Lately my escape fantasies have revolved around moving to the Marais section of Paris, but maybe I should set my sights on Britain. Their literary culture is far more vigorous than ours. They actually hold elections for the poetry chair at Oxford. Not only that, the elections can stir up national controversy when they go awry.
The British also employ poet laureates that do things like write poetry instead of sanctimoniously preaching about the virtues of poetry, as American poet laureates do. Carol Ann Duffy, Britain’s new laureate, just rolled out her first official poem, an Alexander Pope-style rhyming couplet on the subject of MPs’ expenses, a big deal in London right now. Here it is:
What did we do with the trust of your vote?
Hired a flunky to flush out the moat.
OK, so it’s not a brilliant piece of poetry, but it’s better than listening to John Boehner.
Meanwhile, another British poet, Felix Dennis (above), penned a few lines on another current topic: the worldwide contagion of swine flu.
This little piggy caught a virus
This little piggy’s bleary eyed
This little piggy has swine flu
This little piggy has died
And this little piggy went wee wee wee wee.
You lock us up, it’s such a dirty trick
We never see the sun
You ought to let us out and do it quick
And then we’d never ever make you sick.
Some people have argued that Dennis should have been selected as the poet laureate, but he probably disqualified himself last year when he told an interviewer that he’d killed a man. He later claimed that he was drunk when he made the remark.