Liz Lochhead – Hell For Poets

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It's Hell for the poet arriving for the gig
Off the five thirty three to meet the organiser
Who claps her in a car that reeks enough of dog to make her gag,
Tells her he's looked at her work but he was none the wiser.
Call him old fashioned, but in the 'little mag
He edits for his sins' stuff rhymes – oh, he's no sympathiser
With this modern stuff! Is it prose? What is it?
Perhaps the poet can enlighten him this visit?

– For which his lady-wife's made up a futon hard as boulders
In the boxroom. 'So much friendlier than a hotel!'
Will anyone turn up tonight? Shrug of his shoulders.
'Even for McGough or Carol Ann Duffy tickets have not been going well…'
Meanwhile: here's his stuff, each ode encased in plastic in three folders.

Publication? Perhaps she'll advise him where to sell
Over a bottle of home-made later? Oh shit. She can tell
This is going to be The Gig From Hell…

But it's real hell for real poets when love goes right
When the war is over and the blood, the mud, the Muse depart
Requited love, gratified desire 'write white'
And suffering's the sweetest source for the profoundest art.
Blue skies, eternal bliss, bland putti – Heaven might
Not be the be all and end all…? For a start
Hell itself's pure inspiration to the creatively driven.
Hell was (f'rinstance) Dante's idea of Hog Heaven.
Hell's best! Virgil knew it too before him. Heigh ho!
Man calls himself a poet? St Peter'll bounce him
(Unless he's maybe Milton – it's Who You Know.)
Could I end up in Hell with Burns (his rolling r's announce him)?
End up with Villon, Verlaine, the Rabelaisian Rimbaud,
With Don Juan, Don Whan – however you pronounce Him –
Bunked up with Byron, still so mad, so bad, and so delic-
Iously dangerous to know? Not a snowball's chance, but oh, I wish.

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