The Bees Knees with Spam

poetry books 3Gary Boswell, poet/writer, edited the two poetry anthologies The Bees Knees and The Bees Sneeze for Stride in the early ’90s.

I knew Gary at the time from his reading and poetry workshops I arranged at my school in Devon after the first publication, along with other writers from that book, including then Stride publisher and poet Rupert Loydell, and also my getting three poems in the second of these two wonderful anthologies for younger readers.

I also met Gary many years ago, quite by accident, in the Ulverston, Cumbria, carpark. He or I should have written a poem about that. I don’t know for sure, but I think he still lives in the area – possibly now Grange-over-Sands – and I know he has written for local papers like The Westmorland Gazette, and elsewhere on his other great love, betting, linked to sports like non-league football, women’s grand slam tennis, UK National Hunt Horse Racing and US flat track horse racing.

There is a lay-by mobile cafe on the A590 between Grange-over-Sands and Kendal, seemingly no longer is use, and as Gary would appear to have or have had a range of jobs, whenever I passed it recently on a visit again to Ulverston, I naturally wondered if this was his:

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Perhaps I’ll write a poem about this one day…

5 thoughts on “The Bees Knees with Spam

  1. Got to be Gary – a memory from the high water mark in the teaching of English. I remember him running a creativity workshop I had arranged in a Somerset school, sitting cross legged on the floor with a Year 9 class, all of whom were up to their necks in newspapers from which they were tearing words from headlines to make found poems. Sadly there’s about as much of that going on now as burgers being served at the eponymous snack bar.


  2. That’s a sweet memory, and it sits neatly, if again ‘sadly’, with the Kate Clanchy article in The Observer which I have now read. Yes, good days, wrongly gone. I suppose it is a good thing turkey twizzlers are no longer available, but we could have had some fun with silly alliterations, and not done so because of a SATs test…! Thanks for dropping by.


  3. Gary Boswell signing in. Just read all the threads and spent a fond hour reminiscing. High water mark of teaching English was nice. High water mark of being a poet too – the chance to create found poems with uncluttered young minds sat cross legged on a school floor. Ripping words out of newspapers remains an invigorating occupation. Perhaps why newspapers are published now?? Don’t have much other place in daily life!
    Sadly the burger van is nothing to do with me. I still live nearby it though and like that it shares a name with a fondly remembered poetry book. One of our better decisions, that title. I like the dedication we did aswell. Knew how to write our names with panache in those days,eh?
    The torch is still being carried by all of the poets in THE BEES KNEES to varying degrees. Poet and Illustrator Russell Thompson now working at the Poetry Library in London after a shift as archivist for Apples and Snakes. He has an excellent collection of all the old stuff we used to get up to in those days.
    Meeting in a car park in Ulverston is interesting. Rings a bell but may also be one of those first signs of dementia they talk about. Reading it there I believe it happened but memory is finding it difficult to recall more precise information. How long ago would that have been? Just out of two years caring for my Dad during his final struggle with Parkinsons Disease (all my new poems predictably dwell on this theme) and links between dementia and poetry remain a current fascination. Re-reading Dorothy Wordsworth with this research in mind.
    I have several fond Lemn memories too like the bottle of Champagne he bought me and Jill as a thank you for cooking him a proper tea on the Isle of Wight (egg and beans on toast after other hosts assumed he preferred lentils and chickpeas cos he was a poet!) and which led directly to the conception and birth of our daughter.
    My favourite however is also an Ulverston one. He was reading with Henry Normal at the Coronation Hall and told us from stage how he had gone into Barclays Bank in Ulverston that day and scared the bejesus out of the girl cashier who glanced up and saw him as a balaclavaed bank robber and activated all the alarms!! Made the front page of the Evening Mail. POET MISTAKEN FOR BANK ROBBER. No need to rip those words out to make poems,eh?

    I liked reading how Lemn carried the torch more than all of us. He most certainly has. For him, it was and is more than just a high water mark. A life.


    • Wonderful to hear from you Gary, and pleased you have visited a few of the genuinely fond memories I have posted here.

      It would have been poetic [something!] if the burger van had been yours, but in other ways I am glad not: I think your other endeavours are more intriguing, though glad to hear you are still involved with poetry in some ways. Sorry to hear of your father’s illness and passing, and I empathise with the significant commitment you will have made in caring for him.

      Your recollections of Lemn are brilliant, especially the one about the bank! When he visited our school in Devon back in the day, he told an hilarious anecdote [well, it was the way he told it rather than the observation] about how people’s heads seemed to turn full-circle like the possessed girl in ‘The Exorcist’ when they saw him walking by…

      And the conception of your daughter!

      I can’t remember exactly, but our meeting by chance briefly in the Ulverston car park was a long time ago, but some years after you had worked with us at school. So that was helpful!

      Again, great to hear from you, and do come back and visit the site now and again. I’ll drop you a line via email with mine – perhaps when I’m next up passing the burger van I can arrange a meeting in any other car park of your choosing!! All best, Mike


  4. Pingback: The Bees Knees Mobile Burger Van | gravyfromthegazebo

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