Thursday, July 29, 2010

A Poet's Friends

To be successful depends on who you know, that’s what I keep hearing. Louis MacNeice would agree and his list of people to know is worth cultivating for any poet, although they may not feature highly on the game-plan lists of poetry careerists and in-crowd luvvies. However, they are vital for anyone who actually wants to write good poems:

.............................................(...)Let money brag,
The poet will not be bought, he has powerful friends
Who are his own inventions – the one-eyed hag

Whose one is an evil eye, the maiden goddess who sends
Her silver javelin straight, the Knave of Fools
Who cocks his snook and blows his dividends,

The soldier with the nosebag who breaks the rules
Wide open, the mountain-moving oaf, the cook
Whose pies are singing birds, whose soups are schools

Of gambolling porpoises, the endearing crook
Who says his name is Norman, the talking fox,
The ropetrick man, the baldhead with the book

That is all question marks, the Jack-in-the Box,
The Will o’ the Wisp, the mermaid, the Man in the Moon,
And old Nobodaddy himself, high god of Paradox.

Such are our friends; we need them late and soon
To fight our false friends for us, we feel no shame
To sham dead while they do it; trombone, bassoon,

Ram’s horn and ocarina pour out flame
To force the walls of Jericho and crown
One local conflagration with a name.

- Louis MacNeice (from Autumn Sequel, 1953)

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