Eating Huskies, or, Guilty as Charged

The older poet who lived near the sea gently chided me for persisting in writing about poetry and art.

When a friend and I went to visit him, we walked a long way through rain, sleet and bitter winds. I ventured that if we’d had huskies with us, we would have eaten them.

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The luncheon, she wrote, was worthy of a poet – nothing but cakes and fruit, and cold tea with lumps of ice in it....*

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You woke to find him standing over your bed: when his knocking had failed to rouse you, he’d broken into the house to read you his latest poem.

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Would you like to fuck me up the arse? she said.
– You can’t get away with writing things like that, my friend said, only a woman can.

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– You’re a minefield of information, I told him after he’d misadvertised the reading series a second time.  

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He wrote that he was being pursued by “drop dead gorgons”.

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– So you’re a writer, the immigration officer said; what do you write? – Poems, stories, essays, I replied. – Anything that turns a buck, huh?

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– Your poems remind me of watercolour paintings, he wrote to the poet who had submitted a manuscript to him. – Personally, he continued, I’ve never liked watercolours. 

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– I think she should have stuck to writing, he said to his companion, having read the text placed alongside her painting; and they both laughed. Had she been there, she would have ripped their hearts out and eaten them.

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The visiting poet and I ended up glaring at each other; his self-regarding poetry pissed me off and my face clearly showed my annoyance. Later I was sitting in a burger bar and his son came in, recognised me from the reading, and smiled and waved at me.

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Much to his surprise, his horror novel, Things that Go Burp in the Night, wasn’t a success.

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– Another critic! he exclaimed, when his friends’ cat pissed on a manuscript of his poems.

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I invited a group of my writing students to a pub, and one of them, who became extremely drunk as the evening wore on, showed off an extensive phoenix tattoo on her back to everyone. She tried to coax the resident cat to sit on her lap, but it would have none of it. – You piss on that and I’ll piss on you, I said to the cat when it curled up on my jacket.

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Worm, he wrote, you came to me expecting... what was it? ...wisdom, and tea and cake?** My friend took the magazine in which his letter had been printed and tore it into pieces.

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A line goes on a walk, and ends up running for its life. Hollow point. Point and line to plane.***

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– I think people who drink beer are vulgar, she said. Some months later we were together at a bar, and she said: Would you like a beer?

She told me a story about a friend of hers: – Good night, little poet, he said to his young daughter, having discovered earlier that evening that she’d read some of his poetry and had also started to write. – Good night, minor poet, she replied.

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The little girl recited a Greek translation of Lorca in a piping voice. Having taken a small amount of wine, she promptly keeled over.

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She went to hear her friend read his poetry, and found herself in an audience otherwise composed of Catholic priests. When he entered the room, she saw that he was wearing a gold lamé dress.

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– You should pay attention to my wife’s mountaineering poems, he said; you might learn to write about something else than Aborigines and compassion. – I don’t tend to write about Aborigines, I said.

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He sat down on the stoop and wrote in his notebook. At least in my imagination: he’s writing poems about the city, the sea, angels, tired old men, loss and redemption....

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* Marianne North, writing about having lunch with Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.
** Paraphrasing Asa Benveniste, from memory.
*** Wassily Kandinsky.

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