North-East Poet and playwright PETER MORTIMER on an unexpected invitation
An email arrives from Washington DC. It reads:
Dear Mr Mortimer,
We were wondering if you were interested to come and read some of your poetry at the inauguration of Donald Trump. As you know such an occasion always demands input from leading figures in the arts and entertainments world. But this time we thought we would ask you. How are you fixed?
‘Thank you for your email. I am sometimes asked to read my poetry and have been known to attract audiences in double figures, though only on rare occasions I would stress.
I assume Bob Dylan is busy. I usually ask if the venue can pay the bus fare and they often also run to one free pint for performers. Is that so in this case? How long would you like me to read for and is there a microphone?’
Came the reply:
‘There will be a live audience of several hundred thousand people and a global TV audience of millions, though there may be a certain audience hostility from some quarters to performers. A multi-million dollar PA system is available. Mr Trump is happy to give you board membership of three separate oil companies if you can attend. The whole entertainment programme is due to last 45 minutes so could you read for that length of time?
To which I replied:
‘I am flattered of course but surely there are literally hundreds even thousands of artists you could have asked ahead of me.’
‘Yes. We asked them. Mr Trump could also give you a golf club.’
“I don’t play golf and what use would one club be anyway?’
‘This club would be Royal Birkdale or some such. We’re not exactly sure which ones he owns at this moment.
You would of course be housed in Trump Towers for the duration. We are running out of time. Please confirm your acceptance.”
‘I can’t help notice that you declined to reply to the question of whether you if you would pay my bus fare, nor even the possibility of that free pint, As a poor struggling artist regularly exploited I feel I must stand firm on this as a point of principle.’
And there the correspondence ended. Pretty rude if you ask me. Poets get used to the majority of people ignoring them, maybe because as the late poet Adrian Mitchell said, poets ignore the majority of people, but you’d think that a man with Donald Trump’s sense of the coiffure would show a little more politeness and sensitivity.