Double Bill: edited by Andy Jackson, Red Squirrel Press
I have just had a stressful few days, but 10 minutes with this volume of gems cleared my mind, refreshed my brain and invigorated my laughing muscles. Double Bill is a worthy follow-up to 2012’s Split Screen anthology and similarly themed, but also includes poems inspired by music, fashion, sport and more. I read one poem over the phone to a friend who laughed uproariously. Extract from ‘The Colour of Hours’ by Joan Hewitt, on the theme of Radio 4's Woman’s Hour:
So it’s a matter of parity that you want to see
a lot more penises on the small screen? ...
After 60 visits, how on earth
Did no one see his child was badly injured? ...
Thank you Prime Minister. And now:
Should you ever go without a bra?
For us northwesterners, Daniel Cockrill’s ‘The Road to Wigan Casino’ and Carolyn Richardson’s poem about the Hacienda both hit the spot. There are poems about Brian Clough and Bill Shankly, cinematic verses about the Boulting brothers and the Coen brothers and others contrasting Frank Sinatra and Leonard Cohen, Prince Buster and Prince Rogers Nelson, plus Merseybeat versus Madchester, ‘Loose Fit’ by Alan Smithee:
… back in ’89 the boys I knew were mad for it,
or just plain mad, but always looking to score.
Some of this is just the way it was, or a loose fit,
but my god, Madchester, so much to answer for
Alan Buckley writes beautifully about the iconic David Hockney painting in ‘Mr and Mrs Clark and Percy’ while George Szirtes tackles Damien Hirst in ‘Shark Tale’. Wrestling and boxing, Nirvana and Pearl Jam, the Goons and the Pythons, Radio 2 and Radio 4, Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire, and both Torvill and Dean and Pearl and Dean – they’re all there. Hazel Buchan Cameron’s ‘Pearl and Dean’ includes these lines about the cinema screen advertising agency:
We look on unaware
It will be music
Pa pa pa pa pa
That resonates beyond all image,
To carry the heat of us
And grief of us
Long after the final – DAH.
One of my favourites is ‘The Church of Bartholomew and Wiseman’ by Kevin Cadwallender, because it’s about my heroes Eric and Ernie, and is a brilliant piece of observation and writing.
There is a poem about TV-astronomer Brian Cox - adjacent to one about the actor Brian Cox - and another pair of poems where a Malcolm Tucker-inspired piece is butted up next to one about Mary Whitehouse. The Tucker one (‘Ferryman’ by Tiffany Atkinson) begs to be read aloud, multiple expletives and all. Mrs Whitehouse would have been speechless.
The section inspired by adverts has another of my favourite, ‘Domestos’ by Cathy Bryant where germs dream of a filthy afterlife free of bleach. ‘Welcome to Royston Vasey’ by Angela Topping and ‘Jack Woolley’s Dream’ (Tony Williams) are excellent, too.
This collection is dedicated to critics Philip French, Dilys Powell, Mark Kermode and Clive James, who has named it one of his books of the year in the TLS. Do yourself a favour – switch off the radio, TV, Netflix or whatever - and buy this book.