Pickled Tongues, or… the MC’s Dilemma: The Birkbeck Poets ride again.


Fine words, fine wines and ales, fine company… it can only end in pickled tongues, can’t it?

Still, it’s a reasonable method of preservation and, as Eliot once said, a country that can’t produce poetry ceases to be civilised. Looking around, there may be other sources, but perhaps more recent than anything TS would have observed.

So, yes – another Birkbeck Poets evening at the Duke of Wellington on the Balls Pond Road. A plethora of talent, both emerging – current students and alumni of Birkbeck’s Humanities department – and established: Martina Evans and Liane Strauss will be reading too. And more live music from The Jazz Monkeys.

Just the one dilemma, then. Having established the tradition, your truly – as MC for the evening – must acquire another hat. I’ve already worn all the millinery I own. And between now and then, I shall be in Belgium ‘celebrating’ another birthday. (The scare quotes are for the age I’ll be, not for how I’ll feel about it.) So time for a little crowdsourcing, if I may? (One tries to keep up with current trends.) Does anyone know where a gentleman can acquire a stylish titfer in Bruges? Answers in the comments section, please.

I did try to find a great poem about hats to finish, although Google turned out not to be my friend on this occasion. But I did find this prose poem, by James Tate.

The List of Famous Hats
Napoleon’s hat is an obvious choice I guess to list as a famous hat, but that’s not the hat I have in mind. That was his hat for show. I am thinking of his private bathing cap, which in all honesty wasn’t much different than the one any jerk might buy at a corner drugstore now, except for two minor eccentricities. The first one isn’t even funny: Simply it was a white rubber bathing cap, but too small. Napoleon led such a hectic life ever since his childhood, even farther back than that, that he never had a chance to buy a new bathing cap and still as a grown-up–well, he didn’t really grow that much, but his head did: He was a pinhead at birth, and he used, until his death really, the same little tiny bathing cap that he was born in, and this meant that later it was very painful to him and gave him many headaches, as if he needed more. So, he had to vaseline his skull like crazy to even get the thing on. The second eccentricity was that it was a tricorn bathing cap. Scholars like to make a lot out of this, and it would be easy to do. My theory is simple-minded to be sure: that beneath his public head there was another head and it was a pyramid or something.

So, as well as Bruges’ finiest milliners, feel free to post links to poems about hats. And we’ll see you in Dalston on 14 June. Remember to wipe your feet on the way in…



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