October 21st, 2014


Double Bill anthology

I have a poem in a new anthology of poems inspired by popular culture, Double Bill, ed. Andy Jackson, pub. Red Squirrel Press. It has poems by a great many different poets, on subjects from Frank Sinatra to Bagpuss - mine, which is called "Oral English", is about Julian & Sandy from Round the Horne and was inspired by an anecdote of Barry Took's about a puzzled letter he once received from a Japanese gentleman who was trying to improve his colloquial English with the aid of The Bona Book of Julian and Sandy.  His letter went as follows: Ichigoro Yuchida to Barry Took: "Dear Sir, I am reading with an teacher, The Bona Book of Julian And Sandy. Mainly for the purposes of picking up slangs and very colloquial expressions. My English teacher is well trained in the job, and quite able in every way as a language teacher. Yet he still has some difficulty handling the queer and funny languages, brimming over the pages. I should be more than happy if you would kindly answer the following questions and let me know what they mean in plainer language. One, naff is it, page 25. Two, he's got the polari off hasn’t he. Three, but did you manage to drag yourself up on deck, page 27. I am sorry but I can't see what Mister Horne meant. Sincerely yours, Ichigoro Yuchida..." Took replied, with urbane courtesy, and a correspondence ensued.

You can buy Double Bill here or here. And here's the poem:
Oral English

Ichigoro Yuchida, keen to improve
his colloquial English, puzzles over

a text with his (equally baffled) teacher.
They can't seem to find dolly old eek

in the phrasebook.  And why, during a shipwreck,
should Mr Horne laugh when our heroes

drag themselves up on deck?  So many queries…
in the end, they think best to seek wisdom

from the writer, which is how they come,
courtesy of Mr Took, to knowledge

of some comic stereotypes, a secret language,
a national habit of wryness, a way of talking

as if one could make a joke of anything,
of code, of hiding from the law, of love.