Friday, August 29, 2008
Snow on Toast
The same anthological whim I mentioned the other day drove me to track down a copy of Christopher Logue’s Ode to the Dodo: Poems 1953-78 in search of what I assumed would be its title poem. Except there isn’t one, I discover. But that I can live with, given the wealth of material in that volume not to be found in his plum-covered Selected Poems of 1996.
The praise routinely heaped on his (non-Greek-speaking) version of Homer’s Iliad leaves Logue’s own poems a shade overlooked sometimes, bar a few anthology favourites. I love their caustic battiness, their finger-in-your-eye nastiness, but their poster art immediacy and snappiness too. Three examples from out-of-print poems. ‘In the Restaurant’, now culled from ‘Singles’:
‘Snow on toast?’
‘Two snows on toast.’
‘No snow on toast.’
From ‘When I Was Serving My Country’:
On the way to Port Said they showed me a photo;
an overhead take from the side of a troopship
moored in the roads of Singapore harbour.
On the water below us,
a two-eyed bumboat heaped with souvenirs;
and in its bows a woman, naked, arms upspread,
holding the seamed edge of a muslin sheet
that billowed outwards from her hands, and tugged
against the regulation belt strapped round her hips.
I am for sale, too!
they cried she cried.
She must be dead now.
And I am sure that what she cried was true.
And finally, from ‘The Crocodile’:
Beneath a palm, beside the Nilie,
a viridescent crocodile
relinquished 40 winks,
to heed a brace of divorcees
engrossed by their accessories
before an ancient sphinx.
And in the twinkling on an eye
the requisites such ladies buy
became his Apogee;
and when they swore the cream were kept
‘In Krokodil, in France,’ he leapt,
without a bent rupee,
aboard abaft a mite caïque
that wafted aft a like caïqe
that waft towards the sea.
That last one is a ballad, as you can tell, but you’ll have to track the ending down for yourself. Suffice to say it is gory.
Logue has also written as Count Palmiro Vicarion, I learn from the British Council’s Contemporary Writers site. (A site that I think is a total disgrace: it features not just listings but profiles of authors who have published one or two books, but doesn’t so much as mention Roy Fisher and Christopher Middleton, to mention only two names – a total disgrace).
What is the crocodile for crocodile tears, I wonder. And what would it take to make a crocodile cry anyway, I also wonder. I shall address these questions over my snow on toast.