Keith Hutson’s debut collection, Baldwin’s Catholic Geese, looks at the delight and heartbreak of being human through the lens of beloved music hall and variety stars like Hylda Baker and Frankie Howerd, as well as less celebrated, now long-forgotten acts of the past: The Bryn Pugh Sponge Dancers, Macauley’s Leaping Infants, Willy Netta’s Singing Jockeys, and many more.
Hutson’s vividly realised portraits bring back to life a whole cast of the extraordinary characters who have entertained us for over two centuries. Comedy is brought into sharp relief by hardship. His Baldwin’s Catholic Geese is a social history chronicle in poems, focusing on what it means for all of us who have to make the most of our luck – the good, the bad, and the bizarre.
Keith Hutson has written for Coronation Street and for many well-known comedians. He has published two poetry pamphlets, Routines (2016) and Troupers (2018).
‘At the crossroads of the comic and the tragic, Keith Hutson’s poetics bask in irony, but not in introspection… They are a tonic – a fizzing celebrant of unremembered comedy and Music Hall lives. … The improbably-titled Baldwin’s Catholic Geese is an absolute original, an unalloyed gem.’ – Steve Whitaker, Poetry Wales (Poetry Books of the Year 2019)
‘Keith Hutson’s debut collection Baldwin’s Catholic Geese is a hugely entertaining celebration of British musical hall and variety artists… It’s a book about art and entertainment, audiences and theatres, the bizarre and the brave…’ – Andy Croft, Morning Star
‘The performers that Hutson ‘celebrates’ in this excellent book represent aspects of both performance and celebrity. And what the poems also investigate is the very ambiguous relationship that we as viewers, or should that be ‘voyeurs’, have with these people. What Hutson very deftly explores is that awkward, terrifying, embarrassing, embracing triangulation made between the viewer, the performer and the performance.’ – Ian Pople, The Manchester Review
'Harmonising rhyme-light symmetrical structures with naturally stressed vocal patterns, Hutson’s lines accommodate terse description, slogans, moments of pathos, pregnant pauses, comic punchlines – all the brilliant patter, but in a voice that resists exaggeration. The collection delivers the comedy and oddity its title promises, but amounts to very much more than a novelty act. It’s a commemoration.' - Carol Rumens, Poem of the Week, Guardian.com [on Baldwin's Catholic Geese]
'This is a wonderful collection, funny and poignant at the same time, a window on the past which can illuminate the present. It would be very rewarding - and great fun- to read with students.' - Frank Startup, The School Librarian
‘… a tonic – a fizzing celebrant of often unremembered lives... There’s more than artistry to Keith Hutson’s peerless volume.’ – Steve Whitaker, The Yorkshire Times [on Baldwin’s Catholic Geese]
‘I cannot recommend this book too highly. If you have not lived long enough to have experienced vaudeville/music hall theatre, or to have heard your grandparents rave about it, you can read it all here. The artistry of Keith Hutson, nuanced, never forced, brings it back to life again. Be sure to look sharp though; beguiled by the characters, you may lose sight of the craft, the genius blend of pathos and humour threaded through every poem. Read it.’ Wendy Klein, London Grip [on Baldwin’s Catholic Geese]
'Keith Hutson has a way with words and can make them do pretty much whatever he wants. He makes us laugh, he makes us cry and, like Tubby Turner, ‘he leaves ’em wanting more’. I can’t wait to see what he writes next.' - Carole Bromley, The High Window
‘Baldwin’s Catholic Geese is an utter joy, a collection to treasure, and should be given to those who think they don’t like poetry, but do like a laugh. I, like many other reviewers, warmly recommend it.’ – Greg Freeman, Write Out Loud
'In the space of 100 poems, Hutson demonstrates a mastery of form, wit, irony, and rhetoric. Baldwin’s Catholic Geese not only elegises a vastly researched troupe of troubled and spectacular comics, it is also testament to a passed era of cultural appetite.’ – John Challis, Poetry Salzburg Review
'This is the poet as portraitist, as raconteur, as a teller of fables. The music hall poems in particular - like flickering magic lanterns - are full of wit and pathos.' – Michael Symmons Roberts
‘These poems illuminate something timeless about ambition and the human spirit. Keith Hutson is a wonderful talent – his hardworking, technically-assured poems arrive all of a piece centre-stage.’ – Carol Ann Duffy, on Troupers
Keith Hutson: The Audience (i.m. Les Dawson 1931–1993)
Keith Hutson reads and introduces his poem ‘The Audience’ about Les Dawson, one of the many comedians he worked with before moving from comedy script writing to poetry. He reads a wider selection of poems from Baldwin’s Catholic Geese in another video [https://vimeo.com/316325714]. Neil Astley filmed Keith Hutson at his home in Halifax, West Yorkshire, on 9 February 2019.
Keith Hutson: Hylda (for Hylda Baker 1909–1986)
Keith Hutson reads and introduces his poem ‘Hylda’ about the rise and fall of comedienne Hylda Baker, familiar to television audiences as the mouthy proprietress of Pledge’s Pickle Factory on ITV. He reads a wider selection of poems from Baldwin’s Catholic Geese in another video [https://vimeo.com/316325714]. Neil Astley filmed Keith Hutson at his home in Halifax, West Yorkshire, on 9 February 2019.
Keith Hutson: Accept No Imitations (i.m. J.D. Plummer 1846–1901)
Keith Hutson reads and introduces his poem ‘Accept No Imitations’ about J.D. Plummer, a resourceful Victorian impresario whose final tragic fate was beyond his control. He reads a wider selection of poems from Baldwin’s Catholic Geese in another video [https://vimeo.com/316325714]. Neil Astley filmed Keith Hutson at his home in Halifax, West Yorkshire, on 9 February 2019.
Keith Hutson: Glasgow Empire
Keith Hutson reads and introduces his poem ‘Glasgow Empire’ about the notorious theatre where even the most famous comedians were booed off the stage. He reads a wider selection of poems from Baldwin’s Catholic Geese in another video [https://vimeo.com/316325714]. Neil Astley filmed Keith Hutson at his home in Halifax, West Yorkshire, on 9 February 2019.
Keith Hutson: Baldwin’s Catholic Geese
Keith Hutson reads and introduces a selection of poems from Baldwin’s Catholic Geese: ‘Double Act’, ‘Bad Impresario’ (i.m. William Paul 1820–1882), ‘Accept No Imitations’ (i.m. J D Plummer 1846–1901), ‘Coming On Strong’ (i.m. Joan Rhodes 1921–2010), ‘Out from Under’ (i.m. Kate Cheval 1832–1847), ‘Eleven, plus’ (for Freddie Parrot-Face Davies), ‘Confidence Trick’ (i.m. Felicitous Bob Franklin 1831–1878), ‘Hylda’ (for Hylda Baker, 1909–1986), ‘Engagement’ (for George Formby, 1904–1961), ‘Dun Roamin’’ (i.m. Gerald Butterworth 1857–1919), ‘Glasgow Empire’, ‘Caretaker’, ‘Roughage’ (i.m. Bombastus Furioso c. 1820), ‘The Audience’ (i.m. Les Dawson, 1931–1993), ‘Zazel, The Shooting Star! (i.m. Rosa Richter 1862–1922), ‘Le Petomane’ (i.m. Joseph Pujol 1857–1945), ‘Beyond Belief’ (i.m. Sid Field 1904–1950), ‘Chanteur’ (i.m. Charles Aznavour 1924–2018), ‘Soul Mates’ (i.m. Arthur Rickett d.1883), and ‘That’s Your Lot (i.m. Tubby Turner 1882–1947). Neil Astley filmed Keith Hutson at his home in Halifax, West Yorkshire, on 9 February 2019.