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40 Love

McGough, Patten and the crowds toast an absent friend at the Everyman

Published on October 23rd 2007.


40 Love

It was forty years ago today…..(well, okay, this year), that Roger McGough, Brain Patten and Adrian Henri were thrown together in print by Penguin books..

The Mersey Sound went on to become the country’s best-selling anthology of verse and to honour the impact of this book Penguin have republished it in their Modern Classics series and McGough and Patten have been touring the country, performing some of those seminal works, and appearing in a very well researched South Bank Show a couple of weeks back.

Adrian Henri, of course, died in December 2000 but his presence was very much felt last Saturday night at Liverpool’s Everyman Theatre with the two poets arriving on stage to a recording of Henri reading ‘Bat Poem.’

The second of two nights to be quickly sold out, and McGough and Patten were greeted by an enthusiastic crowd, quick to launch into warm laughter as McGough pondered whether we’d mind them organising the set around the rugby.

Many were old enough to have read The Mersey Sound when it was first published, but the beauty of these poems is their immediate rhythms and witty accessibility, and so it was no surprise to find the audience a wide mix of people united only in their mission to have a bloody good night out.

Brain Patten, who started his writing career on the Bootle Times, performed first, with sweet, whimsical material including his well-loved work about creativity, Minister for Exams.

But it is McGough who has done the most to established this peculiarly Liverpudlian poetic sensibility in the world and, as he recited his verse, it was easy to see why. With all the deftness and drollness of a stand up, the emotive imagery of a poet and the wardrobe of a rock star, McGough had the audience in the palm of his hand. His poems capture beauty in the oddities of ordinary life, and there were some particularly knowing laughs from the audience as he read works rebelling against the indignities of old age.

And Henri, though gone, was an ever-constant presence: the two read his lovely poem Talking After Christmas Blues, and in the second half of the evening which included a Q&A with the audience they brought on a third chair for their absent comrade.

Having the pair back together on scouse soil after all these years, it seemed the audience would have happily stayed put asking questions all night: “Do you think Liverpool deserves the Capital of Culture?”; “What’s the difference between poetry and lyrics?”, “Which poet would you most like to have dinner with?”; “What do you miss most about Liverpool?”; “What’s you favourite children’s poem?” – the latter question poised by a very brave, nervous young boy who was delighted (as were the rest of us) with McGough’s rapid-fire response: “To amuse emus on warm summer nights, kiwis do wee wees from spectacular heights.”

Over from the wrong side of the Mersey, I spent a few hours walking around Liverpool before landing at the Everyman. Visiting in the context of this 40 year anniversary it wasn’t hard to see the spirit of this publication reflected all around; in the lack of pretension, the mix of people and the propensity to see the humour in the everyday situation. Four decades might have passed but the beat most definitely goes on.
*The Mersey Sound (Penguin), £9.99.

Nicola Mostyn

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lennons deadOctober 23rd 2007.

The so called mersey sound died when lennon left england for superstar radical-chicness in america. let the noise die out and focus on the present day liverpool decaying into the mersey. all the plastic hotels and urbansplashed follies in the world dont alter the fact that liverpool is dead as a city and a bastion of radicalism.

AnonymousOctober 23rd 2007.

Larry David will be glad he moved here to get away from all the fires in Malibu.

Jerry SeinfeldOctober 23rd 2007.

What's Larry David doing on here?

KevinOctober 23rd 2007.

I remember being thrilled when I first met Adrian Henri in the Everyman bistro in the early 80s. He lived in Mount Street and he was THE Liverpool Institute. He enjoyed a party right until the end, did Adrian. What a shame they didn't get it back together when he was alive. But still, an excellent performance from the other two last weekend.

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