In Hackney, in East London, where I live, we have a little blog tradition, where on a Wednesday we like to post up a picture of someone going beyond the call of duty in the line of elegance or style. We call this Elegantly Dressed Wednesday. It was started by my friend Ben Locker, and I like to carry the tradition on in this sad age of "fanny packs" and feed caps.
The subjects of the above picture - Tim Turnbull and Tim Wells (or, clockwise, Wells and Turnbull, aka "the tall one")- are certainly no slouches when it comes to their appearance. They couldn't look more disreputable, in a thoroughly respectable way, if they tried. In more ways than one. The two had their debut collections published in the same month, by the same publisher, Donut Press. They were the first two full collections published by Donut Press. They were also both shortlisted for Best First Collection in the Forward Prize.
Both these poets usually operate well outside the usual safe territory of the Forward Prize - that is, they are seen as mainly "performance" poets, at home in the smokiest East End pubs, fast-talking, mic-wielding, rude-word-shouting, drunken ruffians of the poetry night, surrounded by poets' molls in a (pre-ban, that is) fug of smoke.
The fact that the prize went to someone else does nothing to diminish the achievement of both the two Tims (as they are known) and Donut Press itself, in breaking through the barriers and bringing some fine, quirky writing to wider attention.
Donut produces gorgeous books and pamphlets - chapbooks - on a shoestring. I'm going to be writing for Contemporary Poetry Review later in the year about the burgeoning of really sparky indie poetry presses in England, and Donut is right up there on the list of subjects. Donut is run by a single very dedicated guy with vision, Andy Ching, who also has a stressful full-time job in a chain bookshop.
Anyway, look at these two! Aren't they cute? They look just the raffish sort of fellow you'd expect to find penning verse on the wrong side of town. Tim Wells even has gout. You can't get more poet-cred than that; and I happen to know he hasn't got a car. He gets his suits, which are always pin-stripe, made by a tailor, who lets him pay in poems - which could be apocryphal, but I've the poems really are pinned up on the tailor's wall.
(In keeping with the Harry Champion legacy, too, they both have quite reasonable, respectable day jobs, though as I said there will be no future for Tim Wells in the taxi trade.)
As for Tim Turnbull, I hear he is working on a Clark Gable moustache, and for that there is no excuse. (I also hear that "Tim Wells is bothering his tailor again." I'm not sure of "bothering his tailor" is some kind of awful slang, though. It might even mean "writing.")
Stylistically, their work is in the tradition of pub entertainment which perhaps has no real equivalent in the US, and for which I have tried to prepare Best American Poetry readers with some judicious music hall recordings. They are virulently, or is it exuberantly, anti-PC, anti-=any kind of do-gooding censorship, and pro- - well, pro exuberance, really. I guess as entertainment the stand-up element is like slam, but both these poets also publish - and stand up, as it were - on the page.
I was going to put their poems up on this post, but look for them separately. I have typing to do... and it is fiendishly late.