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  #11  
Unread 03-21-2021, 05:47 PM
David Anthony David Anthony is offline
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Two years. Time flies. Jayne and I attended his funeral. I remember when people could gather together.
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  #12  
Unread 03-21-2021, 05:58 PM
Julie Steiner Julie Steiner is online now
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John would almost certainly not have felt a comparison to Theodor Geisel (a.k.a. Dr. Seuss) flattering. And a poem that ends on the word "thee" after decrying "bad formalism with its bulk / of fossilized remembrance of things past" might take its own advice to heart.

But I've written memorial poems that have missed the mark far worse than this one.

I didn't attempt to write one for John, as I knew how far my best efforts would fall short. I enjoyed the ones others wrote for the Better Than Starbucks tribute, though.
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  #13  
Unread 03-22-2021, 03:05 AM
Brian Allgar Brian Allgar is offline
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Julie: "And a poem that ends on the word "thee" " ... not to mention the fact that the final couplet uses "you", "ye" and "thee" indiscriminately and inconsistently.

Dear John, when you were here, we truly knew ye.
Forever through your words, we’ll always keep thee.

Why on earth didn't the writer simply stick to "knew you" and "keep you"?
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  #14  
Unread 03-22-2021, 07:22 AM
Clive Watkins Clive Watkins is offline
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Whether one considers its lack of coherence, its manner or its handling of metre and rhyme, this is, as others have said, dire. Two of the comments it received at the Society of Classical Poets website – “this is a wonderfully wrought poem that captures the essence of the marvelous John Whitworth perfectly – great meter, great rhyme, and an educational message with a witty delivery” and “a brilliant reflection on a brilliant poet” – only confirm how low the bar is in those parts.

Anyone who writes such a eulogy must address two familiar hazards: first, seeming to co-opt their subject in support of their own personal agenda, one perhaps not entirely congruent with that of their subject, and, secondly, by association to seek to attach some of their subject’s glamour to themselves. Barrick fails to avoid this double pitfall. But beyond this, he does not, either through the quality of his own writing or in what he struggles to say about John’s verse, convey any sense of the sheer copiousness and fluent invention of John’s verbal imagination.

I have only one of John’s collections on my shelves, Tennis and Sex and Death (Peterloo, 1989), which I bought in June of that year, though I have read a good number of other pieces elsewhere. He wrote some startlingly vigorous verse – acerbic, often deliberately confrontational and, indeed, scabrous, qualities he clearly relished transmitting. The existential paranoia and the sense of being forever cheated by hidden powers, half-comically presented in “The Examiners” (to which one of those who commented on Dwayne Barrick’s eulogy referred) seems to have been a frequent theme. Perhaps it also drove or reflected some of his political attitudes insofar as he made those known. His keen desire for the UK to leave the EU after nearly fifty years of membership and his delight at the outcome of the 2016 referendum perhaps sprang from a similar impulse, as I think it perhaps did for many who voted as he had done to leave.

The closing poem of John’s 1989 volume riffs off Larkin’s “This Be the Verse” from his 1974 collection High Windows. (On the back cover of my copy, Larkin is quoted approvingly from an Observer review.) It is called “They Fuck You Up, Do Publishers (A Farewell To Secker and Warburg)”. Though Secker and Warburg had published John’s first three books, they and he parted company with Tennis and Sex and Death. The epigraph John gives the poem indicates that the poem appeared in The Times Literary Supplement in the summer of 1989. John quotes himself: “I would not part acrimoniously from the publishers who brought out three books for me. Let me dedicate to them the following verses.” Here is the poem:

They fuck you up, do publishers.
Against them there is no defence.
No letter, postcard, phone-calls stirs
The puddle of their indolence.

Each author’s fucked up in his turn.
Each contract is a poison pellet.
Especially must poets learn
That verse don’t sell, and they don’t sell it.

Man hands on manuscript to man,
Who leaves the thing in St Tropez.
Get out as quickly as you can
And write a television play.

I have no idea if John’s MS of Tennis and Sex and Death was inadvertently left by the publisher’s agent “in St Tropez”, but the wittily expressed bitterness and a kind of inverted cynicism make for an amusing valediction. Harry Chambers at Peterloo would stick by John through a further five entertaining books.

Clive Watkins

Last edited by Clive Watkins; 03-22-2021 at 07:26 AM.
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  #15  
Unread 03-22-2021, 09:54 AM
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Ann Drysdale Ann Drysdale is offline
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Thank you, Clive. A fine piece of writing.

John was a much-loved friend. My small comment further up the thread is all that I finally posted of a tearful, angry diatribe against the god-awful poem. The scansion (or lack of it) feels like an insult to the man whose verse skipped like a barefoot elf on an Aga. Even the "Fred and Ginger" reference was nicked (and wrecked) from Les Murray, whose original, exquisite blurb John treasured.

John, too, would have appreciated your words above. Again, thanks.
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  #16  
Unread 03-22-2021, 10:12 AM
Max Goodman Max Goodman is offline
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Your comment has already been taken down, Ann. The rules are, you have to acknowledge the brilliance of the work, or you don't get to post. (Somebody actually has called the poem brilliant there at the site.)

This site really bothers me. Probably because I'm so racked with self-doubt. Some of the places I've published, how (apart from the vanity commenting policy) do they differ from this crap site? An editor likes my poem and posts or prints it. In those publications, my poem appears alongside good stuff (or else I don't submit again), but the writers of the shit on this site tell themselves the same thing.
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  #17  
Unread 03-22-2021, 11:57 AM
Martin Elster Martin Elster is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Max Goodman View Post
This site really bothers me. Probably because I'm so racked with self-doubt. Some of the places I've published, how (apart from the vanity commenting policy) do they differ from this crap site? An editor likes my poem and posts or prints it. In those publications, my poem appears alongside good stuff (or else I don't submit again), but the writers of the shit on this site tell themselves the same thing.
That's one of the things that bothers me, too, about that site. Several years ago they seemed more discriminating. But of late the bar is much lower and more inconsistent.

I would like to add, however, that I am grateful for the fact that they had published several of my poems, some of which have subsequently appeared in other journals, and a couple of them actually winning a prize. I appreciate that there is a venue for formal poetry (even if some of the poems are not to our standards). What's more, Ralph La Rosa and Siham Karami gave me very nice comments on a couple of mine.

https://classicalpoets.org/2014/03/0...martin-elster/

So thanks, Ralph and Siham!

Last edited by Martin Elster; 03-22-2021 at 04:42 PM.
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  #18  
Unread 03-22-2021, 05:03 PM
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Jayne Osborn Jayne Osborn is offline
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This doesn't happen very often:

That poem has rendered me speechless.

Jayne
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  #19  
Unread 03-22-2021, 06:04 PM
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RCL RCL is offline
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You are most welcome, Martin.

They are upfront saying they prefer work that's anti-Russian and anti-Chinese communism, any form of socialism and for something they call beauty. They took one of my anti-Russian communism things, my first and last to them.
__________________
Ralph

Last edited by RCL; 03-22-2021 at 08:37 PM.
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  #20  
Unread 03-23-2021, 01:10 PM
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Kevin Rainbow Kevin Rainbow is offline
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Quote:
The rules are, you have to acknowledge the brilliance of the work, or you don't get to post.
I'm not sure about that. I didn't say it was "brilliant", but brought up some critical points about the last couplet, and my comment was received very politely.
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