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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Hot Toss

Good news for Larkinites as the new issue (no. 25) of About Larkin arrives, filling the Larkin-news-shaped gap in the market for readers of Larkin everywhere. In between descriptions of a ‘Larkin Sunday Morning Trail’ in Warwick, the annual Hull sixth-form Larkin study day, and the latest state of play in the quest for the British Rail poster that inspired ‘Sunny Prestatyn’ (‘Larkin’s “Sunny Prestatyn” seems to have no actual poster as its subject’) we find seven pages by Susannah Tarbush on ‘From Willow Gables to “Aubade”: Penelope Scott Stokes and Philip Larkin: Part 1’. Penelope Scott Stokes was asked to the poet’s room in Oxford for tea after a memorable showing as Viola in a student production of Twelfth Night. She declined. As was first revealed in 2005, she then inspired Larkin to write poem XXX of The North Ship (‘So through that unripe day you bore your head’). What was not previously known is the second poem inspired by this undergrad muse, as now revealed to a grateful public. The ‘extensively redrafted holograph’ of ‘Poem for Penelope abt. the Mechanical Turd’ in Hull University archives begins:

August again, and it is a year again
Since I poured the hot toss into your arse.

A footnote to ‘arse’ reads ‘Larkin originally wrote “into your mouth”’. Consider the plangency of the repeated ‘again’, underscoring the pathos of the lamented one-off tossing. Consider too the subtle vocalic music of ‘pour’, ‘hot’, ‘toss’, ‘your’, ‘arse’. The poem continues, ‘Choking, I pull open a door’, ingeniously inverting any hint of sexual violence by transferring any possible choking onto the crestfallen poet. A final quatrain deals with some sadly unwanted sandwiches prepared for the speaker by his well-intentioned but less than expert-sandwich-making loved ones.

Noted Larkinist James Booth comments: ‘The emotion seems to be of shame and guilt rather than misogyny or aggression. The title sounds arbitrary and surreal: presumably the poet means to describe himself as a mechanical turd?’

If you think I’m making this up, first of all shame on you, and second follow this link to the magazine website and order a copy for yourself.

georgiasam: pouring hot toss in your brain almost daily since 2005.


Anonymous said...

The issue doesn't seem to be on the website yet, at least not via the link you provided. Have you had a sneak preview of the mag? Hmm.

puthwuth said...

Mag just out and website not updated yet.

Unappeasable Henry said...

Larkin is alluding to a poem by his bete noire, Sidney Keyes. 'April again, and it is a year again' is the first line of Keyes's 'Elegy'. That poem also influences 'An April Sunday brings the snow'.

If Keyes isn't mentioned in the essay, I claim £5.

monica said...

By George, I think unappeasable henry's got it. Another line in Keyes's poem is: "It is a year again since they poured
The dumb ground into your mouth."

The man deserves five guineas.


and also, some poems down, at:

monica said...

& "brain" in both poems:

Larkin: "But the house is building still behind my back/Room over room, cells of a great mad brain/"

Keyes:"...Your brain/lives in the bank-hook, and your eyes look up/Laughing from the carpet on the floor"

Re "toss", in a 7 April 1942 letter to Norman Iles Larkin writes: "What does annoy me is reading shit by Sidney Keyes wherever I turn. You pick up any two bob pocket magazine...& you'll find bullshitty poems or tossy 'Short Stories' all by our Sidney."

Was the 'Mechanical Turd' Keyes?

Anonymous said...

Monica should have typed "bank book", not "bank hook"! (though hook might be apt for these fiscally fasincating days).