THE JARUZELSKI LETTERS
For some time now, the editor has been receiving missives from the great but neglected Polish plumber-poet, Stefan Jaruzelski. He felt the time had come to let the world in on the secret of this genius of the sweated joint and the sestina. Jaruzelski promises to send soon extracts from his two-thousand-line poetic epic. In these poor pages you may before long be able to read the work of the contemporary Homer, or learn how to fit a bath. It's rumoured that Jaruzelski has recently been spotted in Warrington. Was he in search of inspiration or cheap ball-cocks ? Only time will tell....
Dear Mr Dent,
Stefan Jaruzelski here. I move from Vacqueras to Chinon in search of work and to improve English. This is big success. My French competitor plumber he have van with his name "Emile Zola" and "J’accuse s'il vous plait" on it. French think this very drole but I much better plumber and fix Jacuzzi of rich English poet. He also teach me English. He own chateau in region. He Lord Mikhail Jagger. He say Zola plumbing is dog's breakfast but my plumbing is dog's bollocks. Many items of ladies clothing in nozzles and drains but I fix them pretty damn quick - then Lord Mick teach me English. He plumber too before becoming poet. We have long talk on soldering joints and bending springs. Then he play me his poems on gramophone. Mick he main poet in England. I tell him I like sonorities but find sense - how you say -elusive. Mick ask if I really poet too and suggest I better writing installation instructions for gas boilers. I much hurt by this.
Mick allow me to read his large library which come with chateau. I find polonais-francais dictionary inscribed “De George ŕ mon cher Frederic" which big help to me learn English. Mick make me plumber-in-residence of Chateau Mick but sometimes I moved out to Hotel France when Mick has grand-daughter at chateau. Mick say she very ill and need peace and quiet and many meat injections.
I read English classics: Shakespeare; Milton, Dickens, Wordsworth etc Mick know all English poets alive - he friends with Queen and King Charles. I ask if he write for Penniless Press but he say he not qualified for such an outlet – yet. He many friends who also poets. I meet Michael George who look very distinguished with goatee beard. He very friendly to me and say he plumber too before becoming poet. He insist we retire to Lord Mick's toilet to admire pipework. Pipework good (not by E.Zola) but Michael then say if I to be English poet/gentleman it important to know how to hold todger correctly in front of urinal. He much exasperated by my failure to learn proper hold and reach out to hold it for me. Then he ask me to hold his. He say this normal practice in Anglo-Saxon high society. I very glad when Lord Mick burst into toilet and shout "fucking shirt-lifter!" and drag Mr George out.
I still work on long poem which I base on Wordsworth's Prelude. Early books on Polish childhood will be in native language but later episodes will be in French and conclusion in English. This will be plumber-poet apotheosis and new genius (Stefan Jaruzelski) will appear in Penniless Press holding todger correctly in front of perfectly installed self-flushing porcelain urinal MKIV with gleaming brass tubes.
I write again soon and hope to include some stanzas. Can you advise book on todger/urinal etiquette ? This may be important if I am be knighted by King Charles.
Stefan Jaruzelski ( Plumber/poet)
Esteemed professor Dent
I find myself (je me trouve) in Dordogne. Lord Mick had to go on world tour and felt uneasy about leaving me in Chateau with granddaughter on premises. I try to assure him that I too could give granddaughter meat injections if Lord Mick could teach me but he felt it best I should widen the circle of friends rather than that of Michael George (who offers me job plumbing in Los Angeles). After much discussion with Lord Mick (who also was plumber before fame embraced him) we decide that although Loire valley is popular with tourists I need clientele of established Englanders since they are more obsessed with washing, toilets and clean arse than French. Mick tells me that French don’t even have a word for bidet. Consequently we decide I best move to Dordogne where in some villages there are more English than French.
I lodge at first in tent on camp site at Neuvic next to river L’Isle. Then locals tell me of strange English doctor who has many failures with Monsieur Bricolage plumbing in his house at Haut Planeze. I visit habitation up winding rue Paul Schmidt. There in old farmhouse with massive barn half underground in hillside I find Dr Lee up to ankles in sewage fixing turd macerator on kitchen table. This is common occurrence. He is grateful for help since tea will be served on table soon. Madame Lee prepares meal in kitchen and shouts often to aid Dr Lee’s concentration. Dr Lee is not real doctor but teacher of sociology (retd) (I not sure if this is retired or retarded). Although he was plumber in Trafford originally he says he forgets all that shite now and regrets this since he finds nothing in Weber or Durkheim on the operation of turd macerators.
I fix macerator and clean shite off table with sleeve of jacket. Dr Lee brings me large glass of wine which he says is from 300 litre barrel of in back of barn. I drink but don’t complain since this is friendly gesture. Dr Lee’s eyes not good; barrel room gloomy; he obviously filled glass from tank of creosote. Dr Lee, however, pronounces drink “a fine, robust expression of the St Emilion comparable with the great 96 vintage”. I decide he is serious pisshead. In Poland too are many pissheads. I feel well at home here. Dr Lee takes me on tour of premises pointing out many problems of plumbing. I say I can fix all these tout de suite and he suggests I stay, sleeping in barn, till everything honkey dory.
Later Madame Lee serves tea but asks, seeing me at table “Not another spastic parasite John! Where do you find them? And how are we going to feed this idle bugger? Does he speak English?” But Dr Lee bridles and retorts “Stefan is top jockey plumber. He fix place up plenty good and quick. He also scholar and writer and told me very interesting tale of Chopin fixing garden tap for Flaubert. He friend of Lord Jagger. He fucked George Michael. He wine connoisseur of great sensitivity and detected notes of creosote in Arnauld’s vrac. He opera buff. We will spend many evenings discussing Wagner and Verdi.” We drink from bottle with no label which empties very quick. Another bottle appears, this time a white, also with no label which Dr Lee says is a 1990 Pouligny Montrachet but which I recognise as bat urine.
Next day, during wine breaks, of which there are many, we discuss philosophy. Dr Lee studied this at Hull where great English poet ran library. He met Ryle and took him to the pub. He remembers Ryle saying to him “I’ll have half of mild please John”. We discuss the mind/body problem and I say that Ryle is behaviourist. Dr Lee very offended by this and says that I am dumkopf and that Poland never produced any great thinkers. I mention Copperknickers and Kant. Dr Lee throws down blowlamp and runs up to library in front of barn. He produces favourable citations on Ryle from Wittgenstein and G.E. Moore but I say Wittgenstein was wrong too and should have stuck to his plumbing course at Manchester Poly rather than chasing after the egregious Bertrand Russell, and that Moore’s concept of a commonsense philosophy was an oxymoron. “You’re like that Oxford toerag philosopher Jack Austin” Dr Lee raged “A.J.Ayer told him he was like a dog which couldn’t run but bit the legs of better dogs who could”. I remarked that all English philosophy was bankrupt and sterile and that I preferred the inspiring mysticism of Heidegger and Sartre. Dr Lee said it was all bollocks and that I was typical continental birdbrain. After many more wine breaks, towards the end of the afternoon, I have run fifteen feet of 10mm copper pipe, not particularly straight, and Dr Lee thinks there might be something to Sein und Zeit after all. We fall asleep on large couch and are awakened only by shouts from Madame Lee who wants spuds peeled.
Dr Lee has vast collection of recorded music on vinyl, CD and tape. Many nights we listen to Parsifal, Otello, Falstaff, the Ring cycle. Drawers and boxes overflow with a plethora from Montiverdi to Schoenberg. But is this commodity fetishism? I take the good Dr to task after familiarising myself with the sociologists vocab browsing his extensive library. I realise that some Marxist jargon would impress and I had much of this from my uncle who ran Poland. “John” I began one night after a particularly fine meal with many bottles of Chateau Leftfoot “commodity fetishism is a deformation of personality brought on by the capitalist mode of production. The superstructural, spiritual attributes of art objects are subsumed into their concrete encodings. Hence literary and musical works become hypostatised into their contingent physical manifestations – books and discs. Pseudo-connoisseurs, with no appreciation of the original artistic impulse, get locked into the fetishistic accumulation of representations. A recent development is the substrate variant which provides further stimulus for the addicted collector. Thus, although you have the whole 16 hours of Wagner’s ring on CD, Vinyl, VHS tape and DVD you must, with the advent of the Minidisc, transpose this masterpiece into yet another encoding. Madness of course. We see in this endemic pursuit the successful subversion of the working class revolutionary spirit by a small secret clique of establishment autocrats. Compare this to the natural, life-enhancing approach of the Ituri pygmies who dropped everything – hunting, shagging, scooping out the brains of their enemies as a snack - on hearing Mozart’s G minor Symphony No 40 - but had no inclination to buy a Dansette (the state of the art record player in 1958) even if they could have afforded one.” I think John was chastened by this analysis.
And then, by an extraordinary coincidence which only Jung or Borges could justify, I am rooting about in John’s library when I find some back issues of…the Penniless Press!! Shag a parrot! As John’s Australian brother in law might say. I read everything with great attention. Your own superb criticisms worthy of the great English ranter F.R. Leavis. But where are your poems? Such noble reticence (or perhaps they are too big to fit in). The terrible plight of Fred Voss – “eyeless in Palm Beach, at the mill with slaves” one might paraphrase (but would my compatriot machinists in a freezing workshop in Lodz sympathise?), the great Jim Burns, and the bizarre stories of Ken Clay (is this a real person? Life in the CPGB seems very different from that of an apparatchik in Warsaw). Now that Dr Lee has trained me on the computer I find I am writing much quicker. Dr Lee, after a cursory glance has pronounced it all “gibberish”. The first section of my vast epic, in Polish, will soon be finished. Naturally you will print this. An introduction will explain the sounds of Polish while a vestigial summary will cover the meaning. (who cares about that? Has TS Eliot lived in vain?). There will be room for no other contributions and it will extend over three issues – this will make life simpler for you and Madame Dent I think you will agree.
Dr Lee will be moving to his other house in Spain soon. This is new apartment with excellent plumbing. Turds will flow unimpeded to a splendid sewage farm which will be constructed in two years time. No heating is required. Dr Lee says the local vino rosso and blanco are superior to Vosne Romanée and Meursault. But I yearn for my native Lodz from which I shall send you a large package very soon.
Your fellow poet and plumber
STEFAN JARUZELSKI - POLISH PLUMBER AND POET
I first met Stefan in 2005 in the South Rhone village of Vacqueras. He'd hitched from his hometown of Lodz with a bag of tools and an urge to get rich quick. But such was the French fear of immigrant tradesmen - the Polish plumber being the dreaded archetype demonised even in Le Figaro - that he was soon reduced to grapepicking. Each night we'd meet in the Bar des Sports and after a few Ricards get into a kind of cultural exchange. French, at this point, was still his second language but he quickly picked up a serviceable English pidgin. He told me that Chopin, an earlier immigrant, had also been a plumber who had been forced to diversify due to local prejudice. I find no mention of this in Groves however. I recited English poetry with examples from the canon. He soon pronounced Shakespeare "top jockey" preferring the Sonnets and "the Penis on the Tortoise" above all else. He was also keen on Milton whose radical sentiments were entirely to his taste. "Describe again King's head chopped off" he'd insist.
The more we recited the more excited he became. His booming performance of Book II of Paradise Lost practically emptied the bar but since, between us, we drank more than all the stingy locals put together the proprietor didn't mind. I did essay a little Baudelaire and Verlaine but he decided they were "tosspots and vankers". There was something about English, its variety of sounds and syntax, which he preferred to French which he likened to "a monotonous stream of verbal snot". I feel my own defective renderings of les poetes maudits may be to blame for this harsh judgement.
Such a raw and powerful talent might come to something, I thought, so I gave him the address of the Penniless Press. He vowed to master the world's greatest poetic vehicle (English) and send his efforts to "esteemed editor Tooth at Penisless Press". Back home I got further letters, as did Alan, from the Loire valley where he worked at Mick Jagger's chateau, and the Dordogne where he fixed plumbing cock-ups by English DIYers. There were always hints of some heroic epic in progress but nothing was submitted. His letters became more expressive and increasingly bizarre. I began to fear for his sanity - perhaps he really was a poet maudit.
Then in December 2005 a letter from Greek street Soho. He was staying with his daughter who, despite a doctorate in plumbing from the University of Warsaw, seemed to be a victim of the white slave trade. The letter, to esteemed editor Dent via me, requested help in becoming a member of the Church of England (like Johnny Milton) and enclosed an odd ecclesiastical hand-out he'd been sent from the custodians of his chosen faith. I reassured him that there'd be no rigorous scrutiny concerning his doctrinal understanding as in Catholicism (his religion by birth) but it would help if he renounced heterosexuality and viewed women as defective beings. I enclosed some texts by Nietzsche and Joe Orton.
Later still his daughter Wislawa rang up. No victim she - I got the impression she was running a busy knocking shop. It dawned on her that literature could be lucrative and had been advised, by a client, that she'd be a certainty for the Hooker Prize. I agreed wholeheartedly and asked if she could ferret out a sheet or two of Stefan's oeuvre. I added that even great poets had to start somewhere and that esteemed editor Dent was keen to be the first to expose the plumber/poet to the world. Not only would she send examples of work in progress she'd translate and annotate them too (Stefan's early efforts were in his native Polish).
Red and White turned up after I'd sent her the Ł5 postage. It's in the Shakespearean mode (or strait-jacket) of iambic pentameters but with echoes of the tyke bard Tony Harrison in his fine series Continuous. Stefan mimics perfectly Harrison's jog-trotting doggerel. It is, admittedly, a prentice work but there are fine effects. The exile's tearful reflex, wiping his eye with a filthy, flux smirched cloth, is very touching. The image of Chopin's tubercular spittle is also fine in the tradition of 1940s Hollywood - one can see Leslie Howard, sweat-streaked and slumped after a demanding etude and then a close-up of the red drips on the ivories. I am less sure about the slanders on Gomulka. I think the red phone and fur coat were attributes of the servile East German apparatchik Walter Ulbricht. Then we return to the opening image. One hopes, for the sake of Polish poetry, that Stefan didn't cut himself on sanitary wear used by George Michael. The final agonised complaint is searing - "realm of bum" is inspired. It has a Miltonic ring - perhaps Dante - well, Rochester at least. The commentary by Wislawa is a very odd apparatus for which I suppose we must be grateful, if not always credulous. We are reminded of Kinbote on John Shade. Purists may sniff at this patchy start with its flashes of greatness but they should remember that this is only one of Stefan's protean gifts. What, one wonders, would TS Eliot be able to do with your blocked U bend? How was W.B. Yeats with a soldering iron?
Ken Clay 2006
Feb 22 2006
Esteemed Editor Dent
I take opportunity of visit to daughter to contact you again on matters literary. I still struggle with English language and have found many inspiring volumes left by previous owner of daughter’s Greek street flat. This was the Right Hon Somebody Somefucker of the Lib Dem party (if I hear my daughter correctly). Works include bound issues of The Gayboy Times and stories of wartime heroes intended for schoolboys. The latter by Capt W.E. Johns who is very like my countryman Josef Conrad, describing the lone hero engaged in moral struggle against fate.
I read these faute de mieux and find myself considering pastiche as an instructive technique. You no doubt recall Proust’s great works in this genre: Pastiches et Melanges. How Lord Jagger and I larfed over the piss-take of Flaubert by the great Marcel. For weeks afterward Lord Mick might say “How you like this shirt Stefan” and I would reply “It a bit jaunâtre for me Lord Mick” and then we’d both hoot immoderately. Or Mick might observe after night on the piss “Stefan, you’re looking a bit verdâtre today old bean”. Happy days. (Mick has now sold Loire chateau incidentally because of new draconian French tax on rich gits. Johnny Hallyday also announces himself Belgian to escape the predations of state but this surely, how you say, cutting off nose to spite face).
Captain W.E. Johns struck me as great stylist with fine narrative drive. He very popular with young people and I read many Biggles books during daughter’s frequent absences. She is looking for flatmate and brings back many fellows who jump up and down on bed noisily (I hear this through locked door) leave a deposit and then never return. Perhaps bed too soft for their bad backs.
Eventually, although poet with principal epic now up to line 16540 and accompanying French commentary extending to 15,000 words, I feel prose work coming on. Perhaps more melange than pastiche (to use the Proustian taxonomy) I find myself combining the heroics of wartime RAF with modern moeurs of Libdems picked up from accounts in redtop press.
I tell daughter of my project and letter to you. She not too impressed and says you would be “one mad fuck” to even consider keeping such an obscenity in the house let alone publishing it. I retort that she knows nothing of English manners and customs since she can’t even rent spare room. Esteemed editor Dent probably Biggles fan himself, and LibDem too I shouldn’t wonder. No-one makes money from poetry so I work on melanges as good little earner and expect Hollywood contract soon if not personal column in Gayboy Times.
Your fellow poet and plumber
Stefan's updated version of a Biggles adventure Biggles Pulls It Off can be read in the Annexe.
Breaking News! BritArt Superstar Flees Greedy Govt!
Tent: "Everyone who's ever fucked me"
Haiku by Stefan Jaruzelski