Saturday, May 27, 2006

Prolix, Pretentious, Shapeless?

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.

Dry Leaves

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.

The Facts

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.

1 comment:

Vulture said...

Boy... these poems are tendentious and ghastly indeed. It gives me a headache like a hangover, and I feel like I need a shower after reading them. Provocative perhaps, but nonetheless bitter pills.