The Dead House

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Having spent a small but significant part of my life dealing with death, it was incumbent upon me to enter those bland, lifeless rooms - better known in some law enforcing circles as - The Dead House. You may know them as Mortuaries or Morgues.

Having now left the vocation that required this worrying, and often unnerving process to take place, I thought (rather foolishly) that I’d seen the inside of my last Dead House for quite some time. How wrong I was.

Bolton’s ‘The Howcroft Inn’ is a Morgue. By definition, a morgue is several things - including, “a dismal place that lacks warmth or cheer”. I suppose by that definition - I’m a Morgue too. However, I’m blatantly aware that I lack warmth - while I’m sure others are PAINFULLY aware that I lack cheer - but quite frankly - my surliness is of no concern to them - or you. Unless, of course, you choose to attend a Write Out Loud poetry event at The Howcroft. Take last night…

I’ll be frank. Compared to previous 'Howcroft nights' - last night’s events were dismal. The few people who’d clearly made the effort to support the event should be congratulated. The rest should be made to bury their heads in those shameful piles of bat-droppings we gathered at the event’s interlude.

I’m a nostalgic kinda’ guy, and as such, I remember those Sunday nights when poets and performers alike would be forced to stand on each other's heads just to catch a sound-bite, or a glimpse, of their peers in full poetic flight. Now it seems that those who choose to attend are being forced to contort themselves by spreading out in a bunch. And, I’m asking myself - why is this?

Write Out Loud’s numbers have increased six-fold since I became a member. Of course, I take no credit for this, just as I take no responsibility for those people who've chosen to leave the site as a direct or indirect response to what I’ve written - but WHY are people choosing to stay at home? WHY do people involve themselves in the written aspect of a ‘performance poetry website’ - yet choose NOT to attend at one of the few events that will allow them to express their poetic creativity? Is Write Out Loud losing its appeal? Are its members more preoccupied with writing this month’s inaugural winning poem for WOLOP than they are of attending at one of the few opportunities they’ll have of performing? Quite frankly - I don’t know? And yet, do I really care?

419 words so far would suggests that I do - and of course, I DO care. So, together with my caring cape of attitude flapping in the winds of concern - I disguised myself as Auguste Dupin and commenced my investigative journey. A Journey I’m calling - rather unimaginatively - ‘The Murmurs in the WOL Morgue’… but before I do - let me just say a word or two about those sterling WOL die-hards. The Stalwarts. The regulars. The ‘we REALLY don’t have anything better to do on a Sunday night’ gang.

Dermot Glennon, or DG as he’s known to his friend was the night’s compére. He did a sterling job of confusing an already confused collective considered capable of configuring what it was he was actually talking about. Underneath his blanket of gibberish and pillow of alliteration there were some equally comprehensible strings of decipherable semantics - but who wants to jump into bed with a man whose idiolect is clearly too big and unfathomable for the average sized orifice - AURAL orifice?

The artist formerly known as Gordon Zola, now Allan Gray, was introduced, rather perplexingly, as Gordon Zola, and if I’d not heard Allan perform on many other occasions this could have been even more confusing. As it was, Allan - or Gordon - no - definitely Allan, performed a poem about food. Skilfully secreted in his poem’s clauses were the names of foodstuffs and anything loosely associated with food. From a personal point of view - I’d heard it before and remember writing something about it the last thyme he pear-formed it. Great then, but brilliant last night.

Eric Tomlinson was hardly recognisable without his trusty friend and ally by his side. Yet Eric delivered his well paced, self-assured, sizeable rhyming couplets with a passion that we have come to expect and ultimately demand from our seasoned, competent poets.

Don Parry bounced his balls of meter and playful verse with his contribution, choosing - for a first half at least - to leave his guitar inside the confines of well-secured case.

Sarah Crowther made a colourful - and more than welcome - addition to the evening.

Simon Ellis read a brief but intense piece - with words covered in a residue of pain and cynicism.

John Clays braved the elements of indifference by travelling from Wigan with his wife Sandré, and between them they each performed a piece that was thoughtful and well crafted respectively.

Dave Morgan arrived late to muted ironic cheers and went on to perform a confusing piece that was met with a muted ironic cheer.

Nat Clare was on fine form. He performed a piece titled ‘Pan-pipes’ which was both very observant and funny.

Val Cook spun more than one plate as the event’s raffle organiser and performer.

Isobel, a regular contributor to the ‘Write’ element of ‘Write Out Loud’, both read AND sang her work.

The only ‘first-timer’ was a girl who delivered in a confident manner- but a girl whose name escapes me. Sorry.

And that - as they say - was that. But then again, I did have to leave at the interval. Maybe that’s when the party REALLY started?

Now, I’m off to investigate a murder in Paris….


◄ Martin Caplan R.I.P.



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