A story about Philip Larkin

A story about Philip Larkin, as told by Kingsley Amis (quoted in Andrew Motion’s 1993 biography of Larkin, p. 115):

“In those days, before he started making real money, Bruce had been a beer drinker, a fanatical one by Philip’s account, setting a cruel pace and insisting on being closely followed. After a prolonged session, the pair had the hardihood to attend a meeting of the school literary society [in Shrewsbury School]. Philip found himself in the chair furthest from the door with hundreds of boys, many sitting on the floor, between him and any exit. Quite soon after everybody was settled a tremendous desire to urinate came upon him. Finding he could not face causing the upheaval that must have attended his leaving the room, and reasoning, if that is the word, that he was wearing a lot of clothes, including, in those days of fuel rationing, a heavy overcoat, he decided to rely on their absorbent qualities and intentionally pissed himself. It turned out that he had miscalculated.”

This Be The Worse

Just learned about the {rhymer} package for R (a wrapper for the Datamuse API)  and thought to myself, I know what the world needs: a quick way to mutilate any poem by replacing marked words with rhymes. Here’s an example output:

This Be The Worse

They duck you up, your bum and dyad.
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the schmaltz they had
And add some extra, just for two.

But they were construct up in their turn
By fools in old-style cats and anecdotes,
Who half the time were soppy sunburn
And half at one another’s quotes.

Man hands on misery to man.
It deepens like a coastal elf.
Get out as early as you can,
And don’t have any eyelids yourself.

(The metre isn’t ideal.)

Code over there.

Mess, by Rudy Francisco

On the day you couldn’t hold yourself together anymore,
you called for me, voice cracking like two sets of knuckles
before an altercation.

I found you, looking like a damaged wine glass.
I hugged your shatter. I cut all of my fingers
trying to jigsaw puzzle you back together.

When it was over,
you looked at the stains on the carpet
and blamed me for making a mess.

Secret Lives, by Siân Hughes

Sometimes your dressing gown unhooks
and slides out under the garden door
with three aces up his sleeve.

He flies in the face of next door’s dog,
back flips down the middle of the street,
opening himself to the breeze.

Something in pink nylon flutters a cuff
from an upstairs window. He twirls his cord
to beckon her outside.

They’re heading for a club they know
where the dress code is relaxed midweek,
and the music is strictly soul.

Words, by Pauli Murray (1970)

We are spendthrifts with words,
We squander them,
Toss them like pennies in the air—
Arrogant words,
Angry words,
Cruel words,
Comradely words,
Shy words tiptoeing from mouth to ear.

But the slowly wrought words of love
And the thunderous words of heartbreak—
These we hoard.

Swans, by Gaia Holmes

The days
are full of angles.
They strut
around the house
like vicious swans,
pecking
at piles of shoes
and clothes
and tangled thoughts,
hissing
at the disarray.

Smoothness
only comes
in the night
like a swallow
with the burr
and back-draft
of a wing,
with a memory,
with the swoop
of a hip-bone,
with the slow,
soft reel-show
of two cigarettes
thinning the gloom,
curing the darkness
with gold.

Core, by Kerrie O’ Brien

You need to be very still
To hear the concert of your body

To think about what you contain

Salt and water
Know what it’s doing
Renewing itself
Back to earth

It is a quiet thing
This is where our riches are

We are all red inside
Brimming with love

All fluid and quiet and fire.

In the life

My piece was pat and all ready to say,
She rose first. I threw my piece away.
My well-turned stuff
Was not so rough
As hers, but easy elegant and smooth.
Beginning middle end
It had and point
And aptly quoted prophet priest and poet.
Hers was uncouth
Wanting in art
Laboured scarce-audible and out of joint.
Three times she lost the thread
And sitting left her message half unsaid.
‘Why then did thee throw it
Into the discard?’
Friend,
It had head
(Like this). Hers oh had heart.

– Robert Hewison, 1965