Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Another kind of backwards flute

(Because this post is about Craig Raine, I should pass on the information that "the last words of Larkin's last ever poem were 'Raine (Craig)'. Rhyming with 'dumb and vague'.")

I had posted last year about Craig Raine's view that '“Asshole” is a possible translation of “arsehole” but it isn’t the right translation,' but did not know then, as I know now, that the word plays the same central role in Raine's poetics as "gleam" does in Tennyson's or "greazy" in Swift's. A couple of exhibits: (1) From his novel Heartbreak: "The beautiful blot of her arsehole. A dark-pink peach-stone. An astonishment of lips". (2) This poem, Verlainesque but -- and this is why I cannot avoid posting it -- ending with the word "ambergris" (also, inevitably, evocative of Gas-Poker -- cf. "the pucker that she held up"):


It is shy as a gathered eyelet
neatly worked in shrinking violet;
it is the dilating iris, tucked
away, a tightening throb when fucked.

It is a soiled and puckered hem,
the golden treasury’s privy purse.
With all the colours of a bruise,
it is the fleck of blood in albumen.

I dreamed your body was an instrument
and this was the worn mouthpiece
to which my breathing lips were bent.

Each note pleaded to love a little longer,
longer, as though it was dying of hunger.
I fed that famished mouth my ambergris.

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