poems and pints

beer barrels
Poetry in every barrel
One of the things that struck me – and some of the other participants – at the poetry conference last week, was that one of the readings and the Q&A session were held in a coffee bar.

I had the temerity to question this, and was told that it was an American poetry conference and that that was the way they do things; I wasn’t to worry, though, as there would be drink available on the final night.

I wasn’t so much worried, as surprised. I am used to writers’ group meetings and open mikes being held in bars and pubs; even when the venue is more properly a coffee bar, it tends to be a licensed premises with at least a small selection of alcoholic beverages. I’m not suggesting booze is essential to reading or writing poetry, but poems and pints are certainly not mutually exclusive.

Since there were some good pubs in the area where we were, and I seldom get a chance to drink decent English beer, I suppose I was also disappointed (or even ‘disapinted’, as my fingers just chose to type).

The barrels in the photo were out the back of one of the real ale pubs in Beeston, though whether the blur is inherent in the barrels themselves, caused by fumes from the barmaid’s apron, or the fact the light was not good, I’m not sure. It certainly wasn’t me being hazy, as I was en route from a non-alcoholic poetry event.

If I had spent longer in the pub, I might have written a list poem with real ale names. Instead, I offer this as a first draft:

She used to think abstemious
an adjective to aim for:
the neat vocalic sequence
and completion seemed to be
a goal worth striving for.
Her discovery of its meaning
was no happy accident, her reaction
intemperate. She now finds consolation
in cultivating the facetious.

Author: don't confuse the narrator

Exploring the boundary between writer and narrator through first person poetry, prose and opinion

4 thoughts on “poems and pints”

  1. “I’m not suggesting booze is essential to reading or writing poetry[…]”

    Why are you not suggesting that? A lot of poems I’ve read would drive anybody to drink, and if the perpetrators of them weren’t drunk they must have been either rather stupid or very strange indeed. And many of the best poets have been drunks, while the poets who were opium addicts, murderers or participants in incest were comparatively second-rate.

    Good poets in America are especially likely to be drunk. From E A Robinson (who was almost literally scooped up from the gutter by Theodore Roosevelt) to John Berryman and beyond, a grossly overworked liver seems to have been the organ from which good poetry has mostly originated.

    There’s nothing wrong with being sober, of course: sober people sometimes write quite nice prose.


    1. I’m not suggesting it’s essential. Undoubtedly, it may help.
      I think I may have written some of my best poems when sober. But I suspect that at least some of the revision process will have taken place “under the affluence”.


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