By VIEW editor Brian Pelan

Poet Henry Normal at the Crescent Arts Centre, Belfast

The appearance of poet Henry Normal at the Crescent Arts Centre in Belfast last night was a lovely tonic on an overcast evening and a reaffirmation, if needed, of the power of words – especially when they are beautifully and humorously delivered.

Appearing as part of the Imagine Festival, Henry told the audience he was once described as “a cross between Leonard Cohen and Daffy Duck”. His stand-up routine – a mixture of personal stories and wry observations and reading from a selection of his poems – was a joy to watch. A skinhead back in the 1970s told the relieved hippy-styled Henry “that he wasn’t worth beating up”. For nearly two hours his easy-going style entranced all those who had come to hear him.

Henry (real name Peter James Carroll), was also a very successful TV and film producer. His CV includes the Mrs Merton Show, The Royle Family and Alan Partridge. He now spends most of his working time performing his poetry at a range of venues throughout the UK.

Henry’s poem ‘Where Once The Post Brought Promise’ is featured in the latest issue of VIEW which examined the Cost of Living crisis.

It was a lovely, personal moment for me when he read it last night as he held a copy of the magazine.

He enjoyed poking fun at Boris Johnson’s description of Partygate as a series of work meetings. “Who takes 121 pictures of business meetings,” he asked.

Henry’s final farewell was to read a poem which captures his struggle to become a vegan. The words played on the famous Don McLean ballad American Pie. He got the audience to sing his chorus:

So bye-bye, Fray Bentos Pie

Looked so tasty in the pastry

But the pastry was dry

Onions without gravy makes me want to cry

Singing, This’ll be the kale that I fry

This will be the kale that I fry

It was that sort of night. I strolled home quietly humming Henry’s version of American Pie.

Poet Henry Normal, right, with VIEW guest editor Brian Pelan
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