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John Fuller

To Ian Hamilton




So the Review is ten years old,
Five times as many thousands sold
And all you’ve touched has turned to gold!
      At least in theory:
There’s still the printer’s bill, I’m told.
      How very dreary.

I’d like to see its name in neon
But I’m afraid this humble paean
Will have to do. It seems an aeon
      Since we last met.
I promised you a letter, Ian,
      So one you’ll get.

If Ian Hamiltons galore
(Offhand, I can distinguish four
Or five. I hope there are no more)
      Think it’s addressed
To them, too bad. You’re tooth and claw
      Above the rest.

The ignorant must think you cater
For every cultural taste, creator
Of symphonies, an adumbrator
      Of army tricks, a
Late Editor of the Spectator,
      A concrete mixer.

But anyone who really cares
Will know just who you are. He shares
An interest in your affairs
      That goes much deeper
Than literary bulls and bears
      With you zoo-keeper.

I’m glad you let me in on what
Has proved to be, like it or not,
A property that’s very hot.
      What magazines
Of verse require, this one has got:
      It beats as it cleans.

Ten years! Your longest venture yet!
I well recall when we first met
You’d got your latest, like a pet
      On a short run.
But soon you left it with the vet:
      You’d had your fun.

Time passes: in its mirrored gloom
Stacks of Tomorrows richly loom,
Three quid a copy now -- for whom?
      We were too feeble
To fetch them from a cleaner’s room
      In watchful Keble

Where you were not persona grata,
Your credit balance a non-starter.
The magazine had made you martyr
      To unpaid batells
(I hope they’re not averse to barter
      And kept the chattels).

You found it wise, promptly and gaily as
One might go out and buy azaleas
Or like a crook adopt an alias,
      To start another,
Proving the happy rule that Failure’s
      An elder brother.

White-shield Worthington was still
Around and we’d got time to kill
(Pages were harder than beer-mugs to fill).
      We broke the tape
Playing bar-billiards until
      The thing took shape.

We chose a fairly flat name, though
We didn’t then think of Defoe,
That literary one-man-show
      Of bourgeois letters,
Whose honest prodding, as you know,
      Put him in fetters.

Remember him when you are belted
By puffs whose icing you have melted:
In that rough age you’d think he felt it
      More than in ours,
But in the pillory he was pelted
      Only with flowers.

Bouquets to you too, Ian, then,
Most incorruptible of men.
Ten years seems very little when
      The job’s done well.
We may yet see another ten:
      Who can tell?

Lively, irreverent and human,
Harpo to poetry’s Sig Rumen,
You lit a memorable lumen
      And held it steady,
Heroic like your favourite Newman
      As Fast Eddie.

The Fat Men quivered at your glance,
Careers destroyed by your advance.
Still you are wooed at every chance
      Like an heiress,
And lead the dunces quite a dance
      From Westbourne Terrace.

At least ten years ago there were no
Worse than those who, sipping Pernod,
In Lallans ruined the Inferno
      With tips from Pound.
Now we’ve (facilis descensus Averno)
      The Underground.

Ten years have witnessed a gigantic
Increase in the transatlantic
Subterranean mode, each antic
      Sillier than the last,
Most a mere throwback to a frantic
      Dadaist past.

Sexual boasting, prayer mats,
Ampersands, athletic chats
On breathing or the evil that’s
      Instinct in iambs,
Tall stories, empty as the flats
      Of Harry Hyams.

Oh those Primitivist Panzers
Steamrolling Newcastle or Kansas
With misspelt lower-case bonanzas
      Of pot and Zen
In which mistrust of things like stanzas
      Shows they are men

And fit to blast an epic trail
Though with a certain mannered, frail
Excess that rises to a wail
      When they’re ignored,
Ripe as the scrawlings in a gaol
      Or a locked ward

Where mania’s nurtured by the nurses
Eager with poultices and curses:
For unread poets get free purses
      From an Arts Council
As interested in their verse as
      In kinds of groundsel.

You haven’t stopped all this, but still
You’ve drawn attention to the ill.
Though to the Bank of Time he will
      Remain a debtor,
The patient’s choking on your pill
      And may get better.

I hope so, and I’d like to see
The Review out with the frequency,
The brightness and authority
      Of a new penny,
So wish that all returns will be
      Happy and many.


Collected Poems by John Fuller

John Fuller's 'To Ian Hamilton' is reprinted with permission of the author. Published in his Collected Poems, Chatto & Windus, 2002. 108-12. 

Last update: 9 June 2012
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