Monday, March 27, 2006

The Poets in the Tower

Poetry played a part in our lives too. Under the Club a ’Gogo was Handysides arcade, built by George Handyside. It was horseshoe shaped and sloped upwards from Percy Street. The late sixties saw a crop of new shops opening in the arcade, one of which was named The Lady and the Unicorn, and had a painting of them on its window. It became Ultima Thule (at the furthest point from the entrances), run by local poets and selling poetry books and publications like IT and Oz. It was there I bought a paperback copy of Adrian Mitchell’s Out Loud. It was cheap because, said Bill, the poet had peed on his pile of books in the night. I didn’t really believe him until years later when I found out that Men do that kind of thing: I’ve had a wet wardrobe and a mate had her electric fire sprinkled. We’d meet up there after school some days, breathing the joss sticks and reading revolutionary tracts (hoho).

There were also the poetry readings in the Morden Tower. The tower is part of the old city walls, very old. (‘Upper room of medieval Town Wall turret, modernised in 1700 by the Guild of Plumbers’ it says in the Newcastle guide.) As well as Adrian Mitchell, we went to hear local poets such as Basil Bunting, Tom Pickard, Barry MacSweeney and Tony Jackson, who performed with blood and guts (well, once there was a set of sheep’s lungs). My poetry highlight was in 1973 when Allen Ginsberg read at the Miners institute, between the Station Hotel and the Lit and Phil (Literary and Philosophical Society). He was awesome – I think I suddenly realised that the local team had some way to go. A lot of us were there: schoolfriends, Defoe, and drama friends. The tower itself was closed at the time.

A friend wrote a lot of poems, I’m proud to say she is now a Proper Published Poet. she knew others, mainly lads who carried folders of their poetry with them, one of whom went out with another friend for a while. How impressive I thought that was: having a man write poems for you.

The power of words.

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