Tracie Jenkins, A True Medway Poet
It was during the last quarter of the twentieth century when Tracie Jenkins - a Strood poet - stood on a table in the Old Gun, and shouted,"I AM THE ONLY TRUE MEDWAY POET!"
She caused uproar. The Old Gun was a notorious pub in Strood, notorious for its fighting and notorious for its literary criticism. On that evening, the locals had invited the White Road Estate Poetical Society into the pub to discuss a possible cultural exchange with the Darnley Road Men of Letters. It was an overture of peace that might have healed the schism that split the Strood and Chatham artistic communities.
Banneth Thy Self O Mind Reader
But Tracie's statement riled the Chatham boys (the White Road Estate Poetical Society) and they challenged her assertion loudly and aggressively. The Strood boys - The Darnley Road Men of Letters - had no choice but to retaliate. Tracie Jenkins was one of their own, a Strood girl through and through. A fight worthy of Strood and Chatham spilled out onto the street, and into the Bull. It was a night to remember, not least because Tracie Jenkins armed with wit, bottle and sarcasm, led a small band to the summit of Broom hill and began an impromptu recital of her, recently published, fifty-seven poems. It culminated seven hours later with her off-the-cuff ballad, Banneth Thy Self O Mind Reader.
When the recital was done, relations between the fighting critics of Chatham and Strood seemed irreparably damaged. But Tracie Jenkins was unrepentant. She stood by her assertion that she was the only true Medway Poet, and that the so called, 'Medway Poets', were a bunch of work-shy layabouts who knew nothing about the Medway. To understand this spat we need to know a little of the Zeitgeist of the times.
The Medway Towns
The Medway towns, Strood, Rochester and Chatham - Gillingham is ignored - was a hot-bed of anarchistic bohemianism that had embraced punk-rock and was against every one. From this melee came the Medway Poets, and from the Medway Poets came Billy Childish. Jenkins was enthralled, she had loved the river Medway since childhood. But the Medway Poets said very little about the river Medway and concerned themselves with introspective angst, misery and dyslexia. And what little they did say was wildly inaccurate. References to a Medway delta irked her considerably, so much so, that her first ever recital in the Duke of Wellington - a haunt of the Medway Poets - started with her now classic, 'It Aint a Fucking Delta its an Estuary'!
She was not well received.
57 Poems about the River Medway
Disappointed by the lack of poems about the river Medway she decided that she would write 57 poems about the river Medway herself, and to prove she was a 'true Medway Poet', she wrote them with a stick that had been dipped in Medway mud. Her book, 57 poems about the river Medway, was published three months later, and included such works as: Wet and Cold, Don't jump off the Bridge, and 'Fuck Me! The River don't half Stink Today.
A Residency in Strood
It was a success, and all 57 copies were sold. She was offered a poet-in-residency at the Amega Club in Strood, but was slammed by the Medway Poets themselves for saying nothing about misery.
Jenkins was disappointed, and when asked by the Evening Post if she respected the Medway Poets, she said that the Medway Poets were a bunch of losers who carped on about misery and decadence and that she, the true Medway poet, carped on about carp.
Following the success of her book and the failure of the Medway Poets to recognise her as the 'true Medway Poet', she was invited to join the Shit-House Poets: an older and more established society who were dedicated to writing rude poetry in public lavatories . Jenkins accepted, but did not fit in because she could not write rude poetry. She was eventually expelled for writing a poem about tidal waterways which in no way could be considered obscene or even mildly amusing. She was however fined 200 pounds for criminal damage after writing a particular long poem about halibut sex rituals on a toilet cubicle door in the A.B.C cinema in Chatham High Street. The magistrate said that the poem not only had no artistic merit but it also revealed a woeful lack of knowledge of marine biology. It was Tracie's worst review.
Grutz Cafe in Chatham
A few years later, Tracie Jenkins was thrown out of the Grutz cafe in Chatham, a notorious meeting place for bohemians and anarchists. She expressed an opinion that listening to Billy Childish's 1987 solo album, 'I've got everything indeed' was more painful than falling into a cess-pit filled with broken glass. It was not the first time she had targeted the Chatham icon. Her poem, Dyslexics are middle class people who won't admit they're thick, offended Billy Childish for pointing out that he was middle class.
Tracie Shuns the River Medway
Tracie stopped writing poetry soon after that and concentrated on her career. She had worked at a local building society since leaving school and unlike the artistic bohemians of the era, she had a very strong work ethic. She worked hard and was promoted. But poetry was in her soul and it was not long before she was writing again. But the Medway was no longer her muse. Inspired by Thatcher's Britain, her poems were now about savings, loans and interest rates. Her epic poem, 'A Mortgage isn't a Millstone', did not go down well with the bohemian anarchists of the Medway towns. However it was in the 1990's when they all got married and took jobs in the Emergency Services that they all came to her for mortgage advice.
They all Sold Out
It is an interesting fact that 37 percent of The Kent Fire Brigade and 19 percent of The Devon and Cornwall Constabulary were in 1960's-style beat combos playing in and around Chatham between 1983 and 1987. Fortunately Acid House came along in 1988 and put an an end to all that nonsense.
Happy at Last
Tracie Jenkins is now a respectable middle-aged woman who lunches at the George Vaults in Rochester. Her book, 57 poems about the river Medway, is now a collectors item.
None of its True
Please note, that Tracie Jenkins does not exist in extend space, and that the events described did not actually happen in this particular universe. She cannot be contacted for recitals.
Hula Fuq Cares
FRITZ & TOMMY
THE BALLBAG PAPERS