The life affirming poetry corner at Tufnell Park tube station has turned to Kashmir. Here's today's offering on the white board, much better than the customary, non rhyming, non scanning: 'There is a good service on the Northern line'.
This rather intense poem, 'Kashmiri Song', is by Laurence Hope, the pseudonym of Adela Florence Nicolson. She was married to a British army officer in India - and after his death, committed suicide in 1904 aged 39.
This is perhaps her best known poem which also was - with slightly modified lyrics - a popular Edwardian drawing room song ... indeed I remember my father sometimes singing 'beside the Shalimar' (the name of Mughal gardens by Dal Lake in Srinagar).
Not quite what you might expect at Tufnell Park tube. But somewhere lurking at the barrier, or in the ticket office, there's a real poetry enthusiast.
And rather than 'good service on the northern line', we get something much more lyrical.
Today's verse is by Jehane Markham - and not her best known poem at that. The previous offering was Rupert Brooke. You know the: 'If I should die, think only this of me ...' one.
So there's a wonderful range of material. And at greater length than those ultra short Poems on the Underground which sometimes appear in ad spaces in the tube carriages. (Though I like those too!)
And there's some lovely bits of whimsy too. So last week I spotted this touch of Christian propaganda - 'Ten Ways to Love' based on extracts from the Bible. For more on this, here's a link.
And while I'm not keen on Scripture, as aphorisms most of these are on the 'upbeat' side of unexceptional. Indeed, I think I'll encourage my kids to look, read and inwardly digest. "Answer without Arguing" - indeed!
Whoever is behind Tufnell Park's 'Poetry Korner' is a public benefactor. God knows, the area needs a few. And, to cite Philippians, I do trust the authorities will "Enjoy without Complaint".
For more than a decade, I've lived within walking distance of the Torriano Meeting House, a venue of repute for free-wheeling poetry - but I've never been there before tonight. The occasion was a reading by Bernard Kops, whose book of collected verse, 'This Room in the Sunlight', contains - in my lay view - some real gems.
The room reminded me a little of austere political meeting places of times gone by. It was certainly intimate. If more than forty people had attended - which, alas, wasn't the case - there would have been no room. There was a stage of sorts, with clutter hidden by old style room divides. The audience, several of whom read (or sang) their own poetry in the first half of the evening, reminded me a little of the assemblies in Donald Rooum's cartoons ... assorted individualists and, in a kindly way, oddballs.
Bernard Kops writes accessible and engaging verse, and straddles the embers of the Jewish East End, the strident Soho youth culture captured in fiction by his friend, Colin MacInnes, and the contemporary idiom. His subject matter extends from the holocaust to tender accounts of his family, from a pre-occupation with death to a celebration of human solidarity. Much of his verse is about his wife, Erica, who was also there at the Torriano. I do wonder what it feels like to hear love poetry about yourself recited in your presence to a roomful of strangers.
Kops mentioned this evening that a great hero, W.H. Auden, had come to see one of his plays. They met in the bar in the interval. It's the subject of his (very) brief poem, 'On a Brief Meeting with Auden':
Leaning against the bar
as if receiving extreme unction,
his face amazingly crisscrossed
like Clapham Junction.
Pissed out of his mind in total elation,
beautiful boys surrounding him in
It's in the new book!
Andrew Whitehead's blog
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