Review: Felix Dennis and his Did I Mention The Free Wine? tour
Poet Felix Dennis brought his Did I Mention The Free Wine? tour to the Parabola Arts Centre, in Cheltenham, on Saturday. Michael Wilkinson went along to see it.
Celebrated poet Felix Dennis took his Cheltenham audience on a moving, poignant and yet witty journey perfectly encapsulated by his stunning new work.
This is a man, ravaged by throat cancer in 2012, who has gone on a remarkable road to recovery – and his Did I Mention The Free Wine? tour is the perfect celebration of that.
It is laced with a sombre outlook on the prospect of death, juxtaposed against wittier takes on his nostalgia of the swinging sixties, ageing rock stars and his formidable 94-year-old mother Dorothy, likened to a more attractive Margaret Thatcher.
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Chatting to Dennis backstage during the interval, with a glass of wine in hand, he admits: “My work probably has changed since being diagnosed with throat cancer, but I’m too busy to even think about it. I’m just getting on with things.”
But to any of his loyal fans, of which there are many, his personal struggle is clear in his work.
‘In Flight’ was written at 40,000 feet as he raced from the US back to Blighty in a private jet, reeling from the news of his diagnosis. “So it begins – the last descent, long feared, though long expected,” he writes. “Here then, in this pause, let me take stock, as if an angel peered upon my soul’s mute rage and dull applause.”
His delivery is perfect – never failing to move his audience. He confessed that in that ‘last descent’ there were dark days in which he didn’t care if he carried on living. That was a message that hit home for many.
Dennis, despite his illness weighing down on much of his new work, published in his book ‘Love of a Kind’, still retains his crude bravado when he looks back on his past.
In ‘Snakeskin Boots’, he is a 16-year-old recalling one of his first sexual encounters. “I remember the lids of her eyes as we kissed.. And her poached-egg breasts, I remember those.”
And he tells his audience who are beset with busy lives: “Never forget to love.”
This is a man of pure genius, a finery of the English language and a man who has, in a flash, become my new favourite poet.