No 164 - 2001
i.m. Gerald Brenan OR & Peter Cook OR
Poems and music kept me sane through the winter of ’56
a teenage misfit fallen foul of The Hierarchic Fix.
How odd to hear - same boarding school, next autumn, ’57 -
the English master reminisce, as if the place were Heaven.
According to him I’d best stay on, a further sixth-form year
at that school so loathed by writers. Rule of ridicule and fear:
beatings, cold baths and buggery, with Chapel twice a day.
What bait might there be dangling, what prize to make anyone stay?
The title role was next proposed, in the annual College Play
directed by himself - our Literature Man. He reckoned
a ready, willing tyro poet right for Edward II.
Surely I’d like the part, perfect shadow in his sunshine day?
Mistaken maestro Mr Way, off centre wit and joker,
thought of the play as just the thing to enthuse his English class.
Incarnate Kit Marlowe’s King and end the day with a poker
rammed redhot up an ineffectual, ringingly blank verse arse...
Here the wellmeaning intellectual soared too far out of touch,
fell down on casting. For any wretched foreigner like me
a noble failure didn’t click. I couldn’t then interpret such
subtle atheistic views on masochists and monarchy,
but knew reflected glory is what pedagogues chase after -
applause for them, abuse for you, pathetic misplaced laughter.
Rotting in a rural jail spelled further wilful punishment,
what with plenty more exiled Players to imitate young Gent-
lemen. Dumb rituals of attrition emphasised all that:
earliest learning had one don a mask, doff cap and covet hat.
Warped humour can prompt teachers, those who prop up the status quo:
so the Corps, whose C-in-C was Way, produced its weekly show -
lines of regimented meekness, going with the khaki flow.
None could opt out. Drill like drama of a less appealing kind,
meant you’d be made to take part in Way’s Theatre of the Absurd.
Why trust a frustrated thesp? Away with Establishment tricks!
Meaningless pantomime routines existed to be replaced...
The world elsewhere held its attractions - actors of all sorts beckoned,
friendly girls abounded and redeemed each wanker: none went blind,
mad, nor plummeted to Hell. Worse madness lay in being absent
from the real, the proper action, while time seemed too short to waste.
Mentors also are superseded... It rapidly occurred
to me I’d learned enough from books and boys behaving badly.
The time was ripe for a goodbye to privilege and Radley.
- 10th Muse
- Angel Exhaust
- Blithe Spirit
- Brando's hat
- Brittle Star
- Cannon's Mouth, The
- Coffee House, The
- Dream Catcher
- Floating Bear, The
- French Literary Review, The
- Frogmore Papers, The
- Global Tapestry
- Grosseteste Review
- Homeless Diamonds
- Interpreter's House, The
- Journal, The
- Lamport Court
- London Magazine, The
- Modern Poetry in Translation
- Monkey Kettle
- Neon Highway
- New Welsh Review
- North, The
- Obsessed with pipework
- Oxford Poetry
- Painted, spoken
- Paper, The
- Pen Pusher Magazine
- Poetry Cornwall
- Poetry London
- Poetry London (1951)
- Poetry Nation
- Poetry Review, The
- Poetry Salzburg Review
- Poetry Scotland
- Poetry Wales
- Private Tutor
- Purple Patch
- Rain Dog
- Reach Poetry
- Review, The
- Rialto, The
- Second Aeon
- Seventh Quarry, The
- Smiths Knoll
- Strange Faeces
- Tabla Book of New Verse, The
- Tolling Elves
- Ugly Tree, The
- Wolf, The
- Yellow Crane, The