Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Seeing Stars

The Christening

I am a sperm whale. I carry up to 2.5 tonnes of an oil-like
balm in my huge, coffin-shaped head. I have a brain the
size of a basketball, and on that basis alone am entitled to
my opinions. I am a sperm whale. When I breathe in, the
fluid in my head cools to a dense wax and I nosedive into
the depths. My song, available on audiocassette and
compact disc is a comfort to divorcees, astrologists and
those who have ‘pitched the quavering canvas tent of their
thoughts on the rim of the dark crater’. The oil in my head
is of huge commercial value and has been used by NASA,
for even in the galactic emptiness of deep space it does not
freeze. I am attracted to the policies of the Green Party on
paper but once inside the voting booth my hand is guided
by an unseen force. Sometimes I vomit large chunks of
ambergris. My brother, Jeff, owns a camping and outdoor
clothing shop in the Lake District and is a recreational user
of cannabis. Customers who bought books about me also
bought Do Whales Have Belly Buttons? by Melvin Berger
and street maps of Cardiff. In many ways I have seen it all.
I keep no pets. Lying motionless on the surface I am said
to be ‘logging’, and ‘lobtailing’ when I turn and offer my
great slow fluke to the horizon. Don’t be taken in by the
dolphins and their winning smiles, they are the pickpockets
of the ocean, the gypsy children of the open waters and
they are laughing all the way to Atlantis. On the basis of
‘finders keepers’ I believe the Elgin Marbles should
remain the property of the British Crown. I am my own
God – why shouldn’t I be? The first people to open me up
thought my head was full of sperm, but they were men, and
had lived without women for many weeks, and were far
from home. Stuff comes blurting out.

Seeing Stars by Simon Armitage bundles together more than three dozen prose poems like the one above (about the so-called whale). The reviews I have looked at are all over the map. Apparently the author goes around a good deal to various venues and reads the poems out loud, in accordance with the prevailing fashion, and reviewers who have attended his readings mainly seem to think his poems are funny. Another group of (male) reviewers think the poems are about the delusions of current-days pop culture and are satirical. While there is also a group of (female) reviewers who think they are eloquent and and sincere and forthright.