it right. A staggering seventeen per cent of households on the Suburb at that time employed two or more poets. The rush hour bus which shuttled between Golders Green and the Suburb was even dubbed by locals the ‘Sestina Express’ due to the number of poets on their way to and from their places of work in the homes of the well-heeled local residents.
I am proud to say that I was at Victoria coach station the day Gyorgy arrived. I interviewed Father Thomas McGuinness there. He was hoping to snaffle Gyorgy as poet-in-residence for St Edmund’s in Finchley Central…”We hope that Gyorgy will look upon our offer favourably. He will have a five year contract, five weeks holiday, and a non-contributory pension scheme.”
So what has prompted this new despair of Gyorgy’s? As the muted television beamed scenes of the tears shining like slug trails on Gideon Osborne’s fat rosy cheeks Gyorgy bared his soul in an exclusive interview with Unlikely Blond. He spoke of how he’d been in the first wave of accession states poets to hit these shores, the wave now referred to as the “Good Poets Wave”.
“People loved us. They couldn’t get enough of us. They compared us very, very favourably with the native poets. They had an insatiable appetite for what we were creating. We were getting published everywhere, all the journals were mad for us. Slovakian poets, Polish poets, even the Czechs. Therein lay the seeds of our own demise. This first wave was so in demand, so overwhelmed with the gratitude and good will of the readership that we made the terrible mistake of phoning home and telling our cousins and brothers and as is now well known that caused the second wave, “The Less Able Brothers Wave”. And now look, no journals will look at us these days, we have only the internet and the internet is chin deep in garbage, and on top of that in January next year the borders are going to be opened up to the Bulgarian and Romanian poets. No one will know what to read. No one will be able to tell if it is any good.”
As Samantha Cameron smiled to herself on the silenced television at some fleeting fancy Gyorgy made a chilling threat. He said, and I fully believe that he meant this, that he was going to…..
Continued page 9
Page 11 Poet assaulted in late-night scuffle over shwarma
Page 13 Poets go home? – Have your say – Are we being swamped with poets? Do you agree with UKIP?
Page 15 Is the poet boom over?
Back page Your unicorn poems – the result of our soaraway competition.
As the muted television beamed scenes of the tears shining like slug trails on Gideon Osborne’s fat rosy cheeks Gyorgy bared his soul in an exclusive interview with Unlikely Blond.