Photo by Tony Whittle
"They Shoot Horses Don't They ...?"
A sunny day in back in the 1970s and there's a parade through the streets of Newcastle. I don’t recall the reason for it, some mayoral celebration or significant civic anniversary perhaps, but it was quite extensive.
There were floats and fanciful costumes, crowds along the pavements and amidst the slow moving, slightly unruly jollity, on the flat-back of a lorry, the Tyneside Poets, declaiming their verses through a loud hailer.
Amongst the collective of young bards was the father figure, a poet in his fifties who was as enthusiastic as ever he’d been. Alan C. Brown read with customary enthusiasm his poem inspired by a popular film of the day, “They Shoot Horses Don’t They…”
Alan was the link between the upsurge of poetic interest in the 1950s and a group of poets determined to take poetry out from the hallowed halls of academe to wherever it might find a hearing, the more unlikely the venue the better.
The spirit of originality suffused Alan who cared little for conforming to conventional thinking. This showed through in his combining being a practicing Christian with a political sympathy for Russia.
As a poet he had an enduring interest in Russian poetry, with the possibility that poetry could become a popular art form. While others of his generation may have acquired greater public acknowledgement, none could match Alan’s enthusiasm and capacity for poetry.
Being one of those young bards on the lorry, I have vivid memories of my time with the Tyneside Poets and the central role Alan played in it. Even after that original group dispersed, Alan persisted and kept things going, organising subsequent groups that bore the name.
Initially, Keith Armstrong and I set up the Poetry Tyneside blog to put work drawn from Poetry North East, the Tyneside Poets’ magazine, on-line. Alan’s poetry was and is an important part of that heritage.
They may shoot horses, but old poets read on until they can read no more. Alan C. Brown may no longer read, but it is a testimony to him that he will continue to be read.
The Poet’s Tongue
(For Alan C. Brown)
The poet’s tongue is in repose,
His ear shrouded in silence,
But though the voice has passed away
Words remain of consequence.
Time is versed in its own passing:
Rigour of mortis requires
Syllables be chosen with care
Before their moment expires.
What remain stays with the reading,
Way beyond fad or fashion.
His spirit lives though the verses
Penned with the ink of passion.