The title of this post comes from a Johnny Tillotson song (mp3). The reason I chose it is because someone I know is in the middle of a poetry tour.
The person in question is Felix Dennis; a man whose friendship I treasure and whose publishing values I aspire to. He knows, better than any other publisher I've met, that the reader is the most important person in the world.
We went to his show at the Stratford-upon-Avon RSC Courtyard Theatre via a long detour to avoid a traffic clag-up on the M40, a check-in at the olde worlde Falcon Hotel, a cream tea at the Emporium and a tasty meal at Loxley's. Ah, not to mention the six free glasses of wine at the theatre. Cheers, Felix.
Off the top of my head, here are ten verbs that attempt to capture the Felix style. He whispers, growls, barks, laughs and shouts. He cajoles, implores, questions, stirs and delights. Not really what I expected, but I should have done, it's exactly how he behaves face-to-face.
Truth be told, he also promotes, begs and sells. He seeks donations for his Heart of England Forest charity, his poetry books and his periodicals – especially The Week and its associated wine retailer. Oh yes, he moans too about the state of our nation, of Europe and several of its individual countries, and of the poverty in St. Vincent, for which he's Honorary Consul in Warwickshire. He urged audience members thinking of a Caribbean holiday to go to St Vincent for a better welcome, wonderful scenery and lower costs. (A crude summary of what Felix actually said.)
Perhaps because he's become a local lad – his main home in the UK is in the nearby village of Dorsington – or maybe because of the free wine, or both, he was well-received in Stratford. The audience was on his side from the off, and stayed there through an interesting mix of sad, funny, moving and thought-provoking poems. All linked together with cameos from his life and illustrated with back-projected images, movies and words from his poems.
I spotted a Bonzo Dog Doo Dah band placard in the sequence from the 60's. A friend of mine played with them when they were called The New Jungle Orchestra. All a long time ago…. I also spotted a typo or two in the poetry texts. "Baffoon" was one. And I think I saw a "wilt" where I expected a "wit", or maybe my thoughts were elsewhere.
An evening with Felix is unusual, to say the least. He shares his life's learnings in an enjoyable way. He talks about life aboard the Bearded Dwarf – his company poem. The staff used to call him that, so he adopted it as a pseuonym for his companies. I didn't, but I could have nodded all the way through that poem – in agreement, not exhaustion. I probably learnt more about publishing, editing, writing and life in my own 27 months as a crew member (from mid '79) than during the rest of my life..
Thank you Felix, for the show last night and for inspiring the second half of my life.