Friday, 9 May 2008

Keats, the Zen of the Broom and the Reason Why Seabirds Don't Sing




Wells Next the Sea, Norfolk ( note no to used)

Whilst at the Poetry Festival attended some excellent readings given during the week-end; Lavinia Greenlaw, Jacob Polley, Sophie Hannah, Martin Figura, Andre Mangeot. Dame Gillian Beer, a well known Cambridge academic on the Friday evening interviewed the actor who played Trigger in Only Fools and Horses, Roger Lloyd Pack. He records Poetry CDs so his invitation to the festival wasn’t that bizarre. Dame Gillian interviewed him about his Desert Island poem choices, some Shakespeare, Keats, Rilke, Wendy Cope etc. There was a strange moment when Dame Gillian told the actor she had watched several DVDs of Only Fools and Horses in order to feel she had done her research on him. She then pointed out that she found Trigger a very zen type character who truly understood the ‘broomness’ of broom and she’s right, watching this the man does display an extraordinary grasp of a zen like existence.


The essential nature of who and what we are is nothing to do with our physical properties but our identity bestowed upon us by chain of memory and how we function in the world. Hmmmm could see a whole PH.D coming out of Trigger’s philosophy of the broomness of broom.

Also came back from Wells with the question of why seabirds don’t sing. I can’t think of any sea birds that have what we might construe as a song. Not all ‘land’ birds have a song of course so it can’t just be a question of territory and singing to ensure others know to ‘Get off my land!’ Mating is done by all birds so song can’t exist just for that purpose. ‘Oi, over here darling, get an earful, you’ll want my genes in the pool darling!’ When I posed this question several poets present went into reverie mode, will there be a rash of why seabirds don’t sing poems in the near future…It must be a metaphor for something , all that sea, salt and cries are out there to be turned into grist for the poetic mill. Someone suggested it could be purely physiological as seabirds throats have to be capable of expanding to accommodate fish sliding down. I did see a herring gull over the week-end steal huge mackerel from a boat and after much positioning it threw back its head and with a couple of gulps the fish disappeared whole down its gullet; a spontaneous round of applause went up from the assembled crabbers on the quay. It was as if we were celebrating some one at a pie eating contest getting a whole pie down their neck a mixture of admiration and disgust. Does the construction of such a throat preclude singing? Are champion pie eaters unable to sing, are they never asked to do karaoke at the pub, do they dream of singing at the Met and have to console themselves with pie..is it chicken and egg or pie and song , which came first? Did their lack of ability to sing drive them to become champion pie eaters?

Can any ornithologists out there reading this tell me if any sea birds have songs, as opposed to screeches, cries, hollers or squawks?

It may have been Triggers choice of Keat's Ode to a Nightingale, got me thinking about bird song. He recited it from memory and in a very unactorly way, which was a relief. Actors can take a poem sometimes and in striving to make it a dramatic experience totally ruin the quietness or power of it. He did convey the reality of Keats’ tortured mind, so well done Trigger, you understood the ‘poemness’ of the poem.

2 comments:

Mrs Slocombe said...

In my experience actors ALWAYS hammer poems to death,because they don't understand the difference between reading and performing. Simon Callow springs to mind.So Trigger, who is of course even more memorable as the satyr-peasant in the Vicar of dibley, did doubly well.

Mrs Slocombe said...

I thought I'd better tag you down here and not seem flippant up there