Skip to main content

Wynn Wheldon's memories of Dannie Abse, the great Welsh poet who died recently

DANNIE ABSE
by Wynn Wheldon

I met Dannie Abse when I was very young.  He and his wife Joan were always guests at my parents’ Christmas Party.  Dad and Dannie had met at a reception given for an American war correspondent.  Dannie was just about to leave when my father, who was a stranger to Dannie, called over, “You Welsh Jew! Let me take you out to lunch”.  They went to a posh restaurant, where Dad ordered an avocado for Dannie, as he had never had one before. Dannie told me this story on three separate occasions, always with a chuckle. And Joan, it turned out, had been at LSE at around the same time as my mother.  So there were Connections.
Invariably, they would bring a book to the party, one of Joan’s anthologies or Dannie’s latest novel, collection or memoir.  He was spry and amused and intelligent and small and handsome; his characteristic demeanour was a kind of wry cheerfulness. He was, after all, a lifelong socialist.
He was also curious.  He had the doctor’s curiosity (he was a chest surgeon) and the poet’s curiosity, and these two curiosities complemented each other in his poetry.  The provable world hosted the improvable.  There was no subject beyond the range of his poetry.
I kept in touch with Dannie, sending him my own stuff from time to time.  He was always generous both with praise and criticism.  I saw him read occasionally.  He came to dinner and we talked about restaurants in the Finchley Road.
The last time I saw him read was at the T.S. Eliot awards do at the Festival Hall (his book, Speak, Old Parrot, was shortlisted and should perhaps have won.  He was thrilled to be on the list).  The reception was generous and warm.  It was impossible not to be fond of Dannie.  One of the poems he read was ‘Cats’, which I’m prepared to predict will become a popular favourite.  It isn’t his greatest poem, but it does what poetry does so well – turns the mundane into the universal, while at the same time being a portrait of the artist himself: who is – who was - a modest, funny, generous man, and a poet to remember. Look it up.
Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

DANGER, MAN

Like a crazed killer clown, whether we are thrilled, horrified, shocked, or angered (or all of these) by Donald Trump, we cannot claim to be rid of him just yet. He bestrides the world stage like a silverback gorilla (according to one British thug), or a bad analogy, but he is there, a figure, no longer of fun, but grave concern.

There has long been a history of misogynistic behaviour in American gangster culture - one thinks of the grapefruit in the face in The Public Enemy, or Sinatra throwing a woman out of his hotel room and later commenting he didn't realise there was a pool below to break her fall, or the polluted womb in Pacino'sScarface... and of course, some gangsta rap is also sexist.  American culture has a difficult way with handling the combined aspects of male power, and male privilege, that, especially in heteronormative capitalist enclaves, where money/pussy both become grabbable, reified objects and objectives (The Wolf of Wall Street for instance), an ugly fus…

AMERICA PSYCHO

According to the latest CBS, ABC, etc, polls, Clinton is still likely to beat Trump - by percentile odds of 66% to 33% and change. But the current popular vote is much closer, probably tied with the error of margin, around 44% each. Trump has to win more key battleground states to win, and may not - but he is ahead in Florida...

We will all know, in a week, whether we live in a world gone madder, or just relatively mad.

While it seems likely calmer heads will prevail, the recent Brexit win shows that polls can mislead, especially when one of the options is considered a bit embarrassing, rude or even racist - and Trump qualifies for these, at least.

If 42-45% of Americans admit they would vote for Trump, what does that say about the ones not so vocal? For surely, they must be there, as well. Some of the undecided will slide, and more likely they will slide to the wilder and more exciting fringe candidate. As may the libertarians.

Eyewear predicts that Trump will just about manage to win th…

SEXTON SHORTLIST!

Announcing the Shortlist for the 2016 Sexton PrizeSeptember 13, 2016 / By Kelly Davio
Eyewear Publishing is pleased to announce the shortlist for the 2016 Sexton Prize. The finalists are, in no particular order, as follows:


THE BARBAROUS CENTURY, Leah Umansky
HISTORY OF GONE, Lynn Schmeidler
SEVERE CLEAR, Maya Catherine Popa
GIMME THAT. DON’T SMITE ME, Steve Kronen
SCHEHERAZADE AND OTHER REDEPLOYMENTS, David McAleavey
AN AMERICAN PURGATORY, Rebecca Gayle Howell
SIT IN THE DARK WITH ME, Jesse Lee Kercheval

The shortlist was selected by Eyewear’s Director Todd Swift with Senior Editor Kelly Davio. Don Share of Poetry Magazine will select the winning manuscript, which will be released at the 2017 AWP conference in Washington, D.C. The winner will be announced in October. 
Congratulations to our finalists!