Monday, May 20, 2013

Tuesday Poem - Anti-circ by Vidyan Ravinthiran


The seat of artistic delight is between the shoulder blades…Let us worship the spine and its tingle. Let us be proud of our being vertebrates, for we are vertebrates tipped at the head with a divine flame. The brain only continues the spine: the wick really goes through the whole length of the candle.
—Vladimir Nabokov

Once I cracked Lolita’s spine I found myself knee-deep in cheesecake;
my not-quite-fist unclenched, disclosed a wet cluster of blackberries.

Tennyson sank me into new car smell and a plush interior; the extras
threw roses and sweetmeats at my tinted glass across the cordon.

Reading Wilfred Owen I was Attenborough’s thrilled silence
breathing round a bird whose syrinx learned to imitate a chainsaw;

the walls of my house crashed down in fumes of plaster and rayed glass
the night I dropped Naipaul. Joe Sacco’s Palestine had the sad

dilapidated scent of changing rooms at school, plaques of mud
hole-punched by studs. Hopkins shone a walkable torchbeam

between rooftops; I felt gay as Mary Poppins then feared my mum
would drop me. Updike’s prose flaunted the revealed

cleanliness of a girl’s arse, its well-briefed sway up the stairs ahead;
and when I called up from the stacks Enoch Powell’s uncut First Poems

her skilled tongue agitated my thankfully intact frenulum.

I came upon this poem in The Best British Poetry 2011 and just straight out took to it. Vidyan is a poet I haven't come across before, and his biography at the back of the anthology doesn't give too much away, so all I can really say is what he says - "Vidyan Ravinthiran is a lecturer at Oxford and a research fellow at Cambridge." The poem was first published in Horizon Review.
I did find the poem quite tricky, in the very best sort of way. I had to look up the meaning of frenulum, and I was glad I did. And I got a funny feeling that the reference to Enoch Powell is social rather than literary comment LOL. I misread it as Ezra Pound on my first go, and then I went, no. It's Enoch Powell.  

PS I got an email from Vidyan with a bio.

VR's work has previously appeared or is forthcoming in Poetry Review, The Times Literary Supplement, The Rialto, Modern Poetry in Translation, Magma, The Oxonian Review, The North, Blackbox Manifold, Ambit, Poetry Wales, Envoi, Wave Composition, Stand, Nthposition, Tower Poetry, The Yellow Nib, Likestarlings, Poetry Proper, Fuselit, Oxford Poetry, Agenda, Iota, Horizon Review and Smiths Knoll; it has been anthologised in Joining Music With Reason (Waywiser Press, 2010), The Salt Book of Younger Poets (Salt, 2011), The Best British Poetry (Salt, 2011), Lung Jazz: Young British Poets for Oxfam (Cinnamon, 2012) and Birdbook 2 (Sidekick, 2012). A pamphlet, At Home or Nowhere, was published by Tall-Lighthouse Press in 2008.


  1. frenulum and syrinx my lookup words....

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