Sunday, October 31, 2021

The Lowry Lounge 2021, Bluecoat, Liverpool (and my poem 'Circle of the City: following in the steps of Chapter Five')

The 2021 Lowry Lounge

Date Sat 30 October 2021

Time 1:00pm - 5:00pm

Location Sandon Room, The Bluecoat, Liverpool…



The annual celebration of Merseyside writer Malcolm Lowry (Under the Volcano) returned with its eleventh afternoon of talks and discussions at Bluecoat. As a Firminist, I took part.

 Diary entry 30 Saturday (303-62) Woke with an idea for taking sentences from the stories I’ve assembled, and cast aside. Sketched it out, before heading to Bluecoat with Patricia for another Lowry Lounge. It was socially distanced with the doors open for ventilation, which made it extremely chilly. Bryan Biggs played Lowry family 78s! (See Helen's photo.)

Bryan, Ailsa Cox and Helen Tookey spoke on Lowry events under lockdown; Alan Dunn talked about a project that looks as though it will be ready next year. (More then, I hope.) Rob Keith talked at length on the Panama Canal. Luckily, but coincidently, I’d re-read Lowry’s story ‘Through the Panama’ the day before, and it was most helpful.

Helen is beginning to write a carefully crafted creative non-fiction book on Lowry and ‘us’, ‘us’ meaning the wider Firminist community. (It’s interesting to note that all the original Firminists spoke on Saturday.) Colin talked about Lowry and Burroughs’ cut up, and Mark Goodall spoke on Lowry and Bossa Nova, both teasing, unproven connections (about which I have a lot to say, if I get the chance). Michael Romer ZOOMed in – and is onto something about sexuality in Under the Volcano (particularly using the ‘new’ 1940 UTV).

I read my piece, slowly and deliberately as part of the ‘Open Malc’, with three other contributors. I thought this poem worked quite well in the context, given that In the Ballast had been explored a number of times, particularly by Helen. (See below.)

We then went to The Lion (as in the poem!) and went Sardinian, before going home, masked through the Covid-rich Halloween crowds. Certainly more masks in the Bluecoat than on the streets, other than Halloween ones. Our annual Day of the Dead celebrations often coincide with this madness.


Introduction to my poem. 'This poem, Circle of the City, is a series of haiku written (or drafted) while following the walk taken by sailor-revolutionary Sigbjorn and his shipowner father as described (in both senses of the word) by Lowry in his novel In Ballast to the White Sea. Their Liverpool walk starts (and ends) at Exchange Flags and skirts the docks, the shopping centre, and rests at a cinema to view a Russian revolutionary film. They discuss politics generally and, more personally, their culpability in the deaths of others. Like Lowry, I take in the messages of the urban environment I pass through: street signs, adverts, t-shirt slogans. There are, oddly, both in Lowry’s chapter and my poem, references to Melville’s Redburn. The Liverpool ‘guidebook’ Redburn carried was 50 years out of date. My ‘guidebook’ was the novel itself, Bodega and cinema both long gone.'

My cringe-making reference to Liverpool’s ‘Day of the Dodd’ didn’t make the final cut of the poem, but I mentioned it for a laugh!  

This did make the cut, just a taster for now, since I hope to publish the poem elsewhere:

shadow of School Lane:

skirting backs of shaved buildings:

demolished landmarks:





(That’s one haiku and an interruption. It’s amazing what people put on t-shirts.) This poem has been incorporated into of my 2023 book, Doubly Stolen Fire, which you may read about, and purchase, here: Pages: Doubly Stolen Fire (a new book of hybrid texts) is now OUT (

See here for last year (our missing year, though there was a critical publication to celebrate):

And accounts of some earlier years: