Minutes of the meeting at La Rosa Hotel on Thursday 31 October 2019.

Present: JonathanJennyB, Adele,  MalcolmPipIan(chair).

Apologies: MikeRoyLouise, Graham, Sue, Lesley.

Topic: Members’ work-in-progress.


Matters Arising

Adele drew the meeting’s attention to writing instructor Wendy Pratt, who has a Facebook presence. She is offering an online writing course which lasts throughout November, with a daily individual mailing plus other benefits.

Members’ Readings

Malcolm — solicited advice on how to proceed with his memoirs as a tea-planter in India and Africa. He read a test-piece on his experience of being called up for National Service and shipped out to fight in 1953 in the Malayan Emergency. The meeting found the material of considerable historical interest and the style competent. Members were liberal with their advice on style, presentation and choice of material. The case of the recruit who couldn’t make his own bed attracted lively attention from both male-chauvinist and feminist points-of-view, championed by Ian and Adele respectively.

Adele — read a poem entitled The Truth must dazzle gradually, inspired by Emily Dickinson’s: Tell all the truth but tell it slant. Members found the philosophy of truth-telling, especially of unpalatable facts to children, equally as interesting as Adele’s poem plus Dickinson’s original, which Adele had been zealous enough to print out on one sheet and distribute.

Ian engaged with Adele’s idea of writing poems inspired by well-known poets. However, leaving aside English translations of foreign poets, he could only recall it being done to parody the originals, frequently and casually by Ogden Nash, but more conspicuously by Lewis Carroll. Ian reminded the meeting of The Annotated Alice by Martin Gardner (a popular science writer and puzzle poser who once wrote a regular column for the Scientific American), revealing to many that most of Lewis Carroll’s verses in Alice in Wonderland were parodies of popular Victorian poems that Carroll deemed preachy – a judgement most readers nowadays would heartily endorse. Gardner’s work of homage and commentary did the reader a great benefit by publishing the complete originals in the (necessarily ample) margins, permitting line-by-line comparison – a richly rewarding pastime, and most instructive in the art of writing parody.
Carroll’s poems, besides being witty and incisive, stand by their own merit to the extent of still being remembered and often quoted, though the hapless originals have quite fallen into obscurity. Ian cited as an example: I’ll tell thee everything I can – a wicked take-off of Wordsworth’s Resolution and Independence.

Jonathan – finding his laptop battery about to give-out, was inclined to forfeit his turn, but was pressed by the meeting to read his account of Ripley Castle in A less well-known Dale until the screen went dark. Which it duly did in mid-sentence, to the consternation of his fascinated audience.

Ian read two poems:
Where do candle flames go when you blow them out? – a light-hearted conjecturing of their afterlife according to unspecified but perfectly recognisable eschatologies.
The Angels of Okinawa – the heart-wrenching true story, by himself and his son Max, of a class of junior schoolgirls taken from their classroom and drafted as nurses to tend the wounds of a sacrificial force sent to the island to resist the American invasion.

JennyB — read A Halloween Adventure, a highly topical poem based on the true story (albeit embroidered) of a luckless visit of junior trick-or-treaters to an isolated old lady who just didn’t “get it”.

The meeting concluded at 12:40.