Saturday, 26 November 2011

Stop farting in my face and get on with the poetry!

“I am so proud that our poet laureate is a woman, is gay, and is a single parent… and loves football as much as I do!” The woman who prefaced her performance at the poetry reading event I attended last night with these remarks then proceeded to give us “Achilles” by Carol Ann (“Did you know I’m a lesbian?”) Duffy, which draws an analogy between David Beckham and Achilles. (I'd love to hate it, but it's actually quite a decent poem.)

We’d already had the chap – who I’ve mentioned before – who insists on sharing his bizarre political views with attendees. Although everyone is introduced by the organiser with a short, self-penned biography, this man yet again felt it necessary to inform us that he was “broadly Marxist” and once again shared with the us the fact that he was a “pro-Palestinian campaigner”. He then proceeded to read out a leadenly unfunny poem by Edward Lear. What believing in an utterly discredited political philosophy that has brought untold misery to hundreds of millions of your fellow human beings has to do with a poem about two old bachelors escaped me. But he looked terribly pleased with himself for having once again broadcast his poisonous, anti-human beliefs.

I felt like a British undercover agent attending a meeting of deranged Nazi sympathisers in 1938.

I must stress that only two out of 23 readers felt the need to parade their prejudices - but yet again I found myself wondering why some left-wingers feel the need to stuff their unpleasant views down other people’s throats at public gatherings of this sort (just sit through any form of media awards programme on TV – if you have the stomach for it – and you’ll see what I mean). I express my political and social views here on this blog, true, but nobody has to read them. When you’re attending a poetry reading event, and you’re due to perform later in the programme, you’re rather stuck there. Of course, I could have prefaced my reading of an extract from Chesterton’s stirring “Lepanto” (“White founts falling in the Courts of the sun/And the Soldan of Byzantium is smiling as they run…”) with the following statement: “I’m so proud that our Prime Minister is a heterosexual, and that he's actually married to  the mother of his children… and that he shares my love of tennis. My political views are broadly Thatcherite, I’m fiercely pro-Israeli and pro-American, and I think anyone who claims to be a Marxist is a CAUC.”

But, no matter how accurate such remarks would be, I can’t see any difference between uttering them and turning your back on the audience and emitting a thunderous and noxious fart. It would be just as ill-mannered.

Irritated, I spent the interval (God, how I hate intervals!) dipping into the paperback of Chesterton’s poetry I’d brought with me. There was one that sounded so like several of those we’d heard in the first half, that I couldn’t stop laughing:

To a Modern Poet

about it?

I am sorry
if you have
a green pain
gnawing your brain away.
I suppose
quite a lot of it is
gnawed away
by this time.

I did not give you
a green pain
or even
a grey powder.
It is rather you, so winged, so vortical,
Who give me a pain.

When I have a pain
I never notice
the colour.

But I am very unobservant.
I cannot say
I ever noticed that the pillar-box
was like a baby
skinned alive and screaming.
I have not
a Poet's
which can see Beauty

Now you mention it,
Of course, the sky
is like a large mouth
shown to a dentist,
and I never noticed
a little thing
like that.

But I can't help wishing
You got more fun out of it;
you seem to have taken
quite a dislike
to things
They seem to make you jump
And double up unexpectedly -

And when you write
like other poets,
on subjects
not entirely
such as, for instance,
the Sea,
it is mostly about
As you say -
It is the New Movement,
The Emetic Ecstasy.

Spot on, G.K!

Having said all that, Pass On A Poem is a wonderful concept. If there's one available near you, I'd really recommend attending at least once. I'm so pleased my wife dragged me along to one two years ago. Because no one's allowed to read their own poetry, there's always something worth hearing. There were some particularly fine poems last night  – one of which I’ll share in the next post.


  1. Ex- Rugger Bugger30 November 2011 at 10:01

    Your head-line reminded me of a verse from " 'Twas on the Good Ship Venus" which was our anthem at the Guildford & Godalming Rugby Club in the early 60s:

    "The Third Mate's name was Carter,
    By God, he was a farter,
    When the wind wouldn't blow
    And the ship wouldn't go,
    We'd get Carter the farter to start her.


    This was always followed by "Hold me down, Zulu Warrior". The full texts are available on Google and you might consider including them at a future poetry reading. Or in your favourite quotations.

  2. I notice you use the expression CAUC on a number of occasions and it puzzles me. Is it short-hand for "Caucasian" or does it mean something else?

  3. CAUC is an acronym rather than an abbreviation. "Complete And Utter Cretin", I believe - or something quite close to it. "Clod"? Something beginning with "C" and four letters long. Ends with a "T", I think. "Clot"? Getting closer.

    Anyway, See You Next Tuesday.

    Oh, hang on...

  4. Thank you, Ex-Rugger Bugger. I've been wondering what to read at the next poetry meeting in two weeks' time, and you may have inadvertently provided the answer.