21 thoughts on “Featured Poem: Howard Jacobson surprised by joy in Soho restaurant”

  1. Is this the literary equivalent of asking a doctor for medical advice over supper? Very bad form, if so, and you couldn’t hear a word! Still, at least it took place beyond the ‘cradle of civilisation’ aka ‘the Wirral’!

    N.B. Scousers, like my proud self, don’t think of ‘over the water’ as Liverpool so why is so much of The Reader’s contribution to Liverpool’s year as the ‘European Capital of Culture’ taking place there? I ask merely for information …

  2. Hi Noggin
    It took place in Soho, London, so even further afield I’m afraid…The supper was irrelevant – see my previous post from in NY Central Station Bookshop…wherever someone might be persuaded to recite poems or quote or read from favourite books I may be there with my camera so watch out…

    Re The Reader Organisation’s contribution to Capital of Culture. ‘Over the Waterites’ don’t think of themselves in Liverpool either but the whole Merseyside area – yes, even Halton (come on – do you know where it is?) even St Helens – could be and in my opinion, should be celebrating Capital of Culture and building culture up on the back of it and what’s more, the sooner we are one big City the better… Liverpool’s tops of course but Merseysiders should be hanging together… Be neighbourly!

    Quite aside from that, The Reader Organsation does a lot of its Social Inclusion work on Wirral and we wanted to do some good stuff that people could get to easily. So, The Winter’s Tale, Birkenhead Park 29, 30 August. Be there or be miss a Wirral-flavoured Merseyside treat…

    But if you really are landlocked in Liverpool and can’t travel, Shipping Lines Literary Festival, Nov 8-10 – and then night of nghts to end the year: The Penny Readings, Smal Concert Room, St Georges Hall, Sunday 7 December.

  3. Hi Jane,

    Yep, word had reached me that Soho was in London so I got that – still think it was a bit tough on the poor chap, though, there he is trying to each his meal and he has to mumble a verse!
    I know that ‘Wirralites’ don’t think of themselves as Liverpool, that’s the problem, they think it’s posh to live ‘over the water’, except when there’s some reason to associate with Liverpool as with the ECC. Scousers are the friendliest people in the world and have a great sense of humour, hence my comment, it’s just a bit irritating that so many of your events do take place on the Wirral when Liverpool has so many great venues. Anyway, a few lines to bear in mind:

    A Scouser’s Lament

    The word has certainly spread,
    That ‘The Pool’s’ gaining cultural ‘cred’,
    But if reading’s your bag,
    Then it can be a drag,
    Coz you’ve got to live in Birkenhead!

  4. Well, even though he forgot half of it, and even though the restaurant is dark, and spoons are noisy, and the poor bloke probably wanted his pud, Gawd bless him for reciting Wordsworth. And for being sure that the line goes ‘But how could I forget thee?’ when blind and beguiled had got themselves all muddled up.

    All strength to your camera and intrepidity, Jane.

    MORE WORDSWORTH. Can we just have more Wordsworth everywhere, on every occasion, at the drop of a hat, whether in Liverpool, West Lancs, or even the Wirral?

  5. I do have another bit of film of HJ reciting a different Wordsworth poem exceptionally well in the same circumstances and I will post that when I feel this thread has expressed enough interest in seeing it.

    Meanwhile – bets on which poem it is? Five readerly pounds or a free lucky dip book to the right guesser.

    (Not you, Howard. Though actually, that would be some feat of memory, given the lateness of the hour, the fluidity of the wine, the raucous, witty and wide-ranging conversation, the delightful excess of the dinner, and the pud … ohhhh the the silky sweet smoothness of the pud, and then there was the dessert wine, the chocolates and cigars, the port, the brandy, and finally the cards and dancing girls… A night to remember, if at all possible .. So, yes, even you, Howard may enter this Reader Competition: what was the other poem?)

    Money and book ready here on the table.

  6. I’m interested! Give us a little clue please — go on. Is it a whole short poem or a passage from a long one? I’m fighting Noggin for that fiver.

    Hmm, it’s going to be a similar kind of poem or a similar grab in this poem to ‘Surprised by Joy’. Your brain doesn’t remember different kinds of poem after the silky smooth pud/booze/dancing girls/cigars etc. Your brain wants the same fare again and again… so that narrows it a bit. Oh bugger. A poem by Wordsworth about rich loss and memory and catching himself out thinking about it all. Gaaah!

    Clue please?!

  7. Well ‘Tintern Abbey’ is a wonderful poem but perhaps a little long for an after-dinner request in those spoon-rattling circumstances. Go short.

    Go serious. And it’s not so self-conscious as ‘Surprised By Joy’. Maybe not so long.
    And arguably bigger. It is indeed a whole poem, perhaps in the deepest possible sense.

    It was HJ’s first thought – ‘Surprised’ By Joy an afterthought.

  8. PS

    I’m disturbed that you are both fighting for the fiver when there is also a free mystery book: what kind of readers are you?

  9. Shameful but true, the fiver has a reality that the mystery book can’t command.

    How about ‘Animal Tranquillity and Decay’, that’s a whole life, never mind a whole poem.

  10. Good guess and the right kind of length but no… oh well, you’ve had a go. I’ll ask blog man to post it soon. But I don’t think I can award the fiver to you or Nogin.

  11. Just as I thought, a ‘Welching Wirralite’ – couldn’t even given me a double ‘g’!

    A Few Lines Typed on Losing a Fiver

    I squandered my last lonely pound,
    That lingered long to pay my bills,
    In hopes a fiver was my way bound,
    If I could source a poet’s skills:
    It seems my dreams were all in vain,
    Thanks a bloomin’ million, Jane!

    (Okay, it’s not Wrdsworth but sometimes neither was he!)

  12. I was just about to go,
    But see I’ve omitted Willy’s ‘o’!
    So before you point it out to me,
    And ‘crit.’ this poetic travesty,
    I thought I’d point it out to you –
    Could Sarah and self cut the fiver in two?!

  13. Given the recent news about McGonigle (sp?) Nog, I think you’ll soon be in the money yourself if you carry on like this. Blogman – get this blog to Sothebys.

  14. OK, I give up on the fiver. In (devious) Solomonic style I say give it to the Nog for services to poetry and all that. But here’s my last guess for the sheer sport: it’s one of the Lucy Grey poems.

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