THE BOOK OF MY ENEMY:
COLLECTED VERSE 1958–2003
A LETTER TO MR CLIVE JAMES, TO MARK THE PUBLICATION OF HIS COLLECTED VERSE
Dear Clive, I took your book up to the study
The better to appraise you next your peers
Martin, Craig Raine, Larkin – all those fuddy-duddies
That you’ve addressed your poems to for years
Such coy encomia might be thought romantic
A better word, alas, is ‘sycophantic’.
Your verse, of course, depends on incongruity
Those brainy thoughts hemmed in by metric bands
The reader may find only superfluity
A poet rarely sitting on his hands
Using the dreary plod of terza rima
To hymns his jaunts to Tokyo and Lima.
‘To Gore Vidal at 50’ – you’re fond of anniversaries
And bustling round the globe as cultural gaucho
Your chums bag TV shows and bursaries
In a land where Wood Lane meets the Groucho
You pastiche Amis (K) with effervescence
In a style a few yards short of obsolescence.
It’s not all bad – oh no, there’s personal stuff in here
Things about love, truths uttered from beneath the moral hat
The only absentee is Germaine Greer
Amid a throng of Ozzie takes on where it’s at
’81, your rhyming round-up says, was quite a year
Two decades on, the SDP seem smallest of small beer.
‘Last night the sea dreamed it was Greta Scacchi’
I’ll admit I giggled hugely over that
Styled like an elephant with howdah by Versace
A versifying fizz that’s fallen sadly flat.
My own credentials won’t match up to you – alas
I never wrote for Ian Hamilton’s Review.
Oh well. I have to go now Clive, my pen runs idle
Unlike your own uncurbed extravaganzas
Unchained by any editorial bridle
And dancing on from stanza unto endless stanza
As for your talent – well I’ll gladly tender that
There are three Clives – James I, James II and Old Pretender.