The Beach Generation
John O’Donoghue is a consummate collector of characters, and this pamphlet is his tribute to a group of friends who embody the wonderful energy of Brighton, a town that’s always changing and still seems new to old friends who’ve been here for years. He describes The Beach Generation as 'a shadow form of those manuscripts circulated at court for the amusement of the King and his retinue'. But O’Donoghue is not just addressing a closed coterie, for these characters seem to take on semi-mythical forms, appearing as the human expressions of coastal landscapes and beautiful south coast skies.
Figures such as Alf Wiltshire appear as the enigmatic wardens of the secrets of art and poetry, 'I’d like to think / it’s because you are / so tall the poems / come out like they do'. The deceptive lightness of this intimate conversational style carries with it a wealth of wit and conceit, furnishing the reader with vivid appreciations of these poets’ rich and varied art of living. Melancholy memories are never far away, but O’Donoghue is less concerned with nostalgia than with harnessing the collective promise of a community of writers whose words and wisdom offer 'the rumble of some future glory', the potential to cause tiny revolutions of the spirit.
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for John McCullough
Translated to this aqueous place,
trailing clouds in your wake,
you strut the stage assured of nothing
but the gift you give us,
a different vision in each eye,
the exact cadence
of the streets in their stroll to the sea,
the rumble of some future glory
in the sky you’ve just inscribed,
the horizon that’s yours like no one else’s.