[A so-called seasonal poem from J-P Sertin:]

There’s a daft bar called Bohemia,
I never entered, but I know:
Daftness hangs ’round all the bars that called themselves Boho.
So there he said, and I agreed
So off we duly went
And in Boho a super-daft old afternoon we spent.

At the very least this explains why Sertin hasn’t been seen around The Crippled Bee for a few weeks now.

Spotted Mongrel

A handful of observant readers (my wife included) noticed an allusion in the last post to a late poem by that Hungarian master Tomas Lurgsy. The allusion, of course, lay in the line ‘each a vagrant mongrel’; also the title of a Lurgsy poem.

There are those who say that pointing out an allusion rather spoils it. They are probably right: I bring this one to light only because I made it, as it were, unknowingly. This confirms my wife’s belief that I am at my cleverest when trying not to be clever.

The Wart That Was

‘The Duke of Rutland subscribed for no fewer than ten copies, since Savage had written him a poem about his wife the Duchess’s recovery from smallpox the previous year: one of Savage’s most nimble pieces of opportunism’ (Richard Holmes, Dr Johnson and Mr Savage)

One is reminded, inevitably, of the late eighteenth century poet Casimir Snook, whose stock-in-trade consisted of odes composed ‘in honour of a receding malady’. The most famous is, of course, To Maria, Whose Wart Was Successfully Removed, though I have always had a soft spot for earlier works, including the majestic To Patrick, Who Recovered from Rickets, and the sublime Ode to Lord Matherson’s Wooden Leg.

Wray of Sunshine

Affectation, oh affectation! How thou dost haunt the poets so. Robert Wray, as we have seen, kept a chicken on a leash. Should we be surprised?

Hardly. You will recall, no doubt, the recent study, Under the Skin: The Infuriating Life of Robert “F******” Wray by Seymour Sentana. I think the title says it all. Wray’s life was dedicated to annoying people. A chicken on a leash was, I suspect, the very least of it. Coins clinking in a fur-lined coat? Wray could do better than that. Wray better.

What should we do, however, with this curmudgeonly poet? Dismiss him as an eccentric, castigate him as a bastard: celebrate him as a pioneer? The first and second would be easy to do, were it not for the fact that, on paper (literally, on paper) his tactics of frustration did bear some wonderful fruit. Take, for example, his ’87 work, Insular Insolence. What poems! They made your skin itch, admittedly – and your hands sweat – but they had extraordinary power. Power that was, sadly, overlooked by vast majority of their readers.

Again, no surprise. Wray’s habit of attacking, abusing and verbally assaulting his own readers didn’t help his cause; even though it was the point, essentially, of his work. Essentially? I mean completely. Wray aimed to get under people’s skin – and do this he did. We will never thank him for it. And, bless the poor dead soul, he never asked for our thanks anyway. Just for our frustration.

oh brszny!

Last night at The Crippled Bee, conversation turned – once more – to the subject of Brszny Derydaripov.

Few joined me in his defence, whilst the prosecution party was overwhelmed by cohorts. He is, I surmise, the type of poet that ‘gets people going’. Or else I am really am mad.

No, but I stand by my man. Brszny is not the idiotic prancer people think he is. So what if he indulges in a guilty rhyme or two? There is method to his silliness. Even his loosest spoofs contain a kernel of purest profundity.

‘Oh Georgy, come off it!’ (to quote a close friend) ‘How can you possibly defend the man who wrote this?’ A fair point, perhaps. After all, the poem in question does contain some of Brszny’s less – how shall I put it? – ‘obviously glorious’ moments. ‘A haven from the diaper stink’ would appear to be a case in point, so too the allusions to ‘sweetie-pies’, ‘foul plots’ and the criminally cockney ‘ain’t’. On the other hand, I am inclined to remind readers that Derydaripov is, primarily, a satirical force; a keen collector of language, who selects words with deliberate care and uses them, despite their reputation, to make a range of subtle points. By which I mean this: there is much more to poems like this than meets the eye. Ode to the Hyperlink is not, as it may seem, a manic, brainless ramble, but a cunning attack on contemporary culture. Not Brszny at his best, maybe, but there is nothing – I repeat, nothing – to be embarrassed about here. No, no, no…

Pardoning the Poet

Geoffrey Chaucer was just one of the topics discussed at breakfast this morning. Marmalade was another – but that’s enough of that.

Chaucer isn’t the sort of writer to whom I would normally dedicate the precious jewel-like minutes of my life. One tale of his, however, does  insist on climbing into my mind from time to time. Or to be more exact, one character. I refer, of course, to the infamous Pardoner, a somewhat slimy character, of loose morals, who despite chronic cynicism and personal lack of faith nonetheless proves himself a rather able converter of lost souls.

Why should he wander into my head with such regularity? The fact is, I often think of him when I consider writers, so many of whom, despite their strong words, seem to me a wimpy, spineless sort. Their wordy bravado drives them through; not so their moral strength. They spin great sentences, inspiring readers to all sorts of worthy acts, though they in themselves may be craven cowards. They are, in short, an insincere crowd.

These are harsh words; taken to boiling point when I might have let them simmer. What, you may ask, inspires them?

I have, again, been pondering my wife’s dislike of the poet Brszny Derydaripov, whom she accuses of such insincerity; of taking up ideas and toying with them, kitten-like, without any intention of acting on whatever lies within. He is, she thinks, a Pardoner-like writer: full of words, but light on convictions. He is ‘all icing – and no cake’.

I would be inclined to agree, were it not for the fact that I don’t. Admittedly, there is something of the shape-shifter about old Brszny. He does change style more frequently than most. But this is not necessarily because he lacks substance, but that is he is, inherently, a playful poet. Or to put it another way, playfulness is his substance. Shape-shifting is his shape. Not every writer should have to be anchored to one way of working. Not every writer should be expected to wear their heart way out on their sleeve. Brszny is a breath of fresh air in this respect; he subverts our expectations – and does so winningly.

Ah, but was not the Pardoner equally charming? Well, indeed. And he was also a great story-teller – and knew it. Nor did he pretend, in certain company, that he was an upright man. And yet, well: he was, despite all this, an unattractive character. Whereas Derydaripov, I believe, is quite the opposite. He is not conviction-less, but a firm believer in undermining our need for convictions. He is sincere in his insincerity – and takes silliness as seriously as any great writer (which is, of course, very seriously indeed).

Insincerity and the Poet

Insincerity is just one of the crimes of which my dear wife accuses my friend the poet Derydaripov. He flits between styles and ideas, she argues, with little or no respect for their origins. He is, she thinks, the archetypal flibbertigibbet; essentially unable to come up with an original thought and constantly trading off the work of others. His work is no more than a parody of poetry: it has no style of its own – and is, at bottom, emotionally and intellectuality redundant.

Harsh words for the man who wrote these very lines:

When doth a dusty wren admit
that it’s no better than a tit?
Or, beak beneath a feather, curse
the fact that it may be much worse?
Come forth dear wren: confess! confess!
Your wing’s all wrong, your nest’s a mess!

(Brszny Derydaripov, When Doth a Dusty Wren, 2009)