Having read, and loved, Virginia Graham's hilarious spoof etiquette and 'how to' books Say Please and Here's How (click on those titles to read my reviews - or here for an excerpt from the latter on 'How to sing'), I thought I'd branch out and read some of her poems. Consider the Years is a collection of poems which were written between 1938 and 1946 and so, of course, primarily concern the Second World War.
Dear reader, what we have is a case of frustrated expectations. Having read Graham in fine comic mode, I was hoping that Consider the Years would be a collection of comic verse. And, goodness knows, many authors have found much to laugh at amidst the horrors of wartime. Unfair as it is to judge an author by standards which they they didn't agree to, the only poems I really loved in this collection were those that were funny. Here, for example, is one called 'Losing Face':
This is my doodle-bug face. Do you like it?Would that the whole collection had been along these lines! And I mean that both in tone and metre. I know it's a terribly unscholarly thing to say, but I have to confess a fondness for poems with rhyme and scan. (This is why I have only studied prose at graduate level, I suspect.)
It's supposed to look dreadfully brave.
Not jolly of course - that would hardly be tactful,
But... well, sort of loving and grave.
You are meant to believe that I simply don't care
And am filled with a knowledge superal,
Oh, well... about spiritual things, don't you know,
Such as man being frightfully eternal.
This is my doodle-bug voice. Can you hear it?
It's thrillingly vibrant, yet calm.
If we weren't in the office, which isn't the place,
I'd read you a suitable psalm.
This is my doodle-bug place. Can you see me?
It's really amazingly snug
Lying under the desk with my doodle-bug face
And my doodle-bug voice in the rug.
When Graham wanders into free verse, or to scanning verse that doesn't rhyme (or, sometimes, rhyming verse that doesn't scan), I lose interest. Her poems are never particularly experimental, I should add - her free verse isn't unduly free - but I, with my reluctance to read poetry, had come hoping for pages of poems like 'Losing Face', and Graham does not intend to provide that.
But... it's is a beautiful little book, isn't it?