Saturday, December 11, 2010

RD Laing at the Poetry Olympics

This is an advert for a poetry bash at the Sherman Theatre, Cardiff, in 1981. The improbable line-up for an evening's entertainment includes anti-psychiatry guru RD Laing (along with his wife Jutta) and punk poet John Cooper Clarke. Also on the bill versifiers: Mike Horowitz, Ronnie Wather, Dmitri Savitski, Fran Landesman and Heathcote Williams. Laing was renowned for his highly influential book The Divided Self (1960), which challenged orthodox interpretations of so-called mental illness. However, it is often forgotten that this Sixties counter-culture icon also wrote poems. His collections include Knots (1970), Do You Love Me? (1976), and Sonnets (1976). I'm not entirely sure why his wife is on the bill - perhaps she read some of the stuff that was written in dialogue form? Whatever, they split up that year anyway. Did anyone go to the Poetry Olympics at the Sherman Theatre in '81 - only I’m quite curious as to how RD went down?


Poet John Gimblett attended the Poetry Olympics event at the Sherman Theatre in 1981. Here are his observations:

I was a huge R D Laing fan so went to it just to see him really. He read some of his work, but mostly he played boogie-woogie piano (yes, really!). His wife read a little and sang as well, while her husband played piano.

I remember Heathcote Williams was quite good, but went on a bit. I can just about remember Fran Landesman and Horowitz. However, I don't remember John Cooper Clarke being there - and I would have noticed as I'd heard him on the John Peel show many times then.

Everyone loved Laing though and he got huge applause for his playing and reading - he was certainly the star of the 'show'.

*John Gimblett’s latest book Monkey is published by Cinnamon Press and is on sale now.