Pete Doherty offers sage words of wisdom on the war poets. Or, alternatively, drugged up prat with total absence of self control mumbles some half-remembered chunks of poems he learned at school, pretends it gets him closer to his Dad’s military experience, and is fawned over my mindless journalists as the source of all profundity. One of those. I’m not quite sure if we’re supposed to take from his lawding of Suicide in the Trenches that he too has known ‘the hell where youth and laughter go’ – but if he’s genuinely equating getting nabbed by the police in some East End crackhouse with the trenches of the Western Front, then all I can say is that he can go ————- (deleted on grounds of hygiene and physical impossibility)

Doherty will be reading the poem as part of a celebration of National Poetry Day, which is tomorrow. The theme of the day is ‘Identity’ – so I think there is an interesting case to be made here about how that limited selection of the war poets taught in British schools do get incorporated into ‘identity’ both individually – no-one like a teenager for enjoying a poem about being alienated – and nationally. But relying on a couple of Sassoon and Owen poems to tell you about war is a bit like relying on Hallmark to tell you about love.

Damn – major esprit d’escalier moment there. Obviously I should have said that last sentence in the course of my interview this morning for ‘Things We Forgot to Remember’ (see post below). As part of my – to use Mark Grimsley’s phrase ‘Education of a Talking Head’ – it was interesting. Had a great time describing Haig’s memorial service. But speaking in sentences and paragraphs can be harder than it seems. Sometimes felt myself going off into waffle. That was okay, though, once I realised that I could say – ‘sorry, we need to do that again’. A couple of times I felt myself walking on thin ice. Very disconcerting to see presenter and producer suddenly nodding enthusiastically and making encouraging hand movements and to think ‘What did I just say?’ And of course the problem is that I spend far too long thinking about some of this stuff, so can be hard to remember what people who know nothing about it will find interesting. I have a feeling that i did ‘texture’ – descriptions of crowds in 1928, or 137 Bde on Riqueval Bridge – pretty well, I’m not sure if my analysis came across so clearly. And found myself at the end saying that the big thing people should remember about reactions to the First World War is that they were complicated. Well, uh, dur!


3 Responses to Shambles.

  1. Jack says:

    “Relying on a couple of Sassoon and Owen poems to tell you about war is a bit like relying on Hallmark to tell you about love” is a line worthy of the finest, wittiest of columnists. Bravo!

    All my years as a, ahem, performing artiste taught me that an even more impressive radio technique than saying ‘I’m sorry, we need to do that again’ is, simply, to deliberately fluff a word or a line if you think you’ve gone off on the wrong track, pause, then start your answer again. Better still: just stop mid-sentence, raise your hand, pause, then start again. As long as there’s a pause there’s an edit point, so it is not a problem. They’ll think you a frightfully experienced trouper (if not trooper) if you do either of these. And it gets the power and status back from the interviewer and crew to you.

    I’m very taken with your other recent comment on ‘performing’ history. I do think there is a need for the kind of one-hour crash course in vocal techniques which I’ve always promised to spring on the unsuspecting QMUL history department. I wonder if there would be a wider demand for this? ‘Let’s all lie on the floor, relax, and hummmm….’

  2. Chris Williams says:

    Jack, why not contact the IHR and ask them to offer it? In an ideal world there would be a whole course on ‘Making History in the Media’ which would open up the commissioning, production, and promotion process, as well as how academics can do good interview.

    Performing history for the media is hard, and not everyone can do it – this is, alas a very apposite thing for me to say today, since Arthur Marwick’s funeral is in progress. The best obit is in the Glasgow Herald here:

    Dan – _you’re_ worried? I was counting on you to be able to hold the story together…

  3. What bothers me about Docherty’s comments is that I know some dim teacher is going to read them to his class to prove that poetry must be really ever so cool, because this singer out of the Babystranglers really digs it. And so the students be put off all poetry for life.

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