Dirty Mondays: “High Windows” by Philip Larkin

High Windows

When I see a couple of kids
And guess he’s fucking her and she’s
Taking pills or wearing a diaphragm,
I know this is the paradise

Everyone old has dreamed of all their lives—
Bonds and gestures pushed to one side
Like an outdated combine harvester,
And everyone young going down the long slide

To happiness, endlessly. I wonder if
Anyone looked at me, forty years back,
And thought, That’ll be the life;
No God any more, or sweating in the dark

About hell and that, or having to hide
What you think of the priest. He
And his lot will all go down the long slide
Like free bloody birds. And immediately

Rather than words comes the thought of high windows:
The sun-comprehending glass,
And beyond it, the deep blue air, that shows
Nothing, and is nowhere, and is endless.

Philip Larkin (9 August 1922 – 2 December 1985)

If you’ve got a suggestion for Monday’s dirty poem, don’t hesitate to get in touch…

Posted March 16, 2009 | Comments Off on Dirty Mondays: “High Windows” by Philip Larkin.

Dirty Mondays: “Deer Tracks” by Richard Brautigan

In the park near my house, there is an enclosure of Red Deer. Last year, a number of them were moved to a nature reserve in the Scottish highlands to give them a bit more breathing space. The park keepers posted laminated notices explaining what had happened, alongside photos of the reserve: a pristine island at the mouth of a wide, blue sea loch. You could see the city-dwellers who passed by giving the image a wistful look, wondering if perhaps they too could be relocated. This poem, unrelated to that little story, is really rather special.

Deer Tracks

Beautiful, sobbing
high-geared fucking
and then to lie silently
like deer tracks in the
freshly-fallen snow beside
the one you love.
That’s all.

Richard Brautigan (January 30, 1935 – ca. September 14, 1984)

If you’ve got a suggestion for Monday’s dirty poem, don’t hesitate to get in touch

Posted March 9, 2009 | Comments Off on Dirty Mondays: “Deer Tracks” by Richard Brautigan.

Dirty Mondays: “L’Idole” by Arthur Rimbaud

I cycled through Camden this morning, past the house of Rimbaud and Verlaine, which I wrote about here. The bright sun was reflecting savagely from the white stucco, and the canal behind stank of wet moss and waste: the smell of sex and poetry. Here’s to the boy poet, and his echoes.

L’Idole (Sonnet du Trou du Cul)

Dark, wrinkled as a purple pink,
It breathes, it nestles in that bed of moss,
Still damp from love, which hugs the slope,
The white thighs’ slope, to your crater’s heart.

Threads, gossamer, milky tears
Wept, wept, in scouring wind
That drove them over clots of scarlet scree
Till they tumbled on the edge, were gone.

My dreams touch kisses, kisses to the gate.
Soul envies couplings of the flesh,
Its tear-bottle this, its nest of sobs.

Ecstatic olive! Seductive flute!
Throat sucking almond-sweet sublime!
Moss-circled, female, promised land!

Arthur Rimbaud (1854-1891)

Posted March 2, 2009 | Comments Off on Dirty Mondays: “L’Idole” by Arthur Rimbaud.

Dirty Mondays: ‘A Ramble in St. James’s Park’ by John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester

The Weekend took me to town: I wandered down the Charing Cross Road to see my friends at Any Amount of Books, Watkins and Red Snapper, alongside St Martin’s-in-the-Fields and across Trafalgar Square before, passing beneath Admiralty Arch, I found myself on the edges of St James’ Park. Which of course reminded me of Rochester…

A Ramble in St. James’s Park

Much wine had passed, with grave discourse
Of who fucks who, and who does worse
(Such as you usually do hear
From those that diet at the Bear),
When I, who still take care to see
Drunkenness relieved by lechery,
Went out into St. James’s Park
To cool my head and fire my heart.
But though St. James has th’ honor on ‘t,
‘Tis consecrate to prick and cunt.
There, by a most incestuous birth,
Strange woods spring from the teeming earth;
For they relate how heretofore,
When ancient Pict began to whore,
Deluded of his assignation
(Jilting, it seems, was then in fashion),
Poor pensive lover, in this place
Would frig upon his mother’s face;
Whence rows of mandrakes tall did rise
Whose lewd tops fucked the very skies.
Each imitative branch does twine
In some loved fold of Aretine,
And nightly now beneath their shade
Are buggeries, rapes, and incests made.
Unto this all-sin-sheltering grove
Whores of the bulk and the alcove,
Great ladies, chambermaids, and drudges,
The ragpicker, and heiress trudges.
Carmen, divines, great lords, and tailors,
Prentices, poets, pimps, and jailers,
Footmen, fine fops do here arrive,
And here promiscuously they swive.
     Along these hallowed walks it was
That I beheld Corinna pass.
Whoever had been by to see
The proud disdain she cast on me
Through charming eyes, he would have swore
She dropped from heaven that very hour,
Forsaking the divine abode
In scorn of some despairing god.
But mark what creatures women are:
How infinitely vile, when fair!
     Three knights o’ the’ elbow and the slur
With wriggling tails made up to her.
     The first was of your Whitehall blades,
Near kin t’ th’ Mother of the Maids;
Graced by whose favor he was able
To bring a friend t’ th’ Waiters’ table,
Where he had heard Sir Edward Sutton
Say how the King loved Banstead mutton;
Since when he’d ne’er be brought to eat
By ‘s good will any other meat.
In this, as well as all the rest,
He ventures to do like the best,
But wanting common sense, th’ ingredient
In choosing well not least expedient,
Converts abortive imitation
To universal affectation.
Thus he not only eats and talks
But feels and smells, sits down and walks,
Nay looks, and lives, and loves by rote,
In an old tawdry birthday coat.
     The second was a Grays Inn wit,
A great inhabiter of the pit,
Where critic-like he sits and squints,
Steals pocket handkerchiefs, and hints
From ‘s neighbor, and the comedy,
To court, and pay, his landlady.
     The third, a lady’s eldest son
Within few years of twenty-one
Who hopes from his propitious fate,
Against he comes to his estate,
By these two worthies to be made
A most accomplished tearing blade.
     One, in a strain ‘twixt tune and nonsense,
Cries, “Madam, I have loved you long since.
Permit me your fair hand to kiss”;
When at her mouth her cunt cries, “Yes!”
In short, without much more ado,
Joyful and pleased, away she flew,
And with these three confounded asses
From park to hackney coach she passes.
     So a proud bitch does lead about
Of humble curs the amorous rout,
Who most obsequiously do hunt
The savory scent of salt-swoln cunt.
Some power more patient now relate
The sense of this surprising fate.
Gods! that a thing admired by me
Should fall to so much infamy.
Had she picked out, to rub her arse on,
Some stiff-pricked clown or well-hung parson,
Each job of whose spermatic sluice
Had filled her cunt with wholesome juice,
I the proceeding should have praised
In hope sh’ had quenched a fire I raised.
Such natural freedoms are but just:
There’s something generous in mere lust.
But to turn a damned abandoned jade
When neither head nor tail persuade;
To be a whore in understanding,
A passive pot for fools to spend in!
The devil played booty, sure, with thee
To bring a blot on infamy.
     But why am I, of all mankind,
To so severe a fate designed?
Ungrateful! Why this treachery
To humble fond, believing me,
Who gave you privilege above
The nice allowances of love?
Did ever I refuse to bear
The meanest part your lust could spare?
When your lewd cunt came spewing home
Drenched with the seed of half the town,
My dram of sperm was supped up after
For the digestive surfeit water.
Full gorged at another time
With a vast meal of slime
Which your devouring cunt had drawn
From porters’ backs and footmen’s brawn,
I was content to serve you up
My ballock-full for your grace cup,
Nor ever thought it an abuse
While you had pleasure for excuse –
You that could make my heart away
For noise and color, and betray
The secrets of my tender hours
To such knight-errant paramours,
When, leaning on your faithless breast,
Wrapped in security and rest,
Soft kindness all my powers did move,
And reason lay dissolved in love!
     May stinking vapors choke your womb
Such as the men you dote upon
May your depraved appetite,
That could in whiffling fools delight,
Beget such frenzies in your mind
You may go mad for the north wind,
And fixing all your hopes upon’t
To have him bluster in your cunt,
Turn up your longing arse t’ th’ air
And perish in a wild despair!
But cowards shall forget to rant,
Schoolboys to frig, old whores to paint;
The Jesuits’ fraternity
Shall leave the use of buggery;
Crab-louse, inspired with grace divine,
From earthly cod to heaven shall climb;
Physicians shall believe in Jesus,
And disobedience cease to please us,
Ere I desist with all my power
To plague this woman and undo her.
But my revenge will best be timed
When she is married that is limed.
In that most lamentable state
I’ll make her feel my scorn and hate:
Pelt her with scandals, truth or lies,
And her poor cur with jealousied,
Till I have torn him from her breech,
While she whines like a dog-drawn bitch;
Loathed and despised, kicked out o’ th’ Town
Into some dirty hole alone,
To chew the cud of misery
And know she owes it all to me.
     And may no woman better thrive
     That dares prophane the cunt I swive!

John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester (April 1, 1647–July 26, 1680) was an English libertine, a friend of King Charles II, and the writer of much satirical and bawdy poetry.

Posted February 23, 2009 | Comments Off on Dirty Mondays: ‘A Ramble in St. James’s Park’ by John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester.

Dirty Mondays: “Toilet” by Hugo Williams

Hello Monday! I declare this week to be bodily fluids week, as I finally started reading Charlotte Roche’s much-discussed Wetlands over the weekend, and it’s filled my head with all kinds of secretions, seepages and discharges. I’ll get a full review up soon – but know that it is brilliant. In the mean time, here’s a suitably moist Monday Poem from English poet Hugo Williams:


I wonder will I speak to the girl
sitting opposite me on this train.
I wonder will my mouth open and say,
‘Are you going all the way
to Newcastle?’ or ‘Can I get you a coffee?’
Or will it simply go ‘aaaaah’
as if it had a mind of its own?

Half closing eggshell blue eyes,
she runs her hand through her hair
so that it clings to the carriage cloth;
then slowly frees itself.
She finds a brush and her long fair hair
flies back and forth like an African fly-whisk,
making me feel dizzy.

Suddenly, without warning,
she packs it all away in a rubber band
because I have forgotten to look out
the window for a moment.
A coffee is granted permission
to pass between her lips
and does so eagerly, without fuss.

A tunnel finds us looking out the window
into one another’s eyes. She leaves her seat,
but I know that she likes me
because the light saying ‘TOILET’
has come on, a sign that she is lifting
her skirt, taking down her pants
and peeing all over my face.

Hugo Williams was born in 1942 in Windsor and grew up in Sussex. He was educated at Eton College and worked on the London Magazine from 1961 to 1970. His Collected Poems was published in 2002. His most recent poetry collection is Dear Room (2006), shortlisted for the 2006 Costa Poetry Award.

If you’ve got a suggestion for Monday’s dirty poem, don’t hesitate to get in touch…

Posted February 16, 2009 | Comments Off on Dirty Mondays: “Toilet” by Hugo Williams.

“Steam” by Carol Ann Duffy

And we’re back with Dirty Poems for a Monday morning. It’s cold out there so here’s some Carol Anne Duffy to warm your cockles…

I first came across Duffy at school and was immediately drawn to her subversive and often transgressive verse, an appreciation that only grew when she missed out on the nomination for the position of British Poet Laureate owing to institutional homophobia and stupidity, and she told the newspapers that she’d never have taken it anyway: “I will not write a poem for Edward and Sophie. No self-respecting poet should have to.”


Not long ago so far, a lover and I
in a room of steam –

a sly, thirsty silvery word – lay down,
opposite ends, and vanished.

Quite recently, if one of us sat up,
or stood, or stretched, naked,

a nude pose in soft pencil
behind tissue paper

appeared, rubbed itself out, slow,
with a smokey cloth.

Say a matter of months. This hand reaching
through the steam

to touch the real thing, shockingly there,
not a ghost at all.

Carol Ann Duffy (born 23 December 1955) is a British poet, playwright and freelance writer born in Glasgow, Scotland.

If you’ve got a suggestion for Monday’s dirty poem, don’t hesitate to get in touch…

Posted February 9, 2009 | Comments Off on “Steam” by Carol Ann Duffy.

Bookkake in India: Nabaneeta Dev Sen

As you know, I’m currently in India on a trip for publishers organised by The British Council. We’ve spent the last few days at the Jaipur Literary Festival – an absolutely wonderful experience, about which I’ll write some more later. For now, while internet time is short, I just want to share one writer who I’ve been introduced to, and was fortunate enough to meet.

Nabaneeta Dev Sen is a Bengali poet and writer whose work has, for decades, dealt with the most complicated issues in Indian life: the role of the intellectual, the cultural divides of language and the caste system, child labour, women’s rights, sex, homosexuality and transgenderism, AIDS, immigration and exile. At the same time, her tales of single motherhood, and independent womanhood, are widely read for their warmth, humour and humanity. Her poetry has been written in Bengali, her prose mostly in English, and translated into many languages.

At Jaipur, I heard her speak, together with her daughter, the writer Antara Dev Sen, where she talked about her writing, particularly her writing about AIDS and homosexuality, which, she said, she undertook because “writing about homosexuality is a way of challenging the system.” Almost all of her writing has been undertaken in a similar spirit, whether it’s her family tales, which challenge the Indian ideal of the male-led household, her travel journals, championing women’s independence, or her retellings of epics from the Mahabarata from a decidedly female perspective. “When you write from a woman’s point of view,” she says, “you use a different gaze, which changes the meaning of what you are writing about.”

I was privileged enough to meet her later in the festival, and was treated to a warm and generous retelling of some of the friendships that led to many of her books, of personal experiences that drove her to focus on the many issues her work covers. I’m going to spend the rest of the trip looking out as much of her work as I can find.


my exile is over, mother,
no more living in the jungle for me
come, mother, underneath this matted beard
feel the familiar cheeks of your child
open up your breasts, mother, and watch how
the seven streams of milk
gush towards my parched tongue

look at these feet, mother, the tiny feet
where your golden bells had jingled
look at this arm
upon which you had tied your talisman
when I was born
now look at this chest where you had planted
the sapling of a heart
in a soft green stretch of sun
in the hidden mesh of this dark jungle,
has grown a hungry tree…
with toothy leaves and sharp claws
and fierce flowers
it chews on other hearts
a fine flesh-eater

my time in the jungle is over, mother,
now the jungle lives in me.

Nabaneeta Dev Sen (b.1938). The above photo and poem are taken from her website. More at Wikipedia.

Posted January 26, 2009 | Comments (1).

The Ricin Poet

Over in Seattle, there’s been some recent unpleasantness with anonymous, threatening letters sent to eleven gay bars in the city:

Ricin Threat Letter

A similar letter was also to The Stranger, Seattle’s independent newspaper, where Dan Savage posted it to The Slog, guessing that the letters were probably written by a gay man.

But the story gets stranger: a commenter then pointed out that several lines of the letter were taken pretty much verbatim from poet Mark Doty‘s A Display of Mackerel:

They don’t care they’re dead
and nearly frozen,

just as, presumably,
they didn’t care that they were living:

So we have the moving words of a T.S. Eliot Prize for Poetry, National Book Award-winning, openly gay poet being used in a letter threatening to poison gay bar-goers. It’s a twisted situation.

Doty has responded, with sadness, on his own blog:

It’s hard for me to describe how horrified I feel by this. On the literal level, my poem describes looking at a group of mackerel on ice in a fish market, and contemplating both their beauty and their apparent absence of individuation. The poem was written in 1994, in the awful latter days of the AIDS crisis here, when there was no hope in sight and the losses just went on and on… now here are my lines twisted to a new context, and what was intended to suggest consolation is instead bent to an occasion for creating fear.

Luckily the first busy weekend has passed without incident – with a bar crawl in solidarity with the businesses in question – and there’s hope it’s just a malicious hoax.

But do any Bookkake readers know of other occasions when poetry has been used in anger like this – either by the poet, or, as in this case, by a plagiarist?

There’s Britain’s own ‘Lyrical Terrorist’ Samina Malik of course, imprisoned and later freed for such doggerel as ‘How To Behead’:

“It’s not messy or as hard as some may think, It’s all about the flow of the wrist… You’ll feel the knife hit the wind and food pipe, But Don’t Stop, Continue with all your might.”

Much has been made of the poetry of Yeats and Pearse, too, in the conflict in Northern Ireland, and there’s been an anthology of poetry by the detainees of Guantanamo Bay – more despairing than angry, however. I don’t doubt there are plenty more examples.

Posted January 13, 2009 | Comments Off on The Ricin Poet.

“i like my body when it is with your” by e. e. cummings

Hello Monday! A whole five days until we can embarrass ourselves again. Oh, well, cheer up. Here’s Monday’s Dirty Poem. It’s really rather sweet.

i like my body when it is with your

i like my body when it is with your
body. It is so quite new a thing.
Muscles better and nerves more.
i like your body. i like what it does,
i like its hows. i like to feel the spine
of your body and its bones, and the trembling
-firm-smooth ness and which i will
again and again and again
kiss, i like kissing this and that of you,
i like, slowly stroking the, shocking fuzz
of your electric fur, and what-is-it comes
over parting flesh … And eyes big love-crumbs,

and possibly i like the thrill

of under me you so quite new

e. e. cummings (1894—1962)

If you’ve got a suggestion for Monday’s dirty poem, don’t hesitate to get in touch

Posted January 12, 2009 | Comments Off on “i like my body when it is with your” by e. e. cummings.

“The Ballad of a Lonely Masturbator” by Anne Sexton

Cold, isn’t it? In the UK we’re all back to work today, and I imagine the situation is pretty similar where you are. Still, chin up, welcome back to Dirty Mondays. Anne Sexton knows how to keep warm…

The Ballad of a Lonely Masturbator

The boys and girls are one tonight.
They unbutton blouses. They unzip flies.
They take off shoes. They turn off the light.
The glimmering creatures are full of lies.
They are eating each other. They are overfed.
Tonight, alone, I marry the bed.

Anne Sexton

If you’ve got a suggestion for Monday’s dirty poem, don’t hesitate to get in touch

Posted January 5, 2009 | Comments Off on “The Ballad of a Lonely Masturbator” by Anne Sexton.

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