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Roger McGough, Hoylake Community Centre, 11th July 2015
National Poetry Day celebrates its 21st Birthday on Thursday 8th October 2015, this year the theme is light, and we thought we could commemorate this with our – somewhat belated - review of Roger McGough’s appearance at the Wirral Festival of Firsts this summer.
We were lucky that night as – having got completely lost on the way – after thinking we would have to sit apart, arriving just before the performance started; we managed to get front row seats. Billy Hatton, a lifelong friend of McGough introduced him, and it was heartwarming to hear how they travelled from London to Liverpool with no need to turn on the radio, as the conversation flowed. Something we lack in today’s world with our constant saturation of social media.
McGough read from his latest collection ‘As Far as I Know’ and having recently purchased the book, it was fantastic to hear the poems brought to life in his reading. In Another Time, Another Place, we see how childhood memories can play tricks on you, and the balance between risk and adventure. In Window Gazing, he displays his characteristic humour. He veers back into more sombre subjects with The Wallet, a tale of the contrast between riches and ruin.
The Wobblies shows McGough with an awareness of age. Knock Knock displays the uncertain world we now live in, and how there is always something to be afraid of, be it cancer, war, or natural disasters. The title poem, As Far As I Know, also touches on this, with a focus on crime.
Beyond Compare shows McGough with an increasing awareness of his own mortality, understandable at the age of 77, yet something we can all relate to regardless of age. The Publicist’s Last Letter also touches on this theme, with a focus on the difference between media portrayals, and actual events.
At Home with the Surrealists gave a welcome return to McGough’s comical side, especially enjoyable having visited the Dali museum, which provided us an extra insight into the poem. Poem on the Underground summed up McGough’s humour at his best; succinct, visual, and bold. Events&Happenings 1964 was particularly potent as the reading was close to Liverpool, which meant the audience could relate to the places mentioned, and the sentiment of reflection was the most powerful.
Scorpio was a joy to hear, with emphasis in all the right places. I can definitely relate to the outlook of your poems being akin to offspring.
In Not for Me a Youngman’s Death, a nod to his earlier poem Let me Die a Youngman’s Death, McGough shows an about turn in his earlier belief, having lived a long life, he wants simpler things now than in his youth. His Poem A Good Age shows the fragility and mortality of life.
Having seen Roger McGough read before in Liverpool, he gave an equally outstanding performance at the Festival of Firsts, and was happy to sign books afterwards. As Far As I Know shows him with a crystal clear awareness of the brutality of modern life, while having an increasing awareness of his own mortality. I couldn’t help but think that night it could be the last time I see him read – but I hope with every fibre of my being it wasn’t.