Saturday, 28 January 2012

Thursday Knight

By Ashley Lister

For me Thursday night this week started back in October 2011, when Jane Brunning asked if the Dead Good Poets would be interested in attending a Word Soup event. For those who think it’s unreal to think of a night in January 2012 starting three months earlier I have to point out that this is winter in the north and the nights are getting longer.

My response to Jane Brunning was, ‘Sure. I’ll try anything once.’

I have a mindset to try anything once: except voting Tory or eating snails. There are some things where you only have to look at the ugly slimy little buggers to know that they’ll leave a nasty taste in your mouth.

And I also feel this way about snails.

So in October I confirmed with my fellow bloggers that we were all free to step out of our respective comfort zones and venture, as Shaun so eloquently described Preston at the start of this week, behind enemy lines.

There were further exchanges of emails. There was talk of us trying to combine our styles into one single performance piece. Lara had the genius idea of us each describing ourselves by the day of the week on which we blog. It was a shame that the idea didn’t pan out. Vicky, who is a constant explosion of ingenuity, was coming up with a rush of ideas that could have made our collective appearance seem more cohesive. Lindsay – who writes the most entertaining children’s fiction I’ve ever read – did her usual trick of containing her fears so that no one would have even guessed she was ‘bricking it.’

There were email discussions where we got snarled up in the complexities of who’d sent which message first and who’d responded privately rather than to the group and who was sticking to the theme and who was giving who a lift.

There were email discussions where the less informed amongst us discovered we were on the same bill as Jo Bell and panicked at the idea of working alongside someone so revered and respected in the world of poetry. As is turned out, the reverence for Jo Bell is deserved – she is absolutely sensational.

It’s known amongst this group that Ste Stroud does not believe in God. But surely he must believe in miracles because he was standing onstage with the rest of us on Thursday night. Given our fears and our collective organisational skills, it’s a miracle that any one of us was there.

As a side note I should say here that I’ve been immersed in writing my latest novel this last couple of months. It’s all sword and sorcery and dungeons and dragons and damsels in distress.

And alliteration.

If I’m not writing that novel I’m either researching medieval minutiae or I’m reading Game of Thrones. Occasionally I take some time away from the writing to practice wielding a broadsword. Right now I’m using the broadsword as a method for training the dogs. For anyone who is concerned about this, I can say that most of the dogs still have heads.

And I mention this connection with glamorised medieval depictions of knights because that was how I felt on Thursday night. I had ridden into Preston with my fellow knights. I was confident in the knowledge that each and every one of my colleagues was worthy to bear the arms of being a Dead Good Poet because I know each and every one of them is damned good and armed with strengths that complement the weaknesses burdening the rest of us.

And I’m now looking forward to the next time we can set out as a banner of knights ready to conquer another audience.



Lara Clayton said...

Poetry knights on horses named after poets... This could be made into a children's TV programme.

Brilliant and honest post :)


Ashley R Lister said...


I can't remember having such a fun night.

And, following up on your idea, I want a horse called Beowulf. I know that's the poem and not the poet but as it was author unknown last time I read anything academic about its history.

What horse name are you going for?


Lindsay said...

I thought I'd done a bloody good job of sharing my terror, panic and being a big child with everyone haa. I shall call my horse fleabag monkeyface and my weapon will be horse poo. And I will fling lots of it.

Ashley R Lister said...

If Christopher Robin can have a bear called Pooh, then I think you should be allowed a horse called fleabag monkeyface.

Technically it should have been named after a poet - or is this a nickname for a poet of our acquaintance?


Lindsay said...

Its the name of a childrens book series, and as I write children's stuff I thought it would be more fitting.

Ashley R Lister said...

Ah! I suspected you were referring to poets called Fleabag and Monkeyface who used to attend DGPS events :-)

And the title sounds much more interesting than The Water Babies or Peter Pan...


Ste said...

In honour of his majestical overlord, Terry Pratchett, my steed shall be named, 'Binky' and, lo, word shall spread among the people to tread in fear of the third horseman, whose weapon shall be halitosis.

I have the whole series of 'A Song of Ice and Fire' Ash if you need to borrow copies. If you're getting into dragon literature, I also heartily recommend Robin Hobb - one of the only fantasy series that has actually made me cry, both in sadness and happiness!

Ste said...

If I have to choose a poet for my horse then I think it would have to be 'Byron' But then again 'Shelly' would really piss-off Miss Hayward wouldn't it? Ok, you twisted my arm, 'Shelly' it is!

Ashley R Lister said...


I sobbed when Neddard Stark killed one of the Dire Wolves. I'm probably the wimpiest reader in the whole of the seven kingdoms.

And I'm now going to look out for the Robin Hobb stuff.


vicky ellis said...


It only takes one word to encapsulate my reason for not reading epic fantasy novels and that word is Neddard.

Ashley R Lister said...


You're missing a rare treat.