Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Rupert the Man

Rupert Loydel, the head knob of the Langpo press Stride publishing was getting a kicking from the bores on the Poem UK site, where they witter and gossip, so I stuck it to him as well, as I am in that frame of mind to be positive about my dislikes.


Rupert came to do a reading at Edge Hill College, Ormskirk, Lancashire, UK (My home town) when I was in the third year and the poetry class (all 6) were told we could have a gig doing support, but I was the only one to avail of the offer, along with a few MA students.

I was the last support slot before Rupert and, as was my practice at the time, delivered my five minute set from memory, eyes closed and mic clutched in hand for the first one -

Take that trip to where your spells can cast
themselves and linger not too long upon the way

some thoughts may be too far researched then
wrongly shape the words you feel a need to say.

What's inside is abstract and precision with the fit
of words helps refract a potential multitude of

meanings one soul spark of thought can dazzle into
life on its journey of translation

from mind through mouth to audience before you

At this point I opened my eyes to see an audience and continued to finish -

held from spellbound to disinterested

depending on
depending on
depending upon your words.

I then did the other two, a metrical sonnet Aughton, and a section from a performance poem Moods Are Passing Clouds. I had put about an hours rehearsal time that day into the five minute reading from memory.

During the delivery of his metallic 40 minute reading only one poem, about his dad, was spoken in a way which afforded genuine connection between him and his audience. The rest of the reading was about as unexciting as being stuck on hold when phoning the tax office, and his mask that night seemed to be one of professional misery and the above-it-all-torture of an under-recognised and self declared linguistic giant amongst the 20 or so names which constitute the Langpo landscape UK side.

The following day, because Rupert was such a heavy hitter, he did a workshop with both the MA and poetry classes, and I detected that, beneath his grumpy facade, he was actually pissed off for real, and naturally convinced myself that this was due to the high quality of my support the previous evening.

The format of the workshop was like doing factory work and it was made clear to us that the stern hued, foreman faced literary squib before us was a man whose workshop leader MO was of a no nonsense or leisurely chit chatty type, as he had public transport considerations to think of. An uncuddly George Sziertes from the opposite side of the lyrical track. (George is always droning on about trains and what happens on them, but never buses.)

A commercial enterprise of art by numbers. Poetic construction using a method equivalent to the dot to dot or colouring in book, which involved Rupert playing snatches of songs on a tape recorder, and the participants who he had deigned to share his being with, writing to barked commands as the non-rhyming genius of meaningless verse bestrode a small section of classroom floor like a caged animal, exuding the magnetism of one whose mind was utterly focused on catching a train back ino the bowels of SW England.

The enterprise resulted in a bumper number of turgid works the more generously minded would call "workshop poems", but which were in effect, a collective outpouring of complete shite, manufactured by a random lengthy conveyor belt-like process of robotic collaboration, where Rupert took on a camp commandant role, issuing instructions and orders with a quiet and authoritive control, furthering the impression of poetry I had been recieving from poets in the UK during my three years study. Namely, that it was a very serious business with no real place for japes and titters, unless the crack or gag passed muster and had been grunted assent in an exclusive kind of way by an imaginary panel of laugh assessors who, far from wetting their knickers with my mental efforts at releasing the titter gas, would have had me horsewhipped for gross unfunniness.


It was a tough old slog that afternoon, with a distinctly rushed feeling to it. A marathon session of poetry making, with Rupert's mien being a mix of Mein Fuhrer and straight faced gentlemen joke-hater doubling as state executioner, with an overall demeanour suggestive of striding through a 1930's Berlin patio door dressed in leiderhosen and trench coat, barking out short snappy orders to keep the precise and long-winded poetic compositional method of his own devising running on time. One of what I presume are many methods used, which have led to the results in his own, massively under-read ouvre.


His aura that afternoon could be likened to that of the seasoned sex worker who is always seeking to finish early. He was there, he did what was expected of him and immediately exited, with no conversation or pretence that the exchange was anything other than the business of creating pointless poems no one believed in, but which helped pay the bills one acquires in a life as a poet of no importance whose work will be immediatley forgotten once consciousness slips into the big beyond. Indeed the only use of his method would be when the participants became creative writing teachers who could palm it off on other wannabees themselves as a legitimate mode of gang bang creation.

Fill a few hours on the time sheet, or turn it into a full chapter by utilising it as a group exercise in a how-to-write book they would call a manual, thus making it appear to that the art of poetry is nothing more than a commercial skill one can pick up. Like becoming a mechanic or accountant. Just read follow the manual's instructions, do the 101 exercies and hey presto, you are a poet. Forget meter and all the usual stuff that's been the foundation for centuries. Rupert the one man revolution had decreed that all that jazz is rubbish. The methods have changed, not because they involve hard work and above all ability, but because all the contemporary poet of the Langpo school needs to do now is to pick words out of a hat and put them side by side, and then back it up with unreadable criticism which contains absolutely no meaning.


The night of Rupert's reading was the one when I acquired my first bona fide fan. A bricklaying poetry buff from Kirkby, who approached me and offered to buy me a pint. I took him down to a pub in Ormskirk and we bumped into Gavin, a mate from childhood and I dragged him over, telling him the craic. My fan was of the opinion that Rupert's reading was rubbish and stoked my ego all night by saying how great mine was.

He was quite interesting for a couple of drinks, until he started showing me his own scribblings, when it dawned on me, that in my rush to obtain the trappings of a real poet, I had overlooked the fact that my fan was in reality, a lonely middle aged divorcee who lived in a bedsit; much like I will be when success beckons and I go up in the world by moving out of the homeless hostel.

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