Friday, October 17, 2008
Frank Kuppner, How Could You
I’ve always liked Frank Kuppner. The book titles: A Bad Day for the Sung Dynasty, Everything is Strange, A God’s Breakfast, The Intelligent Observation of Naked Women, Ridiculous! Absurd! Disgusting!, Second Best Moments in Chinese History, What? Again? Selected Poems, and now Arioflotga. The fact that he was ‘born in Glasgow in 1951 and has lived there ever since’, without benefit of a wikipedia entry or a Contemporary Writers website page (shame on them, again), or any invitations that I can see to poetry festivals south of the border. The highminded bawdy-rambunctious grotesquerie. The de Selbyesque cod scholarly shenanigans. The boisterous atheism. The finger he flamboyantly flicks at contemporary neo-nationalist and post-colonial ways of reading and writing poetry. Such as, from ‘The Uninvited Guest’:
I would rather keep my private parts throughout eternity, thank you.
The sound which the stars emit is an endless scream of pain.
If a man cuts off thy head, then do thou likewise.
Stranger, do I owe you anything? No? Then kindly get lost.
[Evidently, a rather disobliging tomb inscription.]
Yes, yes, yes. Of course you’ll live on after you’ve ceased to exist.
The whole universe couldn’t possibly even think of continuing without you.
The brilliant parodies of Eliot in ‘West Åland, or, Five Tombeaux for Mr Testoil’:
lightning thundering and thundering in the empty house
though I dare say we need not ask, which dole
as I pointed out at least once when discussing the Whole
over the lemon sole with Ernesto Che de Altzpflegenerheimer-Smith
whom I happened to fall in love with
looking rather shabby
in a public convenience near the Westminster Abbey
The brilliant cod Orientalism, as in ‘A Faded Inscription’:
‘Arriving very early I knocked vigorously on your door,
But an old lady from a window opposite told me
You were probably gone up the mountain to find a cool place to jerk off in;
Somewhat alarmed by her smile, I hurried away without waiting.’
I could keep going like this all morning. But what prompts this post is his new book, Arioflotga, Kuppner’s salvaging of the index of the sadly disappeared Great Poetic Anthology, as found in ‘a Latin American restaurant in Glasgow’. It comprises 114 pages of alphabetically arranged lines including:
‘There can be no true Bolivian who does not wholly agree with me’
‘Only a single example of a heroic shit’
‘One assumes that Saint John of the Cross was not much interested in schoolgirls’
‘Mozart? Never heard of him,’
‘Man’s life is a sort of fart in a dream’
And what I really wanted to say was that amidst all this brilliant buffoonery he repeatedly refers to a country called ‘Oblivia’. Frank Kuppner, I just invented a country called Oblivia and was trying to write a poetic sequence about it. I had put its national flatfish on the coinage, lamented the plight of its navy (Oblivia is a landlocked country), discussed the possibility of building an opera house to play Wagner in the Oblivian jungle, and started a lively correspondence in the Oblilvian Monthly on free-verse Bolshevism. And now you come along and do this! I fear I may have to set the chupacabra, the Oblivian national fictional monster, on you (after you’ve signed my copy of Arioflotga).
The photograph, which I’ve always wanted to copy on here, shows my brother Gavin at large on the southern coast of Oblivia, near Ushuaia.