When I was 16 or 17, perhaps a little older, around 1986/1987, while we were students at what was Rochester Tutors, my brother and I would go to the Old Town Hall, in Chatham and read our poems every week. Our dad would drive us, dropping us off at the town hall, behind an old cemetery.
We were probably still listening to Punk music, listening to bands like Dead Kennedy’s and The Sex Pistols, we were young and naive.
Here would be a collection of poets, and artists, including Charles Thompson (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Thomson_(artist)#The_Medway_Poets) and Sexton Ming (whose name was remarkable!) as well as Billy Childish and others would gather and read there poems. We would turn up, breathe in, stand up and dare to read our poems. People clapped or laughed, or ignored or even respected our attempts. I remember poems about Benson’s and Hedges and thin end of wedges, and the Thames being full of effluent.
People would come and ask Charles Thompson about publication advice, or copyright issues, he gave his time.
We went many times, perhaps over a period of years, but were never in the limelight like Tracy Emin. Eventually, around 1988/1989 we went off to University and stopped going.
Later my brother went to university, where he did English and then Children’s literature at master’s level, and he now teaches this at a private school,and I drifted to science, coming back to English as an adult. I currently teach English writing at UCO and St Edward’s University, Angers, as well as training business people in local businesses.
Anyway, looking back at this time stirs many memories, and I still think we were really brave to stand up and read our poems, certainly my heart beat rose, when none of or friends (who just thought it bonkers!) thought poems were cool. And today some of those Medway Poets have become internationally famous. But I must stop basking in their reflected glory.
I can’t claim to have been a key member of their group, or even in their group, we were planets in the outer reaches of their solar system, drifting on our own course. And The Medway Poets (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Medway_Poets) had been going as a group for over ten years when we turned up!
I recently found a dusty file full of my poems, written between 1980 and 1990, all terrible, written in earnest, written in hope. There was even a book with a hand drawn title page, 70 poems in all. I even typed them out, on paper, rather pompously.
Here is a poem from way back then. Charles Thomson (his work can be seen here http://www.stuckismphotography.com/pages/charles.html) and my brother helped write this one, and Kirsten (my then friend and co-student at Rochester Tutor’s) re-read and corrected the (many!) spelling mistakes, so I can’t claim it’s all my own work. Bear in mind the summer job that year for my brother was raspberry picking, which he hated, as you can see from the poem. We were young, so go easy!
Written around the mid/late 1980’s, perhaps around summer 1986
THE GRIM RASPBERRY REAPER
The grim raspberry reaper is back in town
He beats up the other raspberry pickers
Working for 50p an hour
HE PUTS BRICKS IN THE BOXES
More weight, more cash
The grim raspberry reaper gorges
A tray of pest ridden raspberries
“Like eating pots of grease , like drinking pints of phlegm”
Look at the grim raspberry reaper
Look at the rooting , tooting raspberry pickers
Look at the grim raspberry reaper booting rooting tooting raspberry pickers
Don’t worry about capital punishment
Just send ’em raspberry picking
The pickers are getting angry now
There is going to be a riot
The grim raspberry reaper gives them electric shock treatment
The grim raspberry reaper annihilates the raspberry pickers
He recruits more and more raspberry pickers
Never go raspberry picking
Never eat raspberries
(This statement has been issued on behalf of the national board for the promotion of Kiwi fruit)