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The (other) beat goes on

'Work of Patten, Henri and McGough inspired more Brits to get into poetry

Published on September 2nd 2010.


The (other) beat goes on

THE verses of Adrian Henri, Roger McGough and Brian Patten have earned legions of fans since the heyday of The Liverpool Scene the 1960s and 1970s. Now a leading academic is claiming that they were responsible for inspiring a new generation of British people to embrace a greater interest and love of poetry.

Dr Bernardino Nera, of Tor Vergata University in Rome, told a gathering of some of the world's leading geographical experts how the Liverpool beat poets' work was to attract a much larger and inclusive audience, driven in large part by the cultural and landscape changes taking place within the city itself since the 1960s.

Yesterday, he presented his findings, alongside his colleague Dr Floriana Marinzuli of La Sapienza University in Rome, to the Royal Geographical Society international conference taking place in London.

Nera has been studying the relationship between poets from Liverpool and the city itself, particularly McGough, Patten and Henri, since he first spent time here in the early 1970s.

Speaking about his research, he said: “The 1960s saw Liverpool take on a significant role, more so than any other region of Britain, in opening up involvement in the arts, including poetry, to many more people. As such, the city and its poets – because of a more visible national profile – led the way in the ‘British poetry revival’, something which continues to be reflected today in the strength of the city’s involvement in art and cultural activities.”

In a session called Sense, Identity and Emotion, in which such diverse geographical themes as prog rock in Eastern Europe and the visibility of gays in Lisbon (the one in Portugal) were also up for discussion, he explained to delegates from around the world how at, the peak of its 1960s powers, “Liverpool, temporarily became a rising star which eclipsed the dominant cultural role of London”.

Many in the city are, of course, aware of this, but Nera thought it was worth pointing out again, explaining how such a creative bubble came about after the Beatles decamped to London, which was, as we all know, almost immediately.

“The intense visibility that this event (Beatlemania) gave the city also attracted a multitude of young artists, self-styled or would-be musicians, poets and painters who were allured by the fervid artistic ferment in the air,” he says.

Edward Lucie-Smith, in his introduction to the Penguin anthology The Liverpool Scene, (1967) also continued the geograpgical theme, claiming that any discussion of Liverpool poetry had to turn to the city itself which is very much present in most of the poems written by the local poets, not only its various monuments, the street names and so on, but also the very turn of speech and the attitude to life which they express.

The poets, Nera says, also had a very strong and deep bond with the city, a sort of emotional addiction, a profound love-hate relationship.

Later recalling those years, Brian Patten felt himself as wrapped up in the city’s amnion, he says: “Liverpool is a sort of – it’s a city. I mean I feel I belong here. I’ve got
a sort of – what’s its name? – got a sort of complex about it – Oedipus complex I expect.”

However highly regarded their place in modern literature today, the Liverpool Poets had their critics with one, Alan Alvarez despairing of "The fashion for the diluted near-verse designed for mass readings and poetry-and-jazz concerts". As to the idea of linking it with pop lyrics, he dismissed as "the logic of a traditional form at its weariest".

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artySeptember 2nd 2010.

The exhibition of the Mersey Sound that was held at the Victoria gallery was abosolutely fantastic, which makes me wonder, why can there not be a permanent exhibition of their work in L.pool, there are so many fantastic buildings and galleries, the city should be able to justify it

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