I clearly remember shuffling into the room above The Crown, greeting warmly all the other aspiring writers, story tellers, poets and bards assembled with a knowing nod and smile. All of us huddling around the twenty chairs in a circle; reaching into our collective bags to bring out the offerings for tonight’s literary group. Everything was serene until IT stomped into the room, ITs huge frame decorated in black reflecting ITs gargantuan bad mood. The ogre surveyed the room with ITs beady eyes and huffily sat down, moistening ITs lips with its sharpened vicious tongue.
Quietly the oldest, longest serving poet stood and read her new sonnet, lamenting over a lost love. The carefully chosen words caressed with emotion and a delicate fondness of memory evoking a longing, a wanting, a yearning. IT giggled as we praised the piece until silence and accompanying stares focused on IT.
“Pedestrian at best! One can see the off kilter use of rhyme and feeble alliteration are what “WE” would call “the fumblings of a teenager” “ IT said.
The poet sat down, her face bright red. Embarrassed, shocked and definitely hurt, her shoulders sagged and head bowed as all of the assembled people wondered if this representative of the all powerful “WE” was here to impart their wisdom and judge the worthy from the “Pedestrian”.
The next brave soul took a stand and mumbling that it was “a work in progress” started to read his short story. The vivid picture portraying life on a northern estate, a rough animosity though with affectations of beauty, cementing the fact that this was a modern day Anthem to Doomed Youth, which surely Wilfred Owen would see the similarities between his epic war poem and the cheapness of derelict estate life. We all marvelled at how he had managed to intertwine such a poem into a short story and showcase the fact of a beleaguered generation doomed and without hope. We talked at length at how the descriptive narrative captured the soul destroying greyness of a downtrodden estate. IT laughed, ITs bellowing guffawing laugh echoed through the room, until silence and accompanying stares focused on IT.
“You dare, sir, if I may actually call you that. You dare to use Wilfred Owen in your writings. Have you earned such a privilege to bastardize his poetry? I mean I really never cared for Mr Owen that much as he just seems spoon fed to GCSE students and your meagre display just shows that you are stuck in that time still when you were at school. “WE” would think that “work in progress” should be scrapped, harpooned, laid to rest. Let it never darken the door of literature again.” IT said.
IT had doubled in size and blackness. The clothes were a void sucking all hope and happiness out of the room. The all powerful “WE” had spoken and the writer sat down dejected, his head in his hands, tears falling on the floor. IT now had centre stage as IT gazed along the assembled cannon fodder, all trembling as we faced our doom. IT pointed at a new recruit, a story teller who went as Procol Harum once intoned “A whiter shade of pale”. He stood up and started his modern day fable about a man who managed to capture a genie and extract three wishes but all turned out horrible as his greed became the better of him. We squeaked a few audible bits of praise, talking about the modernization of A Thousand and One Arabian Nights, how it encapsulated neatly one of the tales that Shahrazad had told the sultan. IT pointed at the story teller, ITs lips dripping with saliva as IT opened ITs mouth and let out a rolling thunderous mirthless laugh until silence and the accompanying stares focused on IT.
“I thought I had heard every second rate adaptation of certain classics until now. To call yours second rate is an insult to anything rated second! I wouldn’t even third rate it, it would be there at the back of the queue of stories to be rated close to the pile of dung it has festered out of before lolling into your vacuously small indistinct mind. “WE” would assume that you had actually tortured a small child to gain that story from them as it is weak, uncultured, turgid and unflatteringly simple.” IT spat spittle webbed words into the face of story teller, watching him fall into his chair. A shadow of what he once hoped he was.
The all powerful “WE” had claimed another victim. The ogre was now a ferocious giant raised on the bones of literati to make ITs bread, the eyes swivelled this way and that scanning the room for fresh meat until it happened upon our resident beat poet who modelled himself on Jack Kerouac. An air of cool usually followed him everywhere, fragranced mystery perfuming his rhymes, though his usual odour was no longer present as fear replaced it. He stood and tried to drone out a snappy piece which once could have charmed all but now diminished to a lack lustre haphazard assortment of words and syllables. Politely we mentioned Kerouac and how a hommage to his work seemed ever present in this, we mentioned the manipulation of meter, though our eyes shifted to the giant looking murderous at the beatnik, and then IT laughed. The torrential onslaught of vitriol embedded in each guffaw melted the beat poet to a puddle in his chair until silence as the poet reformed and accompanying stares focused on IT.
“I thought this maybe the chance for something good, you actually seemed “cool” enough to manage to come out with something slightly Avant Garde. How wrong I was. You are a miserable excuse for a beat poet; your meter wasn’t playful but an insincere excuse for something you just slung together whilst probably on the toilet, as that is where that bit of work belongs. Kerouac would be turning in his grave right now; in fact he probably has come back to life, just to kill himself again for such an insulting piece of work to see the light of day. “WE” would think you probably should find another hobby, one you could manage with your obvious lack of noticeable talent”
The all powerful “WE” had decimated another. ITs immensity was blocking out every mote of light, turning the room into an abyss suffused with chilling desperation and broken dreams.
“So who is next?” echoed ruin and hell from ITs maw, the youngest and newest member stood up, half smiling.
“How about we hear your work? Lead us by example, as surely we could not even come close to one of your masterpieces.” The youngster said.
IT scratched ITs head and deflated a bit as bluster and bile leaked out in droplets of silvery sweat on its forehead. It reached into ITs bag pulling out a floral notebook decorated with prancing unicorn stickers over the cover. Clearing its throat, silence enveloped the room.
“This short poem is called Hedgehog.
If I were a hedgehog for a day,
I would curl up into a ball in dismay
And then I would say.
“Can this race take over the world?
With metal bars,
And stupid cars.
Well I will live my own life
And not give it like a present.” “
It smiled, It was now half its size and still shrinking as its eyes were drawn to the floor as if searching for the all powerful “WE” for comfort, but the all powerful “WE” had fled the building leaving its belligerent powerless and small emissary behind. Silence and accompanying stares focused on it. Until the newest youngest member giggled, the old poet smirked and tittered, the brave soul shook his head smiling, the story teller laughed with brevity and the beat poet said “not cool” repeatedly, and then the room became a cacophony of guffawing. It was now the size of small man retreating away from the tirade resonating mirth; tripping over a chair it spilled its Children’s Illustrated Thesaurus and Idiot’s Guide to Literary Criticism on the floor. Hastily picking up the books and heading out of the door, it stopped to hear the youngest newest member shout before it disappeared into the night never to be seen again.
“I think we indeed know it,
You are a truly dreadful poet.”