Scabrous poetry

Growing up, I became a P.G. Wodehouse fan. It’s not surprising, since all my family members were fans. My brothers loved the Jeeves and Wooster books and the Lord Emsworths, but my mother and I were devotees of the relatively obscure The Small Bachelor.

smallbachelor2We loved the characters and knew much of their dialogue off by heart: George Finch, the Small Bachelor himself; J. Hamilton Beamish, the efficiency expert and writer of how-to books, with his plans to make the Marriage Sane; Madame Eulalie, the palmist who causes Hamilton Beamish to throw plans for the Marriage Sane out of the window; Sigsbee H. Waddington, Mrs. Sigsbee Waddington, and their daughter, Molly; and Officer Garroway.

I remembered Officer Garroway the other night. Officer Garroway writes poetry under the tutelage of Hamilton Beamish. His natural instinct is to write doggerel, but Hamilton Beamish insists that he should eschew rhymes and pleasantries and write powerfully of the unattractive side of life. (This is, of course, before Hamilton Beamish finds Love, after which event his taste in poetry alters dramatically.)

And here I should say why I was reminded of Officer Garroway. I was at an open mic night where aspiring authors read their work in front of a sympathetic crowd. The author delivered a rant about the sorry state of the world, full of allusions to industrial pollution and bodily secretions. It went on for too long, was unleavened by humour or hope, and caused a certain amount of squirming in seats.

Officer Garroway’s poem, Streets!:

Grim, relentless, sordid streets!
Miles of poignant streets,
East, West, North,
And stretching starkly South;
Sad hopeless, dismal, cheerless, chilling
I pace the mournful streets
With aching heart.
I watch grey men slink past
With shifty, sidelong eyes
That gleam with murderous hate;
Lepers that prowl the streets.
Men who once were men,
Women that once were women,
Children like wizened apes,
And dogs that snarl and snap and growl and hate.
Loathsome, festering streets!
I pace the scabrous streets
And long for death.


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