Blinkin’ awesome what you can find on YouTube innit? Section of a long-lost cassette beleaguered my mind, though I can’t find a clip the whole album is there, the part I wanted to draw attention to is approximately twenty-six minutes in. It’s a live recording of punk band, The Newtown Neurotics, where breaks are filled with poetry. This one in particular was an awakening in my affections for poetry, a far cry from the stigma enforced by school-teachers slamming a copy of Ted Hughes on your desk. It enlightened an adolescent me, poems can be current and topical, yet still stimulating, shocking, and poignant.
I wanted to mimic this purely punk-paste inclination at our birthday bash, when local poet Gail Foster offered to read some verses, for akin to this recording, Gail sparks a passion for wordsmanship within me, and casts away age-old stigmas. I’m glad to say it went down a treat. Besides, it’s good to befriend a local poet on social media, as insights of their inspiration; on Facebook one day she posted a rant about a stray Amazon package, and I thought, “there’ll be a verse about that by morning.” And there was!
Gail performs her poetry at open mic, on Fantasy Radio, and reading ‘Years of Hurt’ at a service in Salisbury Cathedral an acme. She also self-publishes; that is why we’re here today folks, cross-examining her shiny new anthology; Mischievous Spring. While it seems the traditional method of a book can be outdone by the speed and efficiency of posting on Facebook, I wanted to gauge her thoughts about social media as a platform, and ask her what method she favours.
“Facebook and performance,” she states, on one hand, “but not everyone does Facebook, post a poem and it is gone, put it in a book and it’s there for ever; I like books.”
“But I’m not up for sitting on my work and waiting months for someone else to publish it. Fuck that. Doing books is also a good way of cataloguing my work.”
Gail admits to a short attention span, “I write spontaneously, and then when I have written a lot, I put the good bits in a book. I like to write quickly to make room for the next inspiration.” Yet she concludes they’re equal pegging, “you’re asking me for one method of delivery I prefer to all others; there isn’t one.”
Rather similar is the content, Gail’s subjects and styles are varied, with the serious sides you expect of poetry; of autumn, of spiritual or natural elements, like snow, hedges, and of Orion, and dejected love. There are emotional annotations, “Years of Hurt,” as a great example, where a football fan takes anguish out on wife after a loss for his team. “Shall I Vote,” contemplates the sacrifice of suffrage against our taken-for-granted rights, and there’s a few astounding muses of war.
Breaching seriousness, looser, comical elements are plentiful too; humorous subjects as why Gail likes watching rugby, jarred prepubescent moods, haunting activities, like the 100-metre race at school. Snap, I’m earnestly relating. Arbitrary witticisms also stab your funny bone, of pot noodles, or pickled onion Monster Munch.
Politically standing left, the media assault on Corbyn is critiqued, a ridicule of fracking distressed, yet hilarious satirical attacks on Rees-Mogg, Tommy Robinson, and of course Trump, together with a perfect summary to the mess of Brexit, also make up the topical element. Yet no celebrity is taken prisoner; Garth Southgate, and oh, how unfortunate for Elton John. Peter Stringfellow though, meeting St Peter at the Pearly Gates is comic gold.
Gail serves her poetry with edge, and honesty; Steven Hawking not safe, adult-themes on why we drink too much, and she opens a world where Mrs Claus retorts to Santa that’s he’s a “bell end.” She flirts with her words, spares nothing to filth, rather playground amusement in articulate muse, revealing a fascination of going commando, as a running theme. “I’m not out to be controversial, or to upset people with the swearing,” Gail notes, “it just comes out like that sometimes. Plus, the more words the better for poetry. And a lot of things rhyme with ‘shit!’”
Yet while she swiftly moves through a huge range of genres and subjects, this book flows whereas her previous seem more randomly collected. There’re superstitions around number seven, which flows into a clock poem, and into one called “Moment.” Similarly, her affections for druid connections and Gorsedd drift to odes to poet bards, through winter solstice to spring. I pondered if the poems are chronologically placed, as each thought progresses to the next, or just carefully planned.
“That was the hardest part, the grouping,” Gail confessed. “Some clearly belonged together, others clearly didn’t belong together. The Gorsedd is chronological. A couple of chapters are alphabetical. There is a seasonal thing going on with the first chapter; that’s a bit vague, isn’t it?!”
Perhaps, but it’s a hefty volume, with variants; another reason for its value, there’s something for every mood on offer.
“’Ceres’ and ‘The Old Man and The Hill’ are very much beginning and end,” she continued, “seasonal verse are grouped together within chapters, Christmas, winter – Birds of a feather, loosely flocked together! The most difficult thing for me about this book was the combination of serious and spiritual rhymes with sweary, scatological rhymes. That’s part of the reason for the grouping and chapters.”
“One of my friends told me that the night her partner died she was reading him my poetry. Really lovely touching things like that happen sometimes.” Again, with all Gail’s work, binding the range is the underlying local theme, the feeling you’re never a million miles away from Gail, as she dedicates odes to friends well-known in the area, The Arts Festival, and Wiltshire Air Ambulance; the cherry on the cake to a wonderful collection of poetry. “You should be well-chuffed,” I add.
“I’m chuffed about the book, yes,” she replied, “but this time I have no illusions. It might do well, it might not. It is unlikely to make me rich, but then I don’t want to be rich. I’m very grateful to the people who take an interest in my work.” That is the usual labour of love, the bleeding heart of the artist which forces them to continue, and Gail has the bug.
This is a wonderful addition to Gail’s portfolio, progressive and entertaining. She finishes by contemplating, “I wish I had done this years ago. But I didn’t, and that is that.”
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