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Burden

D.J. Enright

6 November 1980
... The grasshopper was a burden to me. It knew of something hurtful to me. In a dream I squashed the grasshopper. Why was the grasshopper such a burden? Its singing hindered me from sleeping, All flesh is grass was still its burden. Unlike the owl, the bat, the loris, The grasshopper is no power of darkness. It sings at ease in the light of the sun. Did I lie at ease in the light of the sun? The grasshopper ...

In the street

D.J. Enright

7 November 1991
... Did I imagine that romantic story? – England 1919, and the war just over, It was raining hard, and she could see A soldier, looking lost, was getting wet. Her umbrella offered decent room for two: And that was how they met. He didn’t rejoin the Dublin Fusiliers, Didn’t go back to Ireland, Little work there, lots more rain. Better to stay and be a British husband. Did our mother really tell us ...

Saving the world

D.J. Enright

19 December 1991
... At Christmas our father took us to his church, The Catholic, though he only went there then, When he thought we ought to see the famous crib, Its painted figures of animals and people. I felt at home in that foreign place, the scene Reminded me of Noah’s Ark, my fondest toy, Where the animals went in two by two, or Sometimes one by one, I didn’t always count. A story lay behind it, of how the world ...

Seasons

D.J. Enright

5 November 1992
... One sentence in English he knew by heart: ‘If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?’ It sounded cheerful; it usually fitted. He was a writer. He had translated Quo Vadis? From the English. What else he had done We never learnt, nor what had been done to him. Plainly he’d had a number of hard winters Known choicely as the Cultural Revolution, Made to clean out latrines, at very least. If you ...

Explanation

D.J. Enright

5 March 1981
... It develops like this, you see. The things called hands Which terminate in fingers, which terminate in nails, The whole depending from arms. And likewise the legs, Which merge into feet, from which emerge what are known As toes. There you see a head. These parts grow together Quite slowly, or grow one from another. As though, It might seem, a loving care is somehow involved. A bomb, as they term it ...

Natural Species

D.J. Enright

6 August 1981
... There’s a law these days against the extirpation of a Natural species ... So John Brown assures himself As he moves with care down the Underground corridors. A poster for panties carries a sticker:     ‘This degrades women.’ For Brown himself is the sole survivor of one such Natural species: the John Browns. He can still recall The others – John the stripling ... Brown the poet ... The ...

Supervision

D.J. Enright

19 August 1993
... Below an essay on Shelley he wrote:     ‘I don’t think we’re here to judge his soul.’ A telling reproach, whatever one’s view of souls. A fine teacher! He knew the proper medicine. Self-righteousness would never be the same, It ceased to be a right. He could never keep his pipe alight, Smouldering matches rained about him. Once he gave it up, to discipline the spirit. His aunties told ...
2 December 1993
... Though he had little Latin He seemed to like his title I named him Incitatus Meaning to run swiftly But also to excite, to incite Or so to speak spur on Me they dubbed Baby-Boots I gave him iron ones He was born in a tailored toga I hoped he would spur on the others So I made him a consul There’s a Pole called ‘I think’ who thought He performed his duties perfectly ‘That is, he didn’t perform ...

Two Poems

D.J. Enright

12 September 1991
... Vandalism Since the object in question is a modern poem, A police spokesman stated yesterday, It is hard to tell whether it has been damaged Or not or how badly. Summoned to the scene, officers were uncertain As to whether the work had been turned upside down Or kcab to front Or whether parts of it were [missing]. A doctor of letters has been called in Together with experts on scansion and crosswords ...
13 May 1993
...    Words you’ve never used And have always wanted to –    Get them in quickly.            *    Dight in dimity Enlaced with lazy-daisy    In fishnet fleshings.    It fell on your head Her old boyfriend’s framed photo –    Fearsome xoanon!    The ergonomics (Please don’t tread on erica!)    Of the percheron.    How the aasvogel Flapping alongside the jeep ...

Two Poems

D.J. Enright

27 September 1990
... Seminar on Contemporary Chinese Writing Novels about peasants are generally good (In general the peasantry is good) They may sound rather boring But they are not One of them is entitled ‘The Well’ And set in a remote village Where are many hardships Another is called ‘The Village’ Concerning a peasant and his wife Who have two sons And each son has a wife (If the Chinese professor sounds rather ...

Omdamniverous

Ian Sansom: D.J. Enright

25 September 2003
Injury Time: A Memoir 
by D.J. Enright.
Pimlico, 183 pp., £12.50, May 2003, 9781844133154
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... This is the end of something – although of what exactly it’s not quite clear. The death of D.J.Enright, in December 2002, makes one ask some serious questions about poets and about critics. To put it bluntly: there will be no more books from Dennis Enright. Does it matter? Should we be sad? Should we ...

McGahern’s Ireland

D.J. Enright

8 November 1979
The Pornographer 
by John McGahern.
Faber, 252 pp., £4.95
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... William Styron is reported as defending the sexual activity in his recent Sophie’s Choice on the grounds that ‘the battle to write explicitly about sex was fought long and hard. We must never begin to surrender that victory.’ The argument strikes one as considerably less silly when removed to the context of John McGahern’s fiction. One may never know why the narrator of McGahern’s new novel ...

Live Entertainment

D.J. Enright

6 December 1979
The Storyteller 
by Alan Sillitoe.
W.H. Allen, 285 pp., £5.95
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... It isn’t easy to talk about storytelling … Explanations only mystify. Sophisticated people may be able to explain their way out of mystification, and good luck to them, but a storyteller may well succeed in explaining his way into it which, believe me, ladies and gentlemen, is bad luck for him.’ It goes without saying (which is as well, since one might not actually want to say it) that reviewers ...
15 May 1980
... Proust remarked that, like microbes and corpuscles, theories and schools devour one another and by their warfare ensure the continunity of life. I doubt, though, that the present is a time for schools or manifestos, whether grandly or modestly styled. ‘Acmeists’, ‘lmagists’, ‘Parnassiens’, ‘Symbolists’, ‘Projectivists’ – these days the words ring out like great ancient bells ...

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