Monday, 17 November 2014


I'm enjoying this very much, especially with Alan Bennett's voice rumbling through it and admitting that he doesn't understand Auden. (If my mum were still here, this would have been her Christmas present.) There's Larkin and Betjeman, like old friends - MacNeice, learned by heart at school ...

Life in a day: he took his girl to the ballet;
Being short-sighted himself could hardly see it -

How I sympathise with that!

For me, the new discovery has been Thomas Hardy; I've read all the novels, but very little of his poetry.

Not a new discovery that I thoroughly dislike AE Housman ... what a posturing old fraud he was. Alan Bennett says that his poems don't appeal to women.  Auden summed him up exactly:

Deliberately he chose the dry-as-dust,
Kept tears like dirty postcards in a drawer. 

I think I'm with MacNeice:
I would have a poet able bodied, fond of talking, a reader of the newspapers, capable of pity and laughter, informed in economics, appreciative of women, involved in personal relationships, actively interested in politics, susceptible to personal impressions ... I write poems not because it is smart to be a poet but because I enjoy it as one enjoys swimming or swearing, and also because it is my road to freedom and knowledge.

8 comments:

Sue said...

I have this on my birthday/Christmas list. I'm so glad this has been another disappointment for you Mary. I quite like Houseman, but maybe I haven't paid close attention to him. I've also got TS Eliot's collected poems on my list and I have recently discovered Jane Kenyon who is proving a delight.

mary said...

Evenings at this time of year always make me think of Eliot's Preludes, Sue. Another one from school, funny how they are etched into your brain forever when quadratic equations - whatever was the point of them! - are lost forever.
I'd be really pleased to get this for Christmas as I got it from the library. But I only ever get bubble bath for which I try to be grateful!

Sue said...

Exactly,'burnt out ends of smoky days', very apposite.

Lucille said...

I still have a book with your name on it Mary. One day. . .unless of course you have bought it now.

mary said...

Gosh, I'd forgotten that, Lucille! I did read it in the end - I got it from the library - but it's such a lovely book, it would be nice to own. We must get together for that trip to Shackleton's boat! I was thinking about Dulwich the other day as the present Canadian exhibition sounds good. Or are you mostly at your seaside house?

mary said...

PS Lucille, I've also ordered that Japanese decluttering book - from the library, as hardly in the spirit of the thing to add to the clutter by buying decluttering books! I have failed on so many of these in the past - bit like diets, isn't it?

Mrs Ford said...

Louis MacNeice was always my favourite Thirties Poet when we Did them at school; he seemed more human, and more genuinely interested in other humans, than most of them. I think that the paragraph you quote - with perhaps a couple of tweaks for 21st century attitudes - would make an excellent manifesto for good writers of any genre.

mary said...

Yes, he seems more engaged with real life, doesn't he? Unlike Housman - who for all his blather about 'lads,' complained about the inconvenience when his college was turned into a hospital for 'lads' during WW1.