Saturday, January 31, 2009

Song & Dance

John Fuller's previous book, The Space of Joy, triggered a lengthy post from me back in 2007. I don't have as much to say about his new book, Song & Dance, but then I don't think he expects one to have a lot to say about it: it's a collection of light verse and occasional poetry, something read for the pure pleasure of his humor and his technical skill.

So I especially enjoyed "Florio's Drinking Song," with its verses all ending with similes with wine, for example, "the wine like a widow remembers the grape."

"Song of Absence" describes what it's like to miss somebody, concluding with the worst time of all when it comes to missing somebody:

But worst is the stillness of night-time,
For ever a quarter-past-two
When dwelling on shapes in the darkness
Is no nearer to sleeping, or you.

"Rights," the first of "Two Secular Hymns," concludes with a punch:

And the silence of the wretched
Drowns the drivel of the damned.

"How Far?," with its opening line (repeated throughout), "How far is it to Carcassonne?", made me laugh because of the game Carcassonne. (An excellent game.)

The couplets of "At a Distance" spin out a response to an epigraph from André Maurois ("We owe to the Middle Ages the two worst inventions of humanity—gunpowder, and romantic love"). It includes a couplet about couplets:

Couplets were shelved with a Romantic curse
In favour of blank, free, Projective verse.

(You can find the whole poem in this PDF.)

"Variation on Shapcott" is a sexy version of the Fall from Eve's perspective. I googled it to see if it was on-line somewhere, and it was once posted on a Guardian blog, but now it's been removed from there!

"A Dozen Victorian Autograms" are sort of like anagrams: each of the poems is written in the style of a particular poet using only the letters in that poet's name. I recognized Emily Brontë, Walt Whitman, Gerard Manley Hopkins, and a hilarious Oscar Wilde.

"Laurel-Crowned Deceptions" responds to a Czeslaw Milosz poem in which he envisions finding himself in the encyclopedia "Next to a hundred Millers and Mickey Mouse." (Strange alphabetization there.) Fuller teases Milosz for apparently complaining about being famous and concludes:

But Czeslaw, pause before those pearly gates:
St. Peter keeps two keys. The first is God's key.
The second (help!) belongs to Joseph Brodsky.

Finally, I also really enjoyed the sinister "The Captain's Galop," a poem in the voice of a sea captain who first seems to be celebrating the passengers' dancing and later seems to be forcing them to dance:

Keep the dancing line unbroken, dance together, never stop.
Dance the Captain's dance. The bouncing, hectic, thunderous Galop!

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