Mark Haddon has followed up his heartbreaking work of staggering genius, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, which was named the 2003 Whitbread book of the year, with a collection of poetry, and the Guardian recently carried a scathing attack (I almost hesitate to call it a review) on it. Now while I will certainly be among the first to admit that The Talking Horse and the Sad Girl and the Village Under the Sea is at best a minor work, not much more than a hurried sketch done in a somewhat playful but pensive mood by an acclaimed master, I was nevertheless not a little surprised by the amount of vitriol in the aforementioned piece by Ranjit Bolt. I, for one, being firmly of the opinion that the possibility of genuine nonsense should surely be a cause for celebration, would like to respectfully disagree with Mr. Bolt. I definitely do not regret the time I spent perusing this slim volume, and I believe that admirers of Haddon's stark and sparse prose will, at the very least, discover in this book a voice that is rather different from the one that had so pleasantly surprised and delighted them.
Here are two poems that I have selected from the book. Tongue-in-cheek? Yes. Occasionally somewhat affected and sometimes mediocre? Perhaps. But tendentious and ghastly? I think not.
Horace Odes 1:25
Young men stumbling home from parties
don't throw pebbles at your windows now.
You sleep till dawn and that busy door
of yours now hugs the step. No one
asks how you can sleep when they are dying
all night long for love of you. Times change.
You're old and no one gives a damn.
You'll weep at all the men who have deserted you
as gales from Thrace roar down
that empty lane on moonless nights.
The hot lust which sends mares mad
will flare around your ulcerated heart
and you'll cry out at the young men
who love the ivy and the dark green myrtle
but who throw the dry leaves
into the East wind, that bride of winter.
In truth, the dwarf worked at a betting shop
and wore an orthopedic shoe.
The ugly sisters were neither sisters nor, indeed, women,
nor were they remotely interested in the prince.
The plain librarian looked better with her glasses on,
the bomb had not been fitted with a clock
and when the requisitioned farm-truck shot
the as-yet-uncompleted bridge it nose-dived into the ravine
and blew up killing both the handsome sheriff
and his lovable but stupid sidekick, Bob.