Saturday, September 02, 2006


noun: a circular tent of felt or skins on a collapsible framework, used by nomads in Mongolia, Siberia, and Turkey.

We have no yurt, tho a yurt-like tentish contraption used by the poet for verse-reading, paper-grading, smoking, and other afternoonish activities was destroyed in one of last year's windstorms. When we reworked the junglesque "landscaping" of the back garden some years back, we reserved a space for a gazebo, something of a permanent "yurt" – but alas, funds had run short, & said space was occupied with a hand-me-down plastic playhouse [cf. photo, with Pippa as Pooh, July 2004]. The playhouse has proved surprisingly resistant to what the National Weather Service calls "tropical cyclones," tho I suspect it is highly attractive to nocturnal raccoons & 'possums.
Is Culture Industry cursed? No sooner do I write wistfully of Robert Christgau's Consumer Guide to popular music, than I find he has been fired from the Village Voice "for taste" (his words, I take it; someone explain to me what that means).
Biographer's Schadenfreude department:
For those of you who dislike Billy Collins as cultural phenomenon, consider John Betjeman (1906-1984), a wildly popular British poet & Poet Laureate whose aesthetics made Philip Larkin seem like a wild-eyed modernist. While the least interesting of contemporary American writers seem to be pursuing a debased rewriting of William Carlos Williams & Robert Lowell, Betjeman wrote as tho Queen Victoria had never died.

Amusing, then, to see the squabbling over his bones. AN Wilson, in a recently published biography of Betjeman, has reproduced as evidence of Betjeman's passionate nature a love letter the poet purportedly wrote in 1944. Wilson received the letter – not an original, mind you, but a typewritten "transcription" – from an unknown correspondent signing her- or himself "Eve de Harben." It has now been pointed out that Eve de Harben is an anagram for "Ever been had?," and that the first letters of the sentences in the missive spell out, anagram-wise, "AN Wilson is a shit."

Prime suspect in the whole business is Betjeman's authorized biographer, Bevis Hillier, whom Wilson has called "old and malignant," and "not really a writer at all." Hillier has responded by simply summing Wilson up as "despicable."


Amy said...

That is gorgeous. Hail the poetry prankster!

Fran├žois said...

"Eve de Harben" being an anagram has been pointed out by the Associated Press.

Mark Scroggins said...

Hey, we're not doing *news* here, just summaries of other folks' news!

If Wilson hadn't been so damned anxious to get his biographical subject in sweaty bed with *someone*, he too might have reflected on the fishiness of the whole line of "evidence." I mean, if a name's fake enough for the AP to figure it out...