NEW MIETTES 2018
Rudolf Virchow, the hero of my book, Heavy Years, figures in Karl Marx’s canon of progressives. As a member of parliament, he represented national reformism, and Otto Bismarck, soon became his chief opponent. At one point, the exchange of opinions became so intense that Bismarck challenged Virchow to a duel. As the challenged, it was Virchow’s business to choose the weapon, and his proposal got Bismarck to back down immediately: the duellists would choose between two sausages, one of which would be filled with a deadly poison.
The Poet’s License
Beauty is truth,
says the poet. I’m
putting my body on the line.
And love is the loot.
My right is divine.
So, share my sublime.
The Thinker’s Penalty
Truth is beauty,
says the savant.
Alas, I haven’t
found it, being new to
absolutes. The wrath
of the second thought
makes a mug of me,
and the truth ugly.
I aspire to be patient
because the longer I wait
the longer I live. I hate
it. But my life was meant
for queues, and being late.
The ghosts in my life are invisible.
They whisper sweet nothings in my ear.
One into naught is indivisible.
In the other life there’s nothing to fear
for in it there is the persistence
of what is now non-existence.
and get your snout
out. Snuff the air. Huff
and puff to your trough
where snow on the hill
melted the pigswill,
so, it’s nice and muddy. Pork,
dig in with your pitchfork.
and breakfast on the mash.
Today you’re making a splash.
RIP Fabienne (fermeture exceptional)
You never said goodbye to us.
Loved your swagger without a care
even though you were in a wheelchair.
But your smile was beaten to death
by a hail fellow ill met.
The man bereft of love but for his dog,
who’s kept on an elastic lead, may hog
the pavement, and quite rightly trips me up.
‘Who are you to judge? We’re having a pup’.
OrdureIn the age of Donald Trump
I’m composing sonnets
Throw me in the dump
In her cooking my mother didn’t take pride.
Saying, it’s all the same once it gets inside.
Blotched Limerick for JennyThe boy who throw stones at the sea
no doubt grows up to be the lout
Who downs his car window to shout
gibes at old men on bikes like me.
The ‘Oddity’My writings are odd rather than even
for as a doubter what I believe in
is the rocky road to a rough result
readers of the smooth find difficult.
As Socrates says it’s all to the good.
One must learn to take the rough with the smooth.
I’m not an intellectual. Merely an opportunist of ideas
Angela Merkel's welcome to Trump (2017)
'Germany and America are connected by values of democracy, freedom and respect for the law and the dignity of man, independent of origin, skin, colour, religion, gender and sexual orientation or political views. I offer the next President of the US close cooperation on the basis of these values'.
Paulo Pasolini (1962)‘The world would be a better place were it not for the egotism, stupidity, lack of culture, tittle-tattle, righteousness, restrictions and conformism that allows the rot of populism/fascism to set in’.
History of Trumpery
Dysfunctional childrenThe corralling of bad behaviour into pathological disorders is a way of capturing discontent.
Court of Appeal Montpellier
A father who becomes a woman cannot be the mother.
Cocoricos at daybreakIn Arles-sur-Tech a case has been brought against a cock for noise nuisance and a pestilent smell.
Deodorants and silencers in the hen coup recommended.
L’Education (non) sentimentale
French schools the nomination father and mother
has been replaced by Parent 1, and Parent 2, respectively.
Homosexuality is the physiological variant
produced by nature to control the birth-rate.
‘The poor do not exist
because I can’t see them’.
The world’s black hole
is full of coal
Proust’s faint praise
‘His character excels his talent.’
Knowing the difference between sentiments and ideas
is the task of philosophers, but sentiments spring ideas,
and ideas sentiments.
A confederacy of solipsists
The restaurant is packed with families on vacation,
the young with their smart phones, the parents with tablets.
The silence is unnatural. Nobody is talking.
Their fingers are dabbing the screens.
M. Hulot revolts. He grabs the plastic appliances
and put them in his pockets, and makes off…
He spends his holiday in jail.
ENA Chic at Expo (Lyon)
woman dressed like a polite ado of the jeans and pullover,
head thrown back and neat-cut coiffeur, observes the art photos purposefully,
copying the Cartier-Bresson on her iPad probably for her students.
Other people do not exist except to notice her.
I’ll get back to you when you grow up.
Enid Blyton meets Agatha Christie and decide to live together in a desert island. Black Friday is washed ashore. It’s Boris Bunting. Cook and eat him. He tastes horrible like Harry Potter.
The Greeks had a word for it ‘akratic’. Committing an act against your own interests.
Sur le tard
I can no longer chew my toenails
Les Gilet Jaune (2018)
are pulling the communication cord in a train that’s broken down.
What’s so good about being awfully funny in circumstances that aren’t.
the inane laughter of shared selfies.
The door opened
And there she was before me.
Venus out of her shell
Madame Jeanne Thépot (93)
Litter-ature on French TV
‘Le grande libraire propose une magazine litteraire avec le seul mot d’ordre est le Plaisir. Au menu un plateau les ecrivains connus’ (The book magazine offers a programme in which the sole object is to give pleasure. The menu is a plate of famous authors).
Umph! pain resides in most of the great works of the past. For example, Madame Bovary, Lolita…Only a sadist would read them for pleasure.
Roland Barthes evidently has a lot to answer for by allowing himself to be misunderstood.
When I look into the mirror in half-light, I see the boy eager to please. In full light I see the old man who isn’t
Match-making mirrorsMonsieur Le Riche looks in the mirror and asks, who is the ugliest man in the town?
Madame La Pauvre looks in the mirror and asks, who is the ugliest in the town?
They see one another.
Make America grate again…
A deserved death?
Student dies falling from the cliffs of Moher taking a selfie.
Lady Day and Mister Night‘Golden days, olden days,
when youth was mine.
When truth was mine.
Sad am I, glad am I.’
Only Billie Holliday could lift from that ‘s’ to the ‘g’ and make you happy.
She was singing it in Monterey (1958) with Roy Eldridge.
John Hodge and Lester Young jumping in from time to time.
Life was running out of friends for her. But Teddy Wilson
accompanied her lovingly in her descent. Lady Day and Mister Night
(some say he preferred Ella but the music tells me not to believe it). She was dead in a year, riddled with drugs, and now is the Lady Déeese of everybody’s Underworld.
‘Hush now, don’t explain’.
‘The Nicotine Cat’ poem was inspired by Simone Simon (La Bête Humaine,1938), the white angora who played with men like a ball of wool, unravelling them until they were no use to anybody. Paula Rego in painting it for the cover of The Nicotine Cat at and Other People, knew that instinctively…
Sur le tard 1
I’m too self-conscious to enjoy myself.
Sur le Tard 2
When I dream I’m in hell. Walking by a canal an African migrant asked me to hold his sack, put a haircap over his face, and stuck his head into the water and was sucked into the lock. I realised there was nobody could do anything, and threw in the sack after him.
Sur le tard 3I don’t mind dying alone.,
I won’t cause any trouble.
Nobody will keen ‘ochone’,
and I needn’t be noble.
wisdom of old age
is when you’re about to do something stupid,
you know it.
In careless youth,
it’s an after-thought.
Meurs: Bras de Venus
Hanky-panky here leave a lot to be desired
Everybody reads a book differently. The literary scholars may have found out how the author intended to be read. This serves their students for exam purposes, but makes little or no difference.
As I have never thought myself wonderful, vanity is the least of my character defects.
But I’m vain about my hair and always carry a brush for when I take off my hat or it’s blown off in the wind. I restore the crease and smoothen down the bangs. M caught me doing it and said your hair looks better tossed. I didn’t believe her. And when I’m having a photo taken, I slip into the toilet to brush before a mirror. When one is taken unawares the disarray distresses me. At the barber, Marc-coiffure says as usual I suppose, and laughs. I always ask for a poet’s cut, which means less off and the quiff effect is maintained. But since I like to keep the shape the same the hair is never allowed to grow long enough to be truly poetical. The point about vanity is it’s never satisfied. I inherited the trait from father, a modest man, but when he swam the hair was never allowed to get wet. I can see his overarm cresting the waves with his great mane intact.
I spell no lie.
I buy them in the winter and during the summer because I swim my muscles expand the shirts split at the back.
The author incarnates himself as a fiction.
I cut off people who interfere with my sleep.
had her head cut off by her father who was subsequently struck by lightning.
Barbara, the lady in black
sexually abused by her father. Nothing happened to him.
She sang her way out of it.
Sur le tard 5
Rilke’s mad poet, Malte, sees Paris as a city of untied shoelaces. And observes the passing crowds tripping over one another. It suggests to me a new sport for older people. Falls are the commonest cause of terminal decline. Working out with shoelaces undone would sharpen the reflexes in order to watch your step. Although I know competitive mortality between rival males will lead to longer laces and higher buck-leaps, it’s all to the good. As the sport evolves there will be a natural selection of those not up to it. They can be given wheelchairs designed like dodgem cars to engage in bumpers. Adrenaline is an elixir.
Eugene Onegin’s Character
Tchaikovsky’s Eugene (1879) is more sympathetic than Pushkin’s (1825). His rejection of Tatiana isn’t the careless behavior of a bored dandy. His family is on the top scale of the nobility, while Tatiana’s are barely above the level of peasants. As a progressive he was rejecting the feudal droit de seigneur, having read Lamartine’s Graziella (1849), a novel about a young nobleman falling in love with a fisherman’s daughter who behaves beautifully, realizing it could never be.
The final scene is more kind musically to Eugene when played to the score. The St Petersburg performance I saw in the 1970s represented him a tragi-comic figure rather than the bastard most of the other versions I saw in London. The comeuppance of a romantic is melancholia, not the self-loathing of a seducer’s missed chance.
His shooting in a duel of his friend Lensky too is more understandable. Oscar Wilde’s killing ‘the thing he loves’, given that Tchaikovsky was an unhappy homosexual. Eugene’s response was hardly cold-blooded, a cry of despair, and he fled to Paris to appease his grief in debauchery. He returns chastened.
Redemption by Default
Arthur Sullivan’s meticulously wrought and melodious symphonies and oratorios fell on deaf ears. But, when WH Gilbert put him to words, he hazarded a lighter note, and a serious reputation became a joke. Still his contribution to classical music was immortalised when, while staying with a music lover, Dr Schneider, in Berlin, he dusted down the top of a cupboard with his hat to put up some books, and the manuscripts of forty songs by Schubert fell on his head. ‘Rosamunde’ was one of them. Good God, he said.
Goncourt Prize 1919
When defending the choice of Proust rather than the War Hero’s novel, Leon Daudet wrote,
‘Le patrie? je lui merde quand il s’agit de literature’.
Patriotism? I stuff it when it comes to literature.
I’m not a genius but sometimes I’m ingenious (or disingenuous, says the voice in my head).