Saturday, March 03, 2007

"In Defense of One British 20th-Century Poet"

By Judy Staber

You Say,
from your pantechnicon of knowledge
and from your well-honed opinion,
You Say,
That ALL the major modern,
ALL the great con-tem-por-ary
Twentieth century poets
are American.
You Pound,
into our unschooled,
un-metered minds,
Their names - One By One.

And I,
Who know far less of such meters [sic] than you,
cannot intellectually disagree.
But I ask you,
please, consider
the librarian from Hull,
Who captured,
in a few well-chosen words and rhymes,
The lives and times
of the little-known and less-loved people,

Who live, like Eliot's Prufrock,
Who pass their humdrum years
on housing estates;
In the council houses and tenements
in a land that is never boasted
in those "SEE BRITAIN NOW" posters.

They exist,
not in castles, nor in thatch and beam quaintness,
but in the flat Mid Lands.
They talk,
not in cockney nor with pear-shaped vowels.
but in dull mono tones.

And if you ever,
As I, once often did,
Ride on British Rail
Through that dull, flat,
middle part of England,
You will know
that "The Whitsun Weddings"
is a brilliant portrait
of those gray lives
Caught in passing.
Read "Here" or "Dockery and Son,"
And you will know them too.

You Who are so American,
Can praise your poets profoundly
(and justly so).
But I,
who am split across the sea,
in both my culture
and my loyalty,
I find sad memory,
Deep meaning
and exaltation
in reading Philip Larkin.

Poet Judy Staber, of Chatham, New York, formerly with the Spencertown Academy, dedicates this poem to the poet Michael Gizzi: "he taught me to love poetry and encouraged me to write, but being American was very biased in favor of American poets."

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