|A Big Hand For Diderot|
|A Couple Of Quibbles|
|A Dutch Dérive|
|A Postmodern Question?|
|A Winsome Woman|
|Alarm Call 2am|
|An Embattled Book|
|An Iscan Conclave|
|As In Dull|
|Down Under And Up Above|
|Epigram For E|
|Episode In The War Against Error|
|Fat Of The Land|
|In Our Midst|
|Men Of Straw|
|Mercenary Colonials Or Mcs|
|New Labour New London New Millennium|
|On A Recent Reprint Of Wide Sargasso Sea|
|Our Latest Logomachia|
|Piety in the Sky, Poetry in the Air|
|Pounds Of Flesh|
|Song Of Senex The Cynic|
|The 1913 Derby|
|The Biters Bit|
|The People's Representative At Westminster|
|Toady Blair; An Apologia|
|Tory Canvassers In The Lunch Hour|
|Two For The Ex|
|Viaggio In Italia|
|Was The Butler Sore?|
|Whiter Than White|
ALBANIAN JOKES The corpse of past faith, superseded power, grows bloated, weightier by the hour as, grinning chaos fit to burst, it fills each vacuum created. Envy spills out into the international weapons store. One despot gone, if scarcely overthrown, gives rise to sweeter pipedreams - yearning for land, freedom, even an abandoned throne. Grim jesters might have drunk to old King Zog when Stalinist displaced that running dog, though few there dared pronounce on Enver Hoxha, endless, efficient villain, evil bodger... Influx is now the dirty word among Greek friends: none lightly nor implicitly pretends, not even with the thinnest joke, that anything might happen for the best in current Balkan politics. The past has taught the Hellenes colder tricks. They dread being caught without defence, and so deploy their well-tried paranoia test. Ancient scenario: the aliens invade Greece's mountainous Northern border, or her easier, impossibly inviting seaboard... (For light years anxious Greeks darkly inveighed against those shifty neighbours, poorer still than they were.) Gypsies. Dour Albanian horde, all half-starved heathen. Barbarous folk driven more desperate than before... Ears full of dogma - here's the sickest joke repeatable - do turn deaf. Nothing's won. The joy in laughter may be lost. No one has heard yet of a way to settle or resolve 'another fine mess', this here fearful fix. MEN OF STRAW Talking of feckless rubbish, it’s what they expect -orate, politicos of slender intellect. Hot air on air, polluted atmosphere. Managed dispersal system the new jargon here. He’s not discussing refuse. Refugees, more human flotsam – a distasteful theme for Government to deal with – will, he guarantees, be allocated nationwide. His dream is that the regions play their part, so those asylum-seekers, torture-victims, all aliens (bogus claimants too) are thus disposed of fast, hygienically sown far from Whitehall. An underclass with vouchers to present. That way, abuses of the system can’t take place. The interviewer lets him have full say: he blames his predecessor’s policies; swears this whole situation was allowed to escalate, till now it’s out of hand. Does one dissenting voice sound from the crowd to criticise our screened, unpleasant land? None interrupts, few listen. Everything is someone else’s fault. When distant war so recently pursued, so undeclared, made hearts sink and armsdealers only sing, still Our Brave Lads flattened the unprepared, flooding some foreign field in fire and gore. Where were the protests aimed? Had so few cared? The usual spokesmen told lies, as before. Bold media persons fought by proxy; they let fly with bylines. Whether to appease or slaughter hardly mattered anyway; airtime and graves were filled and refugees became a talkshow ‘problem’. Now this man, keen to defend some petty, grudging plan, spoils breakfast with his garbage. (People can switch off officials – ostriches hate fuss.) Set, mindset, match, each conflict has an end; old scores may stay unsettled, foe turn Friend. Words melt or rot, evasions various: finical verbiage covers dearth of feeling. Are buried heads all truffling treats in store? ON A RECENT REPRINT OF WIDE SARGASSO SEA Examination setbook floated complete with a mass of notes. Theses there, Bibliographies here. The parasitic growths abound, original insight drowned - lost in inevitable quotes from, or references to, the likes of Desperate Dan Lacan, Bo Diddley Baudrillard and Derring-do Derrida. Most students breathed from Barthes just farts, from Foucault fuck all... Cue for whichever (preferably foreign) Profs newest flavour. The current jerkoffs in seminal scholarly fashion? This term, next year, some might back Bakhtin... Not all the above were duds, nor carnivalesque, yet spawned their Sargasso of jargon, seriously grotesque. Tides of tedium came filling screen on screen, piled impenetrable, high across each desk. Still, the real classic resists - lest it spell out or be quite engulfed by- Creepy Academic Sludge Hideous to read. An acronym, you guessed it, prompted by the graceless greedy rise of Women's Studies, fuddyduddies, offputting editions with wild angles to promote, and axes ground. All the tortuous processes of expedition move neither to story nor book, but toward something else, cunning or blank. Canonical discourse. Discuss: not Plot - a Narrative Trajectory rather. The whole colonial subtext being privileged, foregrounded here... whose topos it's clear is, arguably, emblematized... I kid you not, kids: such ballast's not required to weigh down reader wading through Whatever's Set. And if, and as, it must be picked apart, try an intuitive dive - you'll find truth's always submerged in the truest art, resisting alike the Fool, the professional Wise. Such types were seen through, through great blue eyes, while the hypocrites too were seen to, their lies identified, lives dealt with, without fear or favour, unwavering from the start. Painstakingly, line after line, draft upon draft, the crystal spirit lightened everything until soul could clap hands and sing and sail a frail, ever enduring craft resiliently, breathtakingly through any version of a life's Sargasso Sea. But bland or creeping idiom may spread to blunt her keener words, dull the persistent edges of her world... So reader, watch out for slippage and closure, the sort of thing which shows you how clover's the critic, how foolish the seer. It's even possible none need fear the great bluff will ever be called. In that case, then, as in many another, here's a Set Text, whose dangerous author escapes us, is safely dead. Jean would have been appalled to be read so blindly, Rhys so misread. DOWN UNDER AND UP ABOVE Stealing the thunder on R3 bold John Kinsella, digger don, showed listeners to the BBC octosyllabic mastery, so poms might hear and ponder on that brainfund ransacked to discuss Ned Kelly's band and banditry Let's hand it to the swagman, he brandished one word to menace us -verisimilitudinous. EPISODE IN THE WAR AGAINST ERROR [Stockwell tube station, London, 22 July 05] *******Hired guns hunted down one… Brazilian, young naïf coldly rendered to death. They collared the sinister Alien, who gave up, underground, his last breath. It seems he was seated – no hurry at first. Did the marksmen yell boldly, as they’d rehearsed, and pin flat the accused or rather, Accursed? The name of this fair game is Kill-not-cure, codenames and no packdrill, its aim unsure: targets exist to be hit with each burst. While passengers freeze, turn sideways in dread, seven bullets point-blank blow open his head. * [ Note: An eighth bullet hit 27-year-old Jean Charles de Menezes in the shoulder. Three more shots missed. The Daily Telegraph later announced on its front page (16/11/05) that hollow-point – or dum-dum – ammunition, ‘banned in warfare under international convention’, was used.] WHITER THAN WHITE A 110-kiloton bomb was not technically a bomb, he's supposed to have said- Jacques (pure-as-his-name ?) Le Blanc, the French Ambassador to N.Z. since it was set off underground and produced no mushroom cloud. Did this dumbfound a far-flung crowd of Press in the Pacific ? (Max Miller got his stories right: "Now, here's a funny thing…) Diplomat Jack-the-Lad sailed on with sang- froid, unabashed, as purely, to propound: "It's a device which is exploding". TORY CANVASSERS IN THE LUNCH HOUR If I were fulmar, or fuller from a - now interrupted - meal, I'd puke over the pair of you, by way of my say on your spiel. ("Fulmars react to intruders by ejecting a stream of foul-smelling oily vomit from the beak." Book of the British Countryside) ARTS WORKERS This region's Mutual Administrators' Society For Arts, when quizzed on policy, resorts to waffle. MASSFARTS staff freeload with zest, on leave, off sick, at meetings, out to lunch. None is accountable, so that bland bunch – blase old lags, young dears, smooth cheats with bleeding hearts- hangs on. Spokespersons cheerlead for the Arts. Their self-awarded titles vary by the day. Paid to spend (no, 'disseminate') large public funds, they relish gibberish, enjoy full latitude for fiddling, fuckups, trivial pursuits. They're primed to cover backs and private parts, use power-dressed jargon, streetwise platitude. Remits accumulate, duly require Reports – covering Gender, the Community or Roots. When paper-shufflers can see fit to shift widespreading adiposities off office seats, for faxes lengthier than fucks they're known; their ostentatious highs come as they lift the latest-state-of-the-art-NEW mobile phone. But brains stay static, since it's never done to spark ideas, enthusiasm, anyway. Executives act Seriously Bored if forced to meet an artist: why reward the latter's crackbrained work, sheer deja vu? "Fill in these forms. Six copies each, required of you! No, next financial year's far-from-substantial budget is spent...." (Audits confirm there's no proof how they fudge it.) "Clearly regrettable... .Too bad.. .A pity... We'll address this shortfall with a Sub-Committee, something on the lines of an Advisory Panel. You'll play a major role, of course." ( What finest flannel!) "Restoring confidence by mending fences..." "We'll take your views on board.. Offer expenses..." Of Boards, Consultancies and Panels, plenty of narcotizing packs exist. Ten, twenty, can be shuffled or regrouped - few of whose well-heeled token members need to abuse a flexibly creative Ex's list: no worthy window-dressing bore gets pissed. Sinecures are endorsed, index-linked salaries, perquisites, indispensable pension schemes. (Sir Peter's paw is creeping toward Valerie's.) And are there better-than-equal opportunities for money and status to bait us beyond fondest dreams? May we grope whom we please, pleading immunities of diplomatic allsorts that conveniently outflank PC ? Do polls reflect (it's plain to see) how smug bastards wank all the way to the bank? When's the whistle blown ? You know how soon it is? Yet folk at the Mutual retain their right senses, are trained to mix glibness with poorest pretences. Rigged games and changing rules suit their team best. If - stuck with honest talent - anyone should question this Society's consuming greed for getting goodies, gongs end quids pro quo, "Sour Grapes" provides both greeting and retort. Indeed, such mud sticks first and worst. Mind how you go. DEFINING TERMS Yours are, it must be stressed, weapons of mass destruction. Ours ? In no sense, not at all. They keep us free, while on the other hand forming what henceforth we propose to call smart hardware nope, .necessary deterrent. (That last phrase you'd do well to understand.) We're world police, the ones who flatten words: our critics are irrelevant or crass. Let's drop it. Argue if you will for peace but in the end it's strictly for the birds. You have no say. Split hairs or atoms, we can amply demonstrate what’s plain to see that we have ways a matching lunacy. The difference between us is self-evident. MAKING IT Careerist filled with venial cunning, greedy fool alike, share one grey maxim, a simplistic rule: these days It's money signifies success. Which means, while giving old dross a new dress, publishers find their firms gripped in accountant hands; the brightest future on PR depends. So journos, ghostwriters and crooks seize chances to promote those ‘personalities' they don't possess themselves. Nonbooks and huge advances for the few see off the struggling freelance (me or you?) Queasy millennium. Crazed dawn for telling any awkward truths. Reduced to selling souls and words like soap, most pushers taste mishap. Creative minds avoid surrender's trap, turn anguish into anger, take fresh heart. Writing is no easy business but always a difficult art. THE 1913 DERBY Years later it's clear that Queen Alexandra must have been more concerned about the jockey Herbert Jones than anything.... When she learned of the unfortunate incident, a telegram most graciously sent him made no bones about her fellow-feeling: Queen Alexandra was very sorry indeed to read of your sad accident caused through the abominable conduct of a brutal lunatic woman But while Emily Wilding Davison, who dashed on course, succumbed to the pounding hooves of the King's horse, the other main loser in the race, Herbert Jones, survived to keep an album of that Derby Day. World newsclips vexed his sleep, Like 'the look of horror on her face". The Great War soon drove everybody mad, yet Jones could not exorcise regret: some ghosts will never fade away. Was she hysteric, heroine or martyr for the sad, that never-quite-forgotten suffragette? Now the Royal Message is being flogged at Sotheby's some fool's gold may revive those coldest memories. A BIG HAND FOR DIDEROT Women's written work was wittier, once. The formula for Millett? Miller whether just jerk, naif or knave, gave excellent head-fodder, nonetheless... Selective quotes make any god a dunce, so that shrewd Kate might fill a book, berating intellectual male sleaze. Miller or Mailer (stinker! jailer!): He's a prick talking balls. Millennial form? 'New' feminist slaves of fashion mouth off the more, In vying to confess. Flaunting crude literary envy till it paIls, these creatures con most liberated journos for a while. Truth means their primal duty is to Ms. Behave- She-who-has-it-All-Ways - missing brain or style. Hence the whole hype for what's a group emission of self-promoting, laboured missionary bile: cunts talking cunts. vide: Kate Millett, Sexual Politics, 1970. Eve Ensler (et al)' The Vagina Monologues, 1999. Denis Diderot, Les Bijoux Indiscrets, 1748. NEW LABOUR. NEW LONDON. NEW MILLENNIUM Well, what did you expect? A shining skyline turd, smug lump of Dome? Pay to appraise it anyway, then exit from the doubtful joy of grandiose Big Wheel! The vista's quite unarguably clear enough. The spin doctors have prescribed fine Stuff: The Blair Shit Project is where It's at, and that's for real! To Tony's roost now wobble home all sorts of Politically-Modified fowl, gutless species who'll in turn infect apathetic Albion's irritable bowel. Parasites infesting every view, the very air of Metropolitan Millennium, grow greedier for cash, to grab respect: one of these creatures may yet make a Mayor... End of the line, whichever way you go or come. What, democrat or daydreamer, did you expect? That body politic, newly madeover, might reject its own insidious mad maladies? How it might hum a healthier, changed tune into the-next Millennium? FAT OF THE LAND Six times richer than Palace admits. Ring out the celebration bells: that headline fits so cosily. And God saves an ancient billionaire Queen whose divine right to reign over cretinous shits is laudable or laughable, if not obscene. Abject zombies wave - braindead grunters culled from high and low, poor extras of a royal movie, wallowing at the sty. Respect's doled out to porkers as old hogs roll grossly on. Nothing must spoil the Spectacle, nor put paid to the show: Hunger, fed bread -&-circuses, chews humble pie-in-the-sky. Avid swine swallow each lie, gulp down both God & Mammon. Slaves, praise Our cash, admire Our pearls, Our bacon saved ages ago... British beefs orf? Then let them eat tripe. Hail Jubilee of gammon! (The Times 15 Oct 2001) BLAIR'S PRAYER O Guard, or Gawd, or Dear Prime Fraud, vanquish the vainglorious sinner, lest he wax rich and give up nothing. Moreover, over a good dinner, our psalms and anthems we did sing: Saddam and Gomorrah, every rogue must go! Down with Hussein's banner, Hosannah here below! Blessed are the Warmongers, for any speck of blood on their hands remains arguably righteous. But there's undeniable gore which - as I’ve lately remarked, if never so feebly before- staineth the millions of culpable hands waved high by misguided People of Peace. I say unto you, the crowds of craven appeasers should know: War cleanses evil and frees civilians in vilest foreign lands. Yea verily, our Sacred Oil Shares shall increase! Please praise most unctuously Amerika, therefore, whence all smart bombs and naive blessings freely flow. Expansive (though expensive) thanks to Yankeedom. Let's pray to the Great Mercenary Greedhead, our King of Mammon today... Lift your faces and your voices, gird your fierce loins for the fight, well ride out world disaster, our Banks can survive all right. Two great Allies will walk on water, disperse the global fears. Wait, just hang on a second - Apocalyptic Silence, pray, as I blare out and nobly lead and try to orchestrate a handful (at least a fistful) of truly inspiring cheers. Let's hear it from the Doubting Toms and for the Empire State: Gungho and Hurrah and Hip Hop Hooray! Friends, Holy Romans, Countrysidemen, lend me your crocodile tears: I intend to end up a Lord, if there be any future years. Right now I await your plaudits, recorded loud and clear. This bunker's getting empty, but I hope someone can hear. I feel a breeze, yet we're down on our knees, we're ever so saintly-sincere - O deliver us please from our enemies – Save us from burning, Bush & Co.!!! Our Men IN OUR MIDST Safe at Fylingdales spies from a friendly Empire track down stars and oil VIAGGIO IN ITALIA (pace Roberta Rossellini) Tony the phoney meets Belusconi: how will our own crook cope with an anti-war Pope? WAS THE BUTLER SORE? Orton oughtn't to have missed tales of tapes rapes of males misdeeds when pissed What petty hypocrites, what parasites, what shits. Such class-perpetuating twits these meanly suppurating 'Royals', swollen pimples, foreign boils fit to be squeezed - that does the trick! or lanced from Albion's body politic. Pay some flunkey peanuts, scream if that monkey's penis is waved in one's imperious face: cry shame and yell disgrace! These foolish things like queens and kings they shall all pass Meanwhile it remains important to value satirists like Orton to poke fun at each poker face and ridicule each righteous arse! THE BITERS BIT Muse and poet alike get bitten, each is not always love-drunk. Smiter or smitten cries So what game do you play - Demon-Bard or Dangerous Sot ? Smart fought with Barker, found the nerve to give him lip - forty stitches - still, theirs was a full lifetime trip, The End never signalled. Moustache disguised that nip.. Plath promised fervour, first meeting and biting Hughes over booze. Which showed cheek enough, having him choose poetry's bitter route, sharp blood-gift none refuse. Rebellion, provocation, short or long lives - tales drily retold by scholars of wild furies, errant males, whose parlous squabbles endure. Good old squalor never fails.OUR LATEST LOGOMACHIA Albion, aptly dubbed by Lawrence Durrell Pudding Island, always was perfidious, begrudged a welcome to the displaced lover. George Barker, in the Fifties, headed for the States, reckoned Little England inhospitable to any poet manifesting talent: bard-logic deemed it shrunken, the sad isle. Empire had dwindled, its contaminated wave (as most creative spirits would discover) seemed to invest the mercenary brain, find ways to flood each dull consumer’s heart. All floundered selfishly, drowned by black gold, ruled by the ebbing suction, irresistible, which owned and drained body and soul. True poets might be monsters and yet none of that species, menaced or menacing, quite thought the body politic, grown gross, could give them cause for pride. Bards dead and gone would find words now reduced: loud propaganda strives to form Life-Style; no dissent or decency left, where control-freaks, empty greedheads reign. Exiles and expats, refugees – all the disgraced, the disaffected misfits, knew their time had come: they heard, and fled the thunder. Threatened by low finance’s bigotry – high fashion making truth de trop, fine art a crime – they guessed no room remained for passion and feared Authority would not relent. Their status seemed unsure: why should one stay classbound, half-suspect or unheeded guest? Historical exclusion left them blank, depressed. Though desperation sometimes looked like vanity, the only way to save one’s soul was flight toward some promised other land. No Vacancy was fit to match the English death, that joker’s void breaking you gradually, which ground you under and flung poor aching fragments briskly at the night. Nothing, then, mars that vast Imperial condescension: words may not make a mark on those who will not read. Fast food is what is needed, junk unsafe but profitable, tasteless fare, for greed is how one governs. Artists are replaced, some flicker briefly, gain a measure of success, cash in, crash out, sell out, sell up, repeat themselves, play dumb, dumb down, fall by the wayside or settle for being set up for life. Others become each a Narcissus, creep to Academe, imbibing slime as stooges of the status quo, or else, plainly astute, play the Established Whore. Nothing’s improved. Now, in that next Millennium Barker and Durrell, Bacchic duo, never saw, writers of newer vintage are themselves grown old and work as best they can, loath to betray whatever legacies remain… We’ve not U-turned – a few of us – who all too often recently have struggled to express our hatred for the present crop of blind fools and bland crooks, cretinous warmongers, vile hypocrites. Who likes to live ruled by unmitigated shits? The only form of freedom these rogues know is media time and space to spout fond platitudes. Bugger such well-heeled, racist, always righteous attitudes, they’d censor truth, drown poets, burn their books!TOADY BLAIR: AN APOLOGIA There are good wars: what rotten luck it's the young men have to fight them. If troops are brave, so are MPs, and no patriot should slight them, guardians committed to our cause. Re WMD threat, let's pray lines be drawn under such questions... God's will is for despots to pay. Lawyers may lie, but Just Trust Us - while we propagate my Fourth WayAN EMBATTLED BOOK The proofs were returned, punctiliously read. The scatterbrained printer – a curse on his head! – undid such care, adding new typos to the text. Instead of the fine, considered, small-press book to savour, emptor demands a caveat: how best decipher where the poet’s at? Errata slips apologized to the perplexed. Error in any case abounds, bequeathed by fool or crook while words endure… At random, a few vultures fed on verse they reckoned scarcely worth a second look. Slimmest of volumes, it still found its way without them. Jap chaps, perhaps, can treasure a ‘corrector’s item’.SONG OF SENEX THE CYNIC Life’s for the living yet each day we’re dying: cold fate’s unforgiving for there’s no denying we’re in or we’re out – whisper or shout, turn, turn about – why are we waiting? Scheming, creating, warring and mating, loving or hating: the time that’s to spend has only one end.MERCENARY COLONIALS OR MCS To cheers they march! Air: “Soldiers of the Queen, my lads”. Cue smart salutes. The price of glory here is learned by little guys with mythic status dearly earned protecting native Brits from big bad foreign cads. Plucky stars of the distant battlefield circus mustn’t moan about bounty or homeland rewards, facing that gratitude the Commonwealth affords. Strange attitudes tarnish some military workers: surely medals suffice? What’s bugging these Gurkhas?
Let those who merit what the verse declares
Chose to be vexd and think the picture theirs
[John Clare, The Parish]
A shameless nameless fellow is the brutal Anonym,
there are no literary flies that dare alight on him.
As befits an impartial democratic spirit,
he vexes and eagerly, pointedly heckles
each pompous under-performer, each brittle unfortunate bard.
High, low or mighty, he lets them all have it,
by ruthlessly firm analysis, piercing, bright and hard!
These brisk sarcastic retorts – there’s no need to resort to a shout –
are par for the broader intellectual course,
are part of a brazen, most unwelcome habit
of bracing LitCrit, underpinned by sharp impatience.
A presence to berate pretension, smug imaginings,
he’s here to deplore the current ambience –
tides of earnest nonsense, endless dismal drought –
yet calmly, soberly, directs his own due rant
at whichever drab poetaster raises
his own fierce and horripilant hackles.
Banality of Academe, mere self-regarding cant,
this also, absolutely, he dispraises.
Winners of Awards, Established Reputations,
the New Obscurantist Sensations,
Bygones and Icons, National Treasures, Dim Young Things,
how few of them manage a poem that sings!
Which drooling ninny is fit to browse on Gert Stein’s tender button?
Strangers to genuine experiment, to ecstasy,
freeliving foes may flaunt The Drug Experience:
unfortunate lambs fit for slaughter, while dressed up as wise mutton;
those too he fulminates against – clogged prose, limp lines and woolly brain.
Pouring scorn on the School of the Bleeding Heart,
he shows healthy contempt for Confessional Pain,
and dismisses such stuff with a belch or fart.
He castigates as well the neat Minimalist;
decries a threadbare bourgeois Domesticity;
Freud is invoked, to poke fun at any annoying Miserabilist
whose cloying aches and pains ooze from a childish hoard.
He mocks New Righteousness, Gendered Self-Pity
that toils on woodenly prosaic chopping-board,
and lambasts too the trendy tweakers of daft feminuscule truth.
No litterateur escapes, not hallowed Age nor callow Youth:
No more twee trivia, no bogus colloquial guff!
Enough of spurious navel-gazing, away with fake-classical stuff!
Cliques and claques he furiously abominates,
likewise the lame ducks of officialdom. And Laureates,
media-besotted Old- or New-Gen publicists,
the suited apparatchiks of the BBC,
Left or Right Message-Bawds, earnest Religionists,
tripe-mongers straight or gay, their hangers-on, old mates,
macho lad, jammy rat, piffling Postmodernist.
Re the Networker Careerist, he reserves the right to be
quite as politically stern or incorrect
as necessary – sensible, impeccably direct.
Impartiality imbues his hates;
he likes to rile the ranks of his half-baked antagonists:
the precious Clever-Clogs who go out of their way
circuitously to confound all honest sentiment
as they confuse plain truth with truism, inert cliché;
the Rag-and-Bone Creeps, clad in outdated styles;
colourless Collagists of yesteryear; trite Rappers of today.
(Let semi-literates rap’n’slam for all they’re
worth, which means not a lot – except hot air!)
He knocks those Nerds, aficionados of the second-hand,
tricked out in worthy Oxfam, or less worthy Oxbridge, gear;
slick Plagiarists; Recyclers of junk and throwaway ironies;
Clones and pathetic Clowns; Performance Poseurs,
bland standups full of shit, less comical than piles,
and short on innate wit, while sure to smirk and tease;
pretentious self-congratulatory sniggerers,
Pseuds and Prize-Winners – smartarse figurers
in the dull, barrel-scraping likes of Poetry Review’s
Top Hundred, or a Colour Supplement’s ‘Best Ever’ Lists.
But who’s omitted? Who next to abuse?
(In fairness and irreverence he reserves a verbal gob
for the Distinguished Buffer, Grand Old Bore –
gong-wearing, if too long without a proper job,
toothlessly well-connected yet past sell-by date in-store…)
Longevity or youthful brevity – no matter,
neither state is respected. Nor will he flatter,
frowning at imputation of sour grapes. Fresh argument
is something he initiates, respects, can fruitfully control.
Satire’s the only apt response these days, he purrs,
since one must loathe each philistine – the toff or prole
alike – and worse, the tight-arse
middle-classes, blinkered and blank and apathetically content.
As for this crowd of tossers here tonight, they shall not pass
unscathed! Not to be cowed by stewards, strongarm stuff or threats,
his pointed satire, mischievous sharp weapon, always gets
results, shrewdly initiating impolite debate.
PR should be despised, he warns – genteel mendacity, third-rate
detritus of the times: smug propaganda and bad faith incite
cogent shock-tactics, just to sweep away sad shite.
Poets turn nervous now at readings: in disguise,
he aims some lethal shafts, flighted with craft and expertise;
these comments brim with justice, bring keen pleasure and surprise
to other verbal terrorists… Today the smartarse brash Young Man
In Vogue is targeted. A drivelling Teacher-dullard’s next.
Then an avuncular Eccentric, flourishing fusty text.
Insecure versifiers desperately seek
to spot, anticipate and ambush him. They never can…
Clearing the decks, they must suspect, is his immediate plan,
but still they go on, stammer forced and sorry words,
or pour out strained, self-deprecating anecdotes and such,
before they feebly wisecrack, pause, most knowingly,
to milk applause from some dumb jerks they seek to please.
And thus they fiddle while Rome burns: as for the Mystery,
it’s a conundrum they can’t solve, let alone touch.
Communication’s nothing that concerns them overmuch.
So what may be flushed out, rhyme or no rhyme?
Not excellence but effluents – verse turned to turds,
to worst of crapula, clogging the stream of Time…
How about the dreaded Heckler-Critic though?
What’s his own whispered weakness, his dark history?
What seedy CV secret should we all make haste to know?
Is he foreign Freak high on grudges? A drunken Lothario?
Our dread Stalker – this mild young slyboots? That erratic, wild old fart?
But no bullshit-detector’s required to tell blunderers apart:
any truthseeker, pure if not simple, is passionate for Art.
Good critics? Well might you enquire! There’s a New Millennial lack.
Wyndham Lewis, Leavis, Grigson: does the memory call them back?
With Roy Fuller, Enright, Empson, could they rally to attack
our increasing stacks of balderdash, this century’s bric-à-brac?
Should we ignore, or acknowledge, the fading ghost-name on blue plaque?
Are true, irascible talents required to keep Poets on track?
TWO FOR THE EX
POUNDS OF FLESH
She cooked up for those trueblue, blase Courts
a frightful dish of offal — olid olio of orts.
Eating one's words is a dumb exercise,
though, and the richest-seeming, tempting stew of lies
often smells rank, unpalatable. So to her surprise
even the well-fee'd lackeys paid such fare no heed,
lacking both zest and stomach to advise
this plump upholder of the rites of greed.
EPIGRAM FOR E.
Exact as ever is the definition
of this peculiar noun, especially polite
for a term first used in 1676.
How the 2-vol Shorter Oxford completes
my Cambridge Eng. Lit. education,
now I happen to open it at the E's!
Eons (or Aeons) too late, I've hit upon this
word from the Greek expressing one long-gone fix:
it's fit for poet-sawbones — Beddoes, perhaps Keats.
My egregious Ex seemed an Epinyctis,
"A pustule which is most painful by night".
In Erica's case however, no use at all to squeeze.
A COUPLE OF QUIBBLES
Listen Up! the dunces see fit to exhort us.
Redundant and meaningless,
mere nonsense in trendy dress,
it's not stuff our English grammarians taught us.
As yet another ridiculous phrase,
this one I'll resist 'to the end of my days'.
"To be honest we
all of us want to see more transparency"
an official spokesman oddly maintains,
as though he somehow did just that, or could,
being most 'clearly' blest with vatic vacancy.
He cites Lessons To Be Learned, Positive Gains...
Meanwhile, the Government Plan proposed will be
Proactive, Guidelines For Our Common Good.
Desperate to Deliver Excellence, he
fails signally to charm one lobbyist,
who grins in beatific boredom, pissed.
Freak accidents of phraseology and timing
treat ears to subtlety Reith might have reckoned 'unacceptable'.
Cast abroad, they're rare yet inspirational,
our motley aural gems, mined from the BBC
World Service. (Weirdness also greets prospectors of R3!)
A few priceless nuggets, then, may especially please me,
assume experimental forms, New Musicology
whose clearest echo may be treasured. They come chiming in,
to represent pure Accident, prime inadvertency.
(Their deeper audible lode reveals an absurdist grin).
Viz one guest, quite far from the norm - and so preciously introduced
as An unashamed viol junkie — sounded just a little unused
to jesting On Air. Today's take involved grim Albania I think,
the venue apparently where A stock of Second World War musicians
exploded. (‘The rest is silence', hints alternative history.)
When set or mindset's on the ball, the boil, the blink,
we should approve these conflicting and often eccentric visions
loading the digital realm. Even warfare's relayed fancy-free.
Each dreamer hears too much — not just wordplay nor wireless elisions,
but bland propaganda brought home. (Trails of grandiose vacancy...)
A Dutch dérive
All my life I have been an anti-tourist… a building has only to be listed in the guidebooks as of ‘great interest’ for me to refuse to go near it.
[Jean Renoir, My Life And My Films, 1974]
In Ley-den or Lie-den – it’s pronounced both ways
in Holland – we found poetry upon the walls
inscribed immaculately, situated high
above eye-level. Passers-by may safely gaze
at leisure then, and none deface resplendent works
waiting at corners, by ubiquitous canals.
Strolling on Koolstraat (but of course!) we happened first
to view one dismal Ode to Charles Parker: the worst
stuff, with its dizzy invocation of ‘John Burkes’.
Still I admire Gillespie, Bird, and undeterred,
we crossed the cobbled sidewalks of that fine city
where centuries earlier the great Descartes
once graced its University… How excellent
that the rational, enlightened Dutch see fit
to decorate their buildings with such generous arts,
calligraphers greeting bards. So pleasingly
some of the world’s sublimer lyrics lit our days,
were warmer than the elusive sun: Shakespeare
and Sappho, then Ronsard, Yeats, Apollinaire,
Quevedo, Williams, cummings and Montale –
original versions what’s more, even the Greek.
Dutch poets figured too, but we kept no tally,
not managing to scan their Flemish flights.
Did these quite admirable sites appear unique?
Were they to vanish soon? History’s quicklime would
efface most verbiage – warfare or fire or flood
lend a rough finish to invention, beauty.
When so little uplifts us, which artefacts last?
Fabric falls to fragments, ruin perpetually;
language flies back to the Babel of fabulous times…
Near water, pairs of footsteps ebb and flow, with
no trace left. Poor human imprints are transparent,
porous as brick, brief as remembered rhymes:
what price the classical ideals, that Golden Mean?
Yet giving the nice lie to cynical philosophy
a note from the resonant past may be heard.
Deep in the Museum of Egyptology,
there lay the 18th dynasty figurine
of the God Bes, three-and-a-half thousand year
old, still going strong – "protector of music,
drunkenness and eroticism". Truly my kind
of mythical deity, whose inspiring wit,
sensual radiance and best cheer must here remain
in place, genius loci, seldom seen again…
Learning to wander, keen if not curiously blind,
we linger awhile to discern flickers across life’s screen.
A WINSOME WOMAN
or, La Belle Dame Sans Souci
"calm and dull and self-absorbed"
Pregnant banalities uttered display unending confidence.
She’s attractive enough, and keen to charm her captive audience
of mainly female hangers-on. They’re egregiously vain, alike,
and can’t conceal their impatience for a turn at the Open Mic.
After the cod hesitation and the insignificant pause
come chronicles, most scurrilous, all angling for scanty applause
It’s pretty well-rehearsed and yet bland fodder served often before,
over-emphatic point-scoring, plus tales that are more trite than tall.
The performer tries to decide: her lovelife will surely enthrall;
deep in a fancy blue folder she needs must forage, simpering.
Confessional verse shall reveal how shags shake One’s Innermost Core!
(Her hapless drone lay drained and prone, alone and palely whimpering…)
While she reckons Win some, lose some, alert critics know Less is more:
the slow water-torture of readings drives commonsense out of the door.
They fooled all the shrewdest of pundits: none was fully aware
of their theatrical bluff - smirking duo, Bush and Blair,
whose 'Power Walk' featured both arms splayed out simian at the hips.
They'd stride to face massed cameras, snide grins pinned onto tight lips..
Is what you see what you get? (This archly posturing pair
brought to mind rapacious apes.) Was John Wayne's phantom out there,
that Third who walked beside them? Or did quite another Quare
Fellow follow in their wake, quick to sow doom and despair?
Western gunmen strut their stuff, suited warmongers do too:
the world may briefly believe, yet history buries you.
AS IN DULL
'Flow Bare was Ur reek loose'.
Grim stuff in flattest New World Poet-Voice,
while not dead-airtime, dims the BBC.
Its toneless owner clucks as if home free,
and comes on like a faintly silly goose.
Reclusive Flaubert, more gregarious Joyce,
felt saintly lust for words, yet took great care
lest best intentions be construed foursquare.
Critics work hard still to pronounce in vain
upon such gems, choices reviewed again.
Our pundit's name on R3 rhymes with look
rather than, as might be imagined, duck,
or, if its ii is umlauted, with dick.
Recluse, or reckless listener, take your pick.
You're stuck? Try flicking through her latest book,
which won a Pulitzer... But what the fuck,
writers need nerve to sound off, push their luck:
here's one I've heard enough of— Louise Glück.
Wintry courtyard where
old Sir John hobbles, hailing
bemused young Kingsmen
An Iscan Conclave
locals and strays come calling,
Plants hung up to dry
in our garage augur high
times and joys ahead
thrive beyond the pale,
build on world guilt, settling scores,
grab land unpromised
A Postmodern Question?
Adorno did not
like jazz, as Said said. What
was meant — cool or hot?
Killing Pigeon — thrilling news
fills our local rag
ALARM CALL, 2 a.m.
Flood of shocking light,
with blood bright on my pillow,
shows me I should rise
soon in 3D, an advert
claims. Whose god this time?
THE PEOPLE’S REPRESENTATIVE AT WESTMINSTER
Unheralded and vilified, true pride of London town, after weary years of protest camped upon the pavement, victim of random assault, prey to police harassment, and the petty spite of bureaucratic legislation, Haw remains intransigent: neither backing off nor down. His aim just to rile the conmen, cause them embarrassment, win allies on this tented watch. Thus he keeps his station under Big Ben, reproaches round the clock a Parliament turned quite tame and passive. He’s never yet seen fit to quit, our stubborn holy fool, but summons up some brazen wit, forecasting glummer things to come, and speaks for the nation on viewing the new wearer of the War Criminal’s crown – crony-catcher McBuggins, aka Gordon Brown. Everyone should credit it: "Different arsehole, same old shit".
NECROPHILIA RULES ‘The more you consume the less you live’ Fame feeds the greedy masses, but the Soft Machine needs freshest logos for new life – pale yellow, green. Invest in sentiment and crown Diana Queen. Ignore an end colder than tubs of margarine. Our Lady’s fittest, least inspiring image lacks gravitas, and yet exhorts us to be lean. Her signature’s here: one wonders why it should favour any brand. An unctuous message from the Flora folk gives THANKS to Di. It seems mere self-indulgence not to diet now. Good works work best after you die… It improves humble pie, so all must buy. It is ideally quick, an equitable spread, that smears the whole world smooth. So tasteless, thin. We’ll scoff the lot, over our daily bread, welcoming Death with its broad media grin. Meanwhile for saint or sinner it’s light years from dinner at the Ritz and breakfast time may prove too bland, too quiet. Drive faster, comes the summons, do let’s try it!
Piety in the sky
PIETY IN THE SKY, POETRY IN THE AIR
Inside this fortnightly periodical,
brainfodder for the urban intellectual,
is enshrined a grandiose text, its whole half-page
promoting po-faced, chattering flattery.
The reverential style surely provokes
the smile or bile of satire if not rage:
solemn events like these are short on jokes.
Some sanctimonious cow, one overweening witch,
will here scratch publicly her poetaster's itch,
engage in dialogue on Faith and Poetry, no less,
with a most venerable yet verbose retiree,
garrulous CEO of the ever-feeble C of E.
Roll up, roll up! Book now to catch rhyme's mystery!
Watch hairy Primate with 'award-winning' nonentity
explicate Art-and-Angels, locked in their wordy cage,
to an audience worthy of better, true auras of holiness.