Friday, June 13, 2014

June 13, 2014



June 13, 2014

I’m a member of the Rhymers’ Club, which is a bunch of us poets who get together to read, write and recite poetry to each other.  It’s a private group, and we often meet in complete secrecy.   From time-to-time we have made a journal, but the printing is only enough for membership and no one else.  So in other words, we produce literature for only ourselves and no one else.  Everyone in the group is obsessed with keeping the poetry as pure as possible.  To be honest, I’m even forbidden to discuss or write about this group, even in this journal.  Nevertheless I feel compelled to expose myself, because when you come upon such perfect moments, I have a tendency to want to share them with someone.


The Rhymers’ Club started in London about 125 years ago, where meetings took place in various private homes and pubs.  Ever since then there is a secret signal between members where they shake hands, but one member scratches the palm of the other’s hand, by their middle finger.  Sometime identities are covered up either by fake names, and in some cases, by wearing a disguise.  I remember in our last meeting, one of us was even dressed up as a woman, not in a sexual sense, but just to throw off anyone trying to find out the identity of the figure.  It has been rumored and almost common knowledge among its members that the Irish poet W. B. Yeats was an early member of this group.  In fact, he may have organized the first meetings, and invented the secret handshake among its members.  Oscar Wilde was rumored to be a part of the group as well, but there is no solid proof of that.

The meetings, to this very day, are arranged by the throw of the dice.  If certain numbers come up, that is the date for the get-together.  An ad is placed in a publication announcing the date, time and location for the meeting.  Of course, all of this information in the ad is under a secret code, that can only be read by its members.   Usually by a rhyme of some sort.   Last night I went to a meeting at the 321 Lounge at Taix, where we have a table reserved for the group under the name “Basil Rathbone.” Once there I approached all the members with the secret handshake, and then we got down to business to discuss the poet Fernando Pessoa.  In each meeting we agree to discuss a specific poet, and debate about their work.  Afterwards we share our poetry, and each member can read up to five poems to the group.   We discuss the work, and eventually make plans to make a journal, which again, we only print up enough copies for the group and no one else.  The journal is called “The Rhymers’ Club, ” and we also encourage its members to either save each issue, or destroy it, to make sure it doesn’t leave the group.



Every so often there are poets in the group, that are quite famous, but not for writing poetry.  The comic actor Paul Lynde was a member of the group right up to his death, and he was once on a TV program called “Hollywood Squares” where he often gave messages on the show for the members.  Of course it was coded, and for anyone listening in, they would think they were just listening to a joke, but that was not the case whatsoever.  It has been stated within the group that Lindsay Anderson’s film “O Lucky Man” is a coded version of The Rhymers’ Club” and that the film’s star Malcolm McDowell who wrote the story, may have been a member,  but more likely his father who owned the pub, where some of the secret meetings took place, either was a member himself or at least knew about the group.


What is still an ongoing rule for the group is that only males can belong to The Rhymers’ Club.  Occasionally we allow only one woman in our meetings, and this only started when legendary photographer Jacques Henri Lartigue was part of the group.  It was almost a fetish for him to bring an attractive woman to the group’s meetings.   Ever since, for tradition sake, we permit one member of the group to bring a woman of his choice into a meeting.  But she is not allowed to participate in the discussion nor in the readings of the poetry.   Also her identity is not exposed to the members, and she is often just called “The Muse, ” among our members.

We do have a membership card, but it has no name or wording.  It is an image of King Ludwig looking over Richard Wagner as he plays the piano.  For whatever reasons, we don’t know why this image was chosen.  It has been rumored that Yeats himself chose this image as a membership card, to be used to announce oneself to another member.  Secrets are the foundation of our culture.  We must keep them.  After reading this, please destroy it.
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