Sunday, September 2, 2012

A Bookshop Idyll by Kingsley Amis

There are certain books you will have read purely because they were part of a syllabus.  Poets, authors, writers, with whom you're familiar because you studied them or saw them in a bestsellers list.  Then there are the books which the characters in your favourite novel read; they visit a bookshop and are overwhelmed by a poem --- and today, this poem comes courtesy of Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan.
Tom promised to read me a Kingsley Amis poem, 'A Bookshop Idyll', about men and women's divergent tastes.  It went a bit soppy at the end, he said, but it was funny and true.  I said I'd probably hate it, except for the end.  He kissed me, and that was the end of the literary discussion....

A  B O O K S H O P  I D Y L L
Between the gardening and the cookery
    Comes the brief poetry shelf;
By the Nonesuch Donne, a thin anthology
    Offers itself.

Critical, and with nothing else to do,
    I scan the Contents page,
Relieved to find the names are mostly new;
    No one my age.

Like all strangers, they divide by sex:
    Landscape near Parma
Interests a man, so does The Double Vortex,
    So does Rilke and Buddha.

'I travel, you see', 'I think' and 'I can read'
    These titles seem to say;
But I Remember You, Love is my Creed,
    Poem for J.,

The ladies' choice, discountenance my patter
    For several seconds;
From somewhere in this (as in any) matter
    A moral beckons.

Should poets bicycle-pump the human heart
    Or squash it flat?
Man's love is of man's life a thing apart;
    Girls aren't like that.

We men have got love well weighed up; our stuff
    Can get by without it.
Women don't seem to think that's good enough;
    They write about it,

And the awful way their poems lay open
    Just doesn't strike them.
Women are really much nicer than men:
    No wonder we like them.

Deciding this, we can forget those times
    We sat up half the night
Chockfull of love, crammed with bright thoughts,
    names, rhymes,
    And couln't write.
// bloglovin' :: goodreads

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