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Conversing with a panther in Brighton

Travelling to Brighton the other day, I did not expect to meet a panther. I was driving below a big, cloud-blossoming and darkening English sky. I could see why Constable had been inspired to paint these skies, and why Luke Howard had arrived at a language for clouds and weather prediction. I could not see why I was driving alone toward Brighton, two hours both ways through completely unfamiliar territory, which is most of England for me, with the return journey to occur at night.

However, I arrived in the coastal resort also known as 'Silicon Beach', drove through streets alive with young people, parked and entered the Komedia theatre. There I was seated at a cabaret table with two Englishwomen and an American man at the very edge of the stage. Consequently I had a good view of the panther who emerged, the billionaire and poet Felix Dennis. You may think I've cheated you with my headline, but I assure you I have not. Felix is a panther with terrific speed in his verse, an eloquent growl of a voice and a long paw that grabs your heart and massages it back into life. I have written about him before, but I didn't nearly do him justice.

Think of Charles Dickens or a medieval bard, think of the soft-footed, rhythmic lope and relaxed power of the panther, and you begin to get an idea what this reading was like. In fact, Felix didn't read. He spoke and sometimes roared his poetry, all stored in his capacious brain and collected in A Glass Half Full, Lone Wolf, When Jack Sued Jill: Nursery Rhymes for Modern Times, Island of Dreams, Homeless in my Heart and his latest, Tales from the Woods.

He brought us his mother, godchildren, an early love, his garden, his regrets, his trees, and claw-sharp satires of modern life. He was mesmerising and sad and funny. Video often accompanied the poems, but I closed my eyes to better drink them in. Unlike modern poets who hurl their poetry at you, Felix's poetry offered conversation. Admittedly it was conversation with a panther, which left me speechless, but then, that is the original meaning of the word conversation - being intimate with another.

If at all possible, get a ticket to his tour Did I mention the free wine? and go. You'll be able to contribute a small sum to the great hardwood forest he is planting in the heart of England. -Cat

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