It’s UK National Poetry Day Tomorrow.
And, purely coincidentally, as I went to bed in the wee small hours, I suddenly had a Proustian flashback to a poem called The Danikils, by ‘T.Y.’
T.Y. was a lad called Alan Tinsley and his effort was on the front page of my earliest effort at journalistic excellence, a class newspaper, set as a project by an English teacher (the name and other identifying features of whom have completely left my brain).
Rather like Dr Johnson’s dog on its hind legs, we were a least as surprised that Tinsley had done this at all as by any qualities it may have had. He had never been noted as a creative mind, an average student (given that he was already in an above average grammar school setting), more inclined to science subjects than arts and lit. Indeed I often wondered if he’d found this parody elsewhere and sneaked it in, but that would not really have been like him either. Then again, I’ve written things myself which I’ve suspected were too good to be original (but every man likes the smell of his own farts, as they say), and wondered if I’d dug them from some dormant memory.
I doubt it was a great parody. Technically it was a matter of taking Wordsworth’s Daffodils and tweaking a few words here and there. I shouldn’t knock that approach, I use it far too often myself, even fifty years on. And the effect of Tinsley’s effort seemed very funny at the time, and not just to us sixteen-year-olds; the teacher was mighty impressed and also mighty surprised.
I wish I could remember more of it. I think the line ‘vacant and expensive mood’ was in there, but I have a feeling someone else, a professional writist like Paul Jennings may have used it too. Only one bit really sticks — I can’t even recall whether he wandered lonely as a cloud or some variation thereon, but lines three to six were definitely …
When all at once I spied a crowd
A host of hairy Danikils
Beside the pool, beneath the trees
Doing the dance of the cheddar cheese.
Well, it just goes to prove my assertion that anyone can do this parody stuff, and undermine any ambition I might have to sell myself as anything special, though I am assured by small Chinese women that I’m a genius.
And I’ve been asked to recite (or at least read) The Raven for the Scottish Arts Club’s Halloween Poe evening. I can’t think of that without tweaking the first line in a Tinsleyish manner myself. It always comes to my mind as …
Once, upon a midnight dreary, as I sat with Wallace Beery …
But I shall dress in black and do it straight of course. I’m even buying a smoking cap to wear as I read it from an armchair…
A video may follow. Or not.