Day 30

5.03: Good, I suppose, for Carol Anne Duffy: a poet laureate who’ll happily snare establishment wisdom with some fly bait in a hedge, imprison it in a matchbox, and then dance on it in stiletto heels before setting it on fire and weeing all over its hissing dying embers.

She’s written a Christmas poem, taking a scattergun, nailbomb pop at the war in Afghanistan, the mealy mouthed approach of governments to climate change, MPs, Peers,  bankers,  celebrities, oil barons, middle England, and Nick Griffin. These, to a greater or larger extent, are Bad Things.

And inevitably, her weirdly Julie-Andrews, Generation-Game approach to Bad Things has also thrown up a few of her favourite things. They seem to be, poetry, poets, Barack Obama, Fabio Capello, Joanna Lumley, Anish Kapoor, Alan Bennet and rare birds.

Trouble is, apart from its good intentions and a promising start, it appears to be a truly rotten poem. This is the promising start:

Trouble is, apart from its good intentions and a promising start, it appears to be a truly rotten poem. This is the promising start:

In Afghanistan,
no partridge, pear tree;
but my true love sent to me
a card from home.
I sat alone,
crouched in yellow dust,
and traced the grins of my kids
with my thumb

After that, it’s just a tidal wave of heavy-handed pot clattering and wild China-shop bull riding. With puns. It’s the puns I think that ruin it. If she wants, like Willem Dafoe in The Last Temptation of Christ “to tear down everything around you,” then she can’t be too overtly clever about it (not that it’s even that clever).
Poems work better as biological weapons than incendiary ones. If you blow something up it makes a big bang and might knock down a tall building. That’ll surprise people, make them watch their step for a while. But if you let on that you’ve released an invisible, deadly airborne virus into the atmosphere, you’ll scare the shit out of them for ever and a day.

Adrienne Rich thinks poetry (in particular poetry about large scale human disasters) ought to be thought of “not as a privileged and sequestered rendering of human suffering, but as news of an awareness, a resistance, which totalising systems want to quell: art reaching into us for what’s still passionate, still unintimidated, still unquenched.”

I read Duffy’s poem before I went to bed last night, and woke up with the image of the mother’s thumb tracing the lips of her children at Christmas, still turning over in my mind: invisible, airborne virus.

On the other hand there’s her treatment of the BNP:
 
I bought a poisoned goose from a crook (sick, whiffing).
This foul goose laid Nick Griffin.

Planted under a car, that kind of bomb wouldn’t even damage the trim on an old Ford Cortina. If you’re going to take up arms, Carol Anne Duffy, make sure you’re weapons are loaded, and that you’re packing a whole sauna of heat. Either that or be a better shot.

6.51: This morning, There Before Light comes to you from my new computer, which is like a spangly alien in my kitchen, made of televisions and moondust. I don’t understand this machine, but I get a sinister sense that it knows what I’m thinking all the time. The old one still sits beside it, like a spurned wife forced to attend its ex’s wedding to a nubile floozy. One day I’d better find it a decent retirement home – somewhere that has grounds, and computers of its own age to swap war stories with. I’m sure I’ll get my comeuppance when the new one hypnotises me, turns my brain into an electromagnet, and uses me to power its supersonic evil wagon.

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~ by David Thorley on December 7, 2009.

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