Monday 2 December 2019

'Ewart is very frivolous and brittle...'

Well, I've read Gavin Ewart's Penultimate Poems, and by and large it has confirmed my memory of reading Ewart as being an entertaining, engaging experience but seldom anything much more. He was wonderfully fluent and productive – facile even – and a fine practitioner of what is called 'light verse'.
 The last of the Penultimate Poems is a handy piece of good-humoured auto-criticism by a poet who knows he's now outdated and out of critical favour (though outselling most of the poetical competition, even so) and doesn't much care. The line 'Ewart can do very little' is decidedly wide of the mark: Ewart could do practically anything, and with ease. He was versatile to a fault.

A Critic Speaks

Ewart is very frivolous and brittle.
Ewart can do very little –
though every once in a while
he might raise a weary smile.

A stallion neighing at a filly?
His best poems are silly.
Some find them not very nice.
Perhaps they're just worth the price.

But only just. It must be said,
The first thing that comes into his head
is what he writes about,
with rhyme and rhythm, or else without.

What, no insects? And no flowers?
No Heavenly or Earthly Powers?
No pike, no plaice, no crabs, no cod?
No fish at all! And, worse, no God!

Where is the secret narrative, the myth?
The mysticism? The concentrated pith
of Martian Arts? The learned story
of the proud High Tory?

The surrealist touch, quite gay
when the boys come out to play?
Animals, landscapes? Not a hint.
One wonders wanly: Why, why print

all this sad old-fashioned stuff?
It was once new enough –
but now, as fresh modes come in,
we drop it, fastidiously, in the bin!

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