Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Of Porter I cannot read a line but with a sigh I wish it mine

I've been redaing Peter Porter's Forward Prize-winning Max Is Missing. It's great stuff, operating in a corner of the garden English poesie that may seem out-of-bounds, or at least neglected, in t'contemporary world - satire. But not clever-clever or merely political satire - heartfelt, difficult, emotionally engaged satire. In short, it's great, but possibly an acquired taste.

Particularly impressive is 'Scrawled on Auden's Napkin', a parody of the craggy old master in his late, expansive, Horatian late mode which I have praised here before. I want to quote it all, but try this bit - note the wide and somehow pleasingly superficial range of reference, the simultaneous impressions of wisdom and nonsense, and the absolutely Audenesque line breaks:

King Herod is Sous-Chef at 'The Ivy', though
We don't eat 'lovely kiddies' - but we do
Insist that for a species whose most holy
Act is swallowing its God a well-made
Omelette is a Christian deed.

And so on. It's breathtaking stuff - though a parody, it goes beyond mockery to approximate a poem that Auden himself (whose late manner had a healthy does of self-parody) might have been proud of.


Blogger Rob said...

Weird. Because I have also been reading this collection - haven't got too far yet, as I'm reading three other collections that I need to review by the end of the month. But I agree, it's very good stuff, and different to most UK fare. I find myself scratching my head over it at times, but the language is superb.

7:42 PM  
Blogger Tony Williams said...

That is weird. I'm also reading - and hope to post about, when I have the time and mental space - John Burnside's Gift Songs, which I remember you mentioning at some point. Completely different from the Porter, but also impressive, from what I've read of it.

7:31 PM  
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