Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Newcastle is or is not Peru where I am back from today. Tomorrow it will be London. The weeks continue peripatetic. Next week it's Ireland for a night. Peru is postponed. Or perhaps Newcastle was Peru? John Cleveland thought so:

England's a perfect world, has Indies too;
Correct your maps, Newcastle is Peru!

Cleveland 'the last of the Metaphysicals' was the most popular poet of his age (far more so than Milton, for example) and no fewer than 25 editions appeared between 1647 and 1700. His reputation declined, however, after Dryden's criticism that the poet was apt to deliver 'common thoughts in abstruse words'. His often dazzling conceits and comparisons were termed 'Clevelandism'...

...Cleveland seems to have been a destitute wanderer between 1646 and 1655, dependant on Royalist sympathisers for support. His actual whereabouts, however, are a mystery. It is not impossible that he spent time in the North East; the poem 'News from Newcastle' (first printed in 1651) is ascribed to him. It certainly has more of Clevelandism than other poems so ascribed, and whoever wrote it was a poet of more than usual accomplishment. He clearly also knew the Tyne very well. The beginning is arresting - and Newcastle is pronounced with the short 'a' that was the norm of polite speech until the early 19th century.
. Source.
It was Tony Harrison who picked up the line to make a poem in his Eagle Press pamphlet of 1969. I bought the 1974 Northern House edition or was given it in the early 80s.

...Shadow girders faced with sun
shimmer like heaped bullion.
Commerce and contraceptives glide
and circle on the turning tide...

Newcastle is in fact a handsome city. The weekend runs from Tuesday to Sunday there, they tell me.


On TV in Newcastle hotel I watch Chilean miners emerge from a narrow capsule just wide enough and long enough to hold a man. Like being born again, out of the earth.


Will said...

An Inca-redible band!
Their music may come from a far off continent, but the Peruvian band Apu are a Geordie institution.

Brothers Coco and Eddy Puente de la Vega and fellow musician David VelaFor the last 17 years, the three Peruvian brothers behind Apu – Chano, Eddy and Coco Puente de la Vega – have made Newcastle their home. And you’ll regularly hear the haunting sounds of their panpipe, flute and charango guitar playing when you’re out shopping near the Monument or on Northumberland Street. The brothers originally set up the band in 1983 in their hometown of Cusco, the ancient Inca capital of Peru that’s high up in the Andes. The name Apu is actually Quechua Indian for sacred mountain. Apu toured all over Peru, Bolivia and Argentina until Eddy came to Newcastle to tour with the band ‘Incantation’. But he missed playing the traditional music of his homeland and asked his two brothers to join him in Newcastle. They’ve never looked back.

“We chose to live in Newcastle because we’d already been here as part of the Newcastle Free Festival. My brother had seen how much the people here liked traditional Peruvian music and thought we could really be a success here,” Coco said. “I may be Peruvian and I may travel all over the world, but Newcastle is my home,” he added.

As well as playing locally and fitting in European tours, Apu also run school workshops about the history of Peru and its music. One of the brothers, Coco Vega, is also a popular local DJ and runs Salsa classes at both the Cooperage on the Quayside and in Tynemouth.

“In the last few years especially, Newcastle people have become really interested in the music, dance and culture of people living in other parts of the world. People here are having a lot of fun trying new foods, listening to different music and learning new dances,” Coco said.

Poet in Residence said...

George, Many years ago I was a contestant on a crossword puzzle quiz show recorded in a Newcastle TV studio. My celebrity partner was Joan Bakewell. We contested valiantly, but in the end we lost out to a formidable team comprising Andrew Sachs and a quick-on-the-buzzer lady who was the All Ireland Scrabble Champion. There are times when you simply cannot win! But today the Chilean 'mineros' did. And for them, their President, their families and friends, and for the whole of Chile, and perhaps even for some old miners of Newcastle and Gateshead pottering and reminiscing in their pigeon lofts and allotements, if there are any left, and for me a grandson of two miners, a coal miner and a slate miner it's also a wonderful day. To the brave miners of the world - salute´!

George S said...

Thanks, Will. I've just copied the link. Back lateish last night and probably again tonight.

Gwilym - the miners, yes, salute indeed! Fascinating to see the celebration of the Chilean national anthem in the rescue. I suppose people anywhere would wave flags, though the connection is complex.

Alfred Corn said...

I recall Harold Bloom saying that Eliot was the 20th c. Cleveland. Eliot never went to Peru, but perhaps Alexander Selkirk did on his way to the island where he was marooned. And Defoe certainly went to Newcastle, residing in Gateshead. I can't think of Peru without seeing the mark that Pizarro placed high on the wall of a stone room that Inca emperor Atahualpa was instructed to fill with gold, up to that mark, if he were not to be beheaded. He did but nevertheless was. New castles from Spain planted in South America, and paid for with Inca gold. Beautiful examples of pre-Colombian art can be found in the Cleveland Museum, Ohio, USA.