Archive for September, 2012

Not working

September 13, 2012

Agh, it’s too late and I’m too grumpy to make apologies, but lately I have been ready to pull my hair out from lack of writing…anything at all.  No songs, no scribbles, no bad poetry.  Nothing.  ‘Aye, all our time is both precious and a-wasting, and at long last I am burned out and pissed off.  Just teaching and teaching and teaching and my hands ache and my mind is starting to recede.  Is my hair as well?  I surely hope not.  I am so vain that I’m not sure which one I would barter in order to keep the other.  I like the odds on my vanity.

I few weeks ago I finished Amis & Son: Two Literary Generations, by Neil Powell, which was somewhat of a dual literary biography of Kingsley and Martin.  It was decent enough, in it’s own way, although I must say I was a tad surprised by how hard Powell was in judging the shortcomings of Martin’s work.  There was almost a fatherly tone in his scolding, and given the affinity & affection I detected in Powell towards Kingsley I guess it somewhat makes sense.  He was quite fair and objective in his appraisal of Kingsley’s work, which must have been hard to do given how familiar he was with the man and his work.

I meant to write at greater length of Kingsley’s time at Oxford and the impression it made on me, but for now I wanted to share this poem that I have been continuously reading and returning to over the past few weeks.  Although Kingsley was a published poet in his own right it is not what he is most, or even second or third most usually remembered for. (I’d have to give those distinctions to Lucky Jim, drink, and….being a typical aging Anglo male in the face of a changing England?)  He composed this poem as he was getting on in years, most likely in the 1970s as he was approaching 60, but it wasn’t uncovered until 2004.  It is officially untitled, but it is often known by its first line, “Things tell less and less”.


Things tell less and less:
The news impersonal
And from afar; no book
Worth wrenching off the shelf.
Liquor brings dizziness
And food discomfort; all
Music sounds thin and tired,
And what picture could earn a look?
The self drowses in the self
Beyond hope of a visitor.
Desire and those desired
Fade, and no matter:
Memories in decay
Annihilate the day.
There once was an answer:
Up at the stroke of seven,
A turn round the garden
(Breathing deep and slow),
Then work, never mind what,
How small, provided that
It serves another’s good
But once is long ago
And, tell me, how could
Such an answer be less than wrong,
Be right all along?
Vain echoes, desist

-Kingsley Amis

That is a good one, in my estimation.  Or maybe it was merely the right poem for the right person at the right time.

Write back if it’s been a while.  I’ve got a few more days of teaching and then I am off with the band for a run of shows down the East Coast of the USA.  It should be fun, and if you’re anywhere on the Eastern seaboard give me a holler and perhaps we’ll be playing in your town or near enough.

More to come, and not so many moons between the next post.  Promise.