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Poem: Arsehole

August 25, 2006

 

Arsehole

It is shy as a gathered eyelet
neatly worked in shrinking violet;
it is the dilating iris, tucked
away, a tightening throb when fucked.

It is a soiled and puckered hem,
the golden treasury’s privy purse.
With all the colours of a bruise,
it is the fleck of blood in albumen.

I dreamed your body was an instrument
and this was the worn mouthpiece
to which my breathing lips were bent.

Each note pleaded to love a little longer,
longer, as though it was dying of hunger.
I fed that famished mouth my ambergris.

Craig Raine

Isn’t this just so funny, yet delicate? I especially like the use of ‘ambergris’ – the fragrant sperm whale excretion used in perfumes. Check out the spoofs of the poems here. I especially like the one that follows Auden’s Musée des Beaux Arts. Cracked me up completely.

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5 comments

  1. that’s a shit poem. it makes a mess of its art. 9 syllables, eleven, eight, all over the fucking place. an abominable experiment of the adult-child. its sentiment also reeks of lust and self-congratulation. and long words like albumen and ambergris, recondite to conversation or ordinary people’s vocabulary, are quite without meaning to anyone other than the poet himself. unpleasant, not because it about an anus, but because of its revelation of its author’s character. still, there are a few cliches there that get across an image we all understand and don’t normally mention. so kudos for that


  2. Speaking of arseholes, don’t listen to “alex.” It’s a nice translation. A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.


  3. I don’t see how Alex can accuse Raine of cliche, given that nobody has ever published a poem about an arse before! ‘Albumen’ isn’t an unknown word to educated readers, ‘ambergris’ is worth looking up because it’s such a perfect comparison, but ‘recondite’ surely IS an unnecessarily obscure word. And as for the writer’s character, unless you think that sexual desire or anal sex are morally repugnant, then I can’t see anything unpleasant revealed here.


  4. This poem is actually based on one written by French poet Arthur Rimbaud and is well worth checking out – it roughly translates as ‘Sonnet of the Arsehole’.

    To use unfamiliar words to a reader can quite validly be used for many different techniques. Although this is not the intent here, it also happens a lot in literature. It’s what dictionaries are for. Discovering a new word and its meaning is part of the journey of life. It also aides a piece of work to use lesser known words. To criticise the use of lesser known words in poetry is ill advised.

    What is wrong with a sonnet reeking of lust or self congratulation? These are what sonnets have long been based on. It uses common convention so I would say that it is hardly ‘all over the place’. And to reveal a lot about the author’s character? Most pieces of work would do that, especially in this form. The love poem could be described as a work of manipulation in many cases to seduce a woman – take Marvell’s ‘Coy Mistress’ for instance.

    This poem is octosyllabic, I would suggest a reread if you are confused by the syllabic structure.


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