Monday, February 13, 2006

To Philip Larkin Who Said

“Deprivation is for me what daffodils were to Wordsworth.”

For half a life I followed you, Old Fart,
hoping to catch the accent of your art.
You cussed the dogs of boredom pissing on stones
engraved with others’ names, one with your own.
At tea, curling around your feet, Bitch yawned.
When a friend praised your poems, Fido fawned.
The dogs, and not the girls, kept you alone
and dug up beds of flowers to find the bone.

Now I’ve traded in my dogs for men,
hung up my leash but not my ball-point pen
which empties in detailing ecstasies,
dancing, gold-petaled memories.
Embracing this hot afternoon, I take
root in fair, rotting bodies by some lake.


Aruna said...

Oh, interesting revision. I remember seeing this on PFFA and enjoying it very much. The new specificity of the "dogs" images in S1 is nice, but I'm not sure about the changes in phrasing in L1-4: I think I liked it better as one, running sentence. It sounded more Larkinish to me that way. I still think the "take/root" image (and linebreak) is fantastic: it crystallises the whole poem, all the ideas of deprivation and death and beauty, the daffodils and the "bone" in the flower beds. Plus working really well as an image in itself.

Larry said...

Nice stretch of poems, Jee. Straight Boy is very funny. Grand Historian looks like an important poem to me; you do excellent work when you take on those ancient chinese voices. I love the first couplet in Philip Larkin, but I felt that you restricted yourself with the dog metaphors, and that it would have developed into a better poem without that effort at strict unity.


Jee Leong Koh said...

Hi Aruna and Larry,

great to see you around. I am certainly going to think further about the syntax and the dog metaphor in the octave. The tinkling did not sort out the kinks, or perhaps it is insufficiently kinky. Or something. Thanks!

Jee Leong

Rob Mackenzie said...


Did you know about the discovery of lost Larkin recordings a couple of days ago.

At this BBc link:

you can click on the audio link on the right-hand side to hear all about it.

I agree that this poem, while well written, isn't quite hitting the heights and depths your best work does.

Jee Leong Koh said...

Thanks, Rob, for telling me about the Larkin recordings. I will certainly check them out. I have been dipping again into Andrew Motion's Larkin biography in the last couple of days and remembering what a conflict of a man he was.

Jee Leong