There is nothing like Joyce Mansour’s poetry. It expresses the erotic yet cruel power of love and desire. The poems are stark and painful, with an almost frightening and obsessive streak of sado-masochism. The consuming madness of sex and death are fiercely and passionately described with shocking and violent imagery, yet there is often a moving sensitivity in her work. Her vocabulary is precise, every word counts, these poems are bare and spare.
Sex is not often discussed in any direct way in our group. It arose though because one occasional member with literary pretensions happened to have been to the Cheltenham Festival. She (and it could only have been a ‘she’) drew to our attention to a suggestion by Jenni Murray of BBC’s Woman’s Hour during an address there, that schools should have porn lessons. That is, opportunities to review and critically analyse pornography and its underlying messages.
I had a friend tell me about her erotic novel recently, a heavily horse-themed saga she’s been writing on and off for years and, running as it currently does to some 80,000 words, is nigh-on ready to reach the audience it deserves. I’m surprised when she says fervently that no living soul will ever clap eyes on the thing, and that it’ll lie on her hard drive as innocently as a copy of the Racing Post for time immemorial. She’s not embarrassed by it: far from, but it’s personal. My meeting with Jodi Ellen Malpas in a Soho hotel reminded me of this, if only because the New York Times-bestselling author began her career doing just the same thing: writing in secret, without expecting that her work would one day be read by millions.
There was a particular charm about the way the British hockey girls celebrated their win. Although the sport is officially billed as ‘women’s’ hockey, the team members referred to themselves as ‘the girls’; much as males talk about ‘the lads’. One of our group (who claimed to have studied sociology) remarked on the semiotics of these descriptors. It was evident that female sports had to be described as ‘women’s’ - neither ‘female’ nor ‘ladies’ were options because the former was too clinical and the latter plain old-fashioned. But would it have been acceptable for third parties to refer to our heroines as ‘girls’?
It has been a busy month at The Old Doom Bar - that is, in the world beyond it. There has been The Royal Cornwall Show, a big local wedding, the arrival of early and child free summer visitors and of course the Referendum.
As with the LGBT movement, Sex Workers in various combines have fought valiantly for their corner of social understanding and acceptance. Last year they put together their first Opera at the Arcola Theatre and 29th May this year has just seen the end of their second week's run at The Pleasance.
“There is a problem for kids who have grown up with online porn on tap. Girls think that it's OK to be treated like that and boys think thats how they have to behave.” We suck the froth off our second pint. “There is a really high level of erectile dysfunction in boys under the age of 20” she informs me. “A friend of mine he spent some time with a couple of girls – they were under 20 and he was 30 – and they were really surprised because when they unzipped him he was ready to go and they'd never experienced that.”
Love is a many splendid thing, love lifts us up where we belong, all you need is love - right? But what about sex? What if love and sex don’t combine, but instead you are left with someone you love, or someone you want to have sex with, but not a combination of the two?
Elections have figured recently on our agenda in the Old Doom Bar. The most significant being that of Ukraine being voted top Eurovision nation in a clearly politically inspired coup against Russia. No-one could work out why joint hot tip Australia was in the contest until it was suggested that their population was full of former Yugoslavs. This turns out not to be true so it must be in a vain effort to bolster the meagre European pro- UK vote from the Anglophone diaspora that predominates in the Antipodes.
We meet at Cafe Zedel. It is sparkling, bubbling with conversation and really rather lovely. When she makes her entrance, Polly is equally sparkling, bubbling and really rather lovely. And so is the champagne she orders. This is exactly how it should be when one meets Burlesque Royalty. Miss Polly Rae is pretty perfect : a Rita Hayworth redhead, flawless skin, carmine Cupid's bow, matching nails and dark eyes dancing behind the raven's wings of her lashes like twin Fan Dancers. I say 'her' lashes' but they are not. And – disappointingly for my fantasies of the Burlesque Life – she does not always look like this. She is on her way back from a photo shoot.