Saturday, January 27, 2007

The Bard of JFS

Listening to Daljit Nagra on Front Row was a delight, particularly when he spoke of his year 13’s who love Larkin. I don’t think it is at all sad that one of his 6th formers wrote his 1st Amazon review; 'Puts Keats to shame" and "A wonder to behold" are not bad verdicts for the first ever review of your debut volume of poetry. And this five-star critique gets better. "If you enjoy poetry, genius, or PURE UNRIVALLED QUALITY of any kind," runs the customer review on Amazon, "buy this 21st-century bible of poetry and bask in the teachings of The Nagrameister." The Guardian did. I think it is wonderful, I feel sure he is an inspiration. I also find it amusing that he works at the Jewish Free School, where Larkin wouldn't like most of the class or him! Like his class, I suppose I wondered why he was still in the class room, what with books being publised and all, but poets don't earn a fortune.
Cleverer people than I can tell you that "Look We Have Coming to Dover" alludes to Matthew Arnold's famous poem Dover Beach. Nagra's "Dover" recently won a British poetry award for best single poem.

Look we have coming to Dover!
Stowed in the sea to invade
the lash alfresco of a diesel-breeze
ratcheting speed into the tide with the brunt
gobfuls of surf phlegmed by cushy,
come-and-go tourists prow'd on the cruisers, lording the waves.

Seagull and shoal life bletching
vexed blarnies at our camouflage past
the vast crumble of scummed cliffs.
Thunder in its bluster unbladdering yobbish
rain and wind on our escape, hutched in a Bedford can.
Seasons or years we reap
inland, unclocked by the national eye
or a stab in the back, teemed for breathing
sweeps of grass through the whistling asthma
of parks, burdened, hushed, poling sparks across pylon and pylon.
Swarms of us, grafting
in the black within shot of the moon's spotlight,
banking on the miracle of sun to span
its rainbow, passport us to life. Only then
can it be human to bare-faced, hoick ourselves for the clear.
Imagine my love and I,
and our sundry others, blared in the cash
of our beeswax'd cars, our crash clothes,
free, as we sip from an unparasol'd table
babbling our lingoes, flecked by the chalk of Britannia.
• First published in Poetry Review
So various, so beautiful, so new - Matthew Arnold, "Dover Beach"

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