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From standup to stanzas: Frank Skinner’s terrific guide to poetry

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October 06, 2020 at 10:32AM

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The comedian’s new podcast is bursting with enthusiasm for poems. If standup forces him to be funny, here he forces himself to be true

‘Phwooar – Ginsy Ginsy Ginsy, I love you so much!” You won’t find that in FR Leavis. The “Ginsy” in question is beat poet Allen Ginsberg. The literary critic is Frank Skinner, deconstructing Ginsberg’s Sunflower Sutra on his Absolute Radio poetry podcast. Now embarking on its second series, the podcast is a terrific listen: bursting with enthusiasm for its chosen poems and constantly amusing about Skinner’s relationship with them. The standup is also quite brilliant at giving us footholds on the verses under review: Parnassus never felt so approachable.

Has it got anything to do with Skinner’s comedy? Well, it certainly tells you plenty about the man, and makes you wonder whether he might have taken up stanzas not standup, had that not felt like an even bigger leap from his lowly Black Country beginnings. That’s the take-home from episode one of this second series, in which Skinner discusses Liz Berry’s poem Birmingham Roller, about the West Midlands pigeon that cavorted in the skies of Berry’s (and Skinner’s) youth.

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