Wednesday, 1 April 2015

POETRY FOCUS: NORMAN CUTHBERT, MP


MAJOR TORY POET
Few if any Tories in the current government (now dissolved until after the hung parliament) would want to admit it, but one of their own is a published poet, the right honourable Norman Cuthbert, MP from Twillick-upon-Roundabout South, a Surrey constituency that is most famous for having hosted more episodes of BBC Radio 4's Gardeners Question Time than any other in the UK.  Cuthbert (pictured) happily agreed to let Eyewear feature one of his poems today, on the understanding that we briefly discuss his position on Europe, immigration, and poetics.

Mr Cuthbert, the son of an Anglican vicar and a music hall dancer who was famous for juggling large balls, grew up with a stern, patriotic fervour and a bit of a gift for panto. Having attended Eton, where he was particularly fond of rifle practice, the burgeoning poet-politician soon found himself at Oxbridge, where he managed to get three Firsts, a Second, and a Half, in Ancient and Modern Languages; he also was something of a tuba man, and had to choose between brass bands, and his major love, languages, old and new.

But first, that tap on the shoulder, from other shadowy powerful men that led him to standing for the Conservatives - where he was narrowly slaughtered by the Tony Blair landslide debacle of 1997.  Cuthbert, out in the wilderness until a by-election occasioned by a tragic French cheese suicide, began publishing with small Northern presses, run by angry middle-aged bearded men.  This was a complex time in his life, then he met Sally, and the late night dog-walking ended, amicably.

Sally and Norman now turned to being the ideal married CofE political family, despite Sally's penchant for dancing lessons with Flavio Montezuma, her instructor from Spain.  This soon led to public disgrace for Cuthbert, as Sally left him and fled to the continent.  Thus began Norman's flirtation with the Eurosceptic side of the party, and his turn to small Welsh publishers, for his next five pamphlets, each named after a part of the Bible, starting with Genesis.

Cuthbert's Selected Poems is due out soon with Pepper Press - his first mainstream collection - and includes all his pamphlet work from the Cool Britannia years up to the Clegg-Farage Years.  A whopping 685 pages, it has been nicknamed The Domesday Book. His views on immigration are: all full up at the inn. His views on poetics: not here you don't mate.

Norman Cuthbert represents that radical line in English poetry that extends from the great Georgian poets through Larkin to Motion. He seeks to speak with a pastoral English diction, a complacent syntax full of decorum and control; and a limited sense of style.  Don't rock the apple cart, he likes to say.  Hats off to the man of the hour!

SUNNY UPLAND DAYS

On sunny upland fields
The man-boy would walk alone
To find hard stones that feel
And reciprocate the hand-loan

Of all things blighted, time-worn
That hayricks in the sun yield;
A bad Roman stood here once
To stick an English rose, forlorn

Upon the same wind the hawk
Climbed like arpeggios, mawk-
Ish but not Irish. So love is born.
But not before dancing Spanish die

For wrong-headed nimble sympathies.
I stumble here in para-rhyme, borders
Not my normalcy. We use the sea
To wall continental riff-raff out, order

Is what one does in right-thinking cafes
At Tea. But also what one requires
To hold a heart divided, so chafed
To mend, invisibly, old-new spires.

poem by Norman Cuthbert, MP, copyright 2015

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