5-11-2000

 

Gavin Ewart

(1916-1995)

 

 
 

EWART, Gavin (Buchanan) (1916-95), British poet, born in London, educated at Christ's College, Cambridge. After active service in the Second World War, he worked in publishing and with the British Council before becoming an advertising copywriter in 1952. From the age of 17, when his poetry was first printed in Geoffrey Grigson's *New Verse, he acquired a reputation for wit and accomplishment through such works as 'Phallus in Wonderland' and his skilful pastiches of*Auden, his principal influence, *Eliot, and *Pound. His first collection, "Poems and Songs", appeared in 1939. The war disrupted his development as a poet, however, and he published no further volumes until "Londoners" of 1964. From then he produced many collections, which included "The Gavin Ewart Show" (1971), "No Fool like an Old Fool" (1976), "All My Little Ones" (1978), "The Ewart Quarto" (1984), and  "Penultimate Poems" (1989). "The Collected Ewart: 1933-1980" (1980) was supplemented in 1991 by "Collected Poems: 1980-1990". The intelligence and casually flamboyant virtuosity with which he framed his often humorous commentaries on human behaviour made his work invariably entertaining and interesting. The irreverent eroticism for which his poetry is noted resulted in W. H. Smith's banning of his "The Pleasures of the Flesh" (1966) from their shops. As an editor he produced numerous anthologies, including the "Penguin Book of Light Verse" (1980).

 

Jenny Stringer (ed.), *The Oxford Companion to Twentieth-Century Literature in English* (Oxford and New York : Oxford University Press 1996) [ISBN 0-19-212271-1], page 203.

 

 

 

 

 

Miss Twye


Miss Twye was soaping her breasts in her bath
When she heard behind her a meaning laugh
And to her amazement she discovered
A wicked man in the bathroom cupboard.

 

 

Office Friendships

 
 
 

Eve is madly in love with Hugh

And Hugh is keen on Jim.

Charles is in love with very few

And few are in love with him.

   

Myra sits typing notes of love

With romantic pianist's fingers.

Dick turns his eyes to the heavens above

Where Fran's divine perfume lingers.

  

Nicky is rolling eyes and tits

And flaunting her wiggly walk.

Everybody is thrilled to bits

By Clive's suggestive talk.

  

Sex suppressed will go berserk,

But it keeps us all alive.

It's a wonderful change from wives and work

And it ends at half past five.

 

 

 

MISS TWYE

 

Estava Miss Twye ensaboando as mamas na barrela

Quando atrás de mim um acintoso riso ouviu,

E para seu grande espanto olhando descobriu

Um homem mau no armário à espreita dela.

 

 

COLEGAS DE ESCRITÓRIO

 

 

A Eva está doida pelo Quim

Mas o Quim gosta do João.

O Carlos não tem paixões

E poucos por ele têm paixão.

 

Com dedos de pianista romântico

A São bate cartas de amor.

O Zé põe os olhos no céu

Onde paira o perfume da Leonor.

 

A Carla revira olhos e tetas

E rebola-se toda a andar.

E todos se excitam de gozo

Com as piadas do Valdemar.

 

Sexo reprimido dá em tarado,

Mas é o que nos aguenta.

É tão bom mudar do patrão e da mulher

E acabar às cinco e cinquenta.

 

 

Traduções de João Ferreira Duarte, em "LEITURAS

poemas do inglês", Relógio de Água, 1993. 


 

ENDING

The love we thought would never stop
now cools like a congealing chop.
The kisses that were hot as curry
are bird-pecks taken in a hurry.
The hands that held electric charges
now lie inert as four moored barges.
The feet that ran to meet a date
are running slow and running late.
Te eyes that shone and seldom shut
are victims of a power cut.
The parts that then transmitted joy
are now reserved and cold and coy.
Romance, expected once to stay,
has left a note saying GONE AWAY.

 

 

 

 

           

 

 

Hurried Love

 

Hear the poem        

 

 

Those who make hurried love don't do so

from any lack of affection

or because they despise their partner

as a human being -

what they're doing

is just as sincere as a more formal wooing.

 

She may have a train to catch; perhaps the

room is theirs for one hour only

or a mother is expected back or

some interruption

known, awaited -

so the spur of the moment must be celebrated.

 

Making love against time is really

the occupation of all lovers

and the clock-hands moving

point a moral:

not crude, but clever

are those who grab what soon is gone for ever.

 
 

 

              

 
 

Memory Man


I'm sitting drinking Guinness
in memory of you,
on the wall is written Finis
and although the love was true
if I were more romantic I would say sublime
it was not a love that lasted until closing time.

The glasses are being polished
as they shout 'Last orders, please!'
and illusions are demolished
with the same fantastic ease
as the ease with which Joe closes his democratic bar-
if I think of you now, it's 'you were' and not 'you are'.

Each man that loves a woman
must be prepared for this
for a sexual love is human
and betrayal by a kiss
is a commonplace and not just in the holy Book
and it all begins when your eyes take that first long look.

You must have the boldness
to overcome the moods,
the sulking and the coldness,
your love must feed on foods
which wouldn't keep alive a common tabby cat;
no one can have this without an awful lot of that.

So it's sadly time to drink up
and let them stack the chairs-
he's a wise man who can think up
a remedy that bears
much resemblance to an answer (Venus is a jerk?);
for that holiday is over-from now on it's back to work.

 

 

 

 

           

 

 

The Black Box

 

As well as these poor poems
I am writing some wonderful ones
They are all being filed separately,
nobody sees them.

 

When I die they will be buried
in a big black tin box
In fifty years' time
they must be dug up,

 

for so my will provides.
This is to confound the critics
and teach everybody

a valuable lesson

 
 

 

              

 

Published: 5 March 2013

 

“Conversation Piece”

 

by Gavin Ewart; introduced by Michael Caines

 

Lunch with the FT, a collection of “classic” interviews published this month, might not be the first place you would think to look for a poet – but there he is, Gavin Ewart, chatting with Nigel Spivey over a Negroni or three, at the Café Royal. It is a reminder that this “naturally modest man”, who published hardly any poetry for twenty years and worked in advertising for another twenty (he came up with the name “Strongbow” for a certain Herefordshire cider), was deemed by Harold Bloom to be “one of the essential writers of the 20th century”. There was vindication in that accolade, as Spivey notes, “proving that good light verse has a place with good heavy verse in our lives”.

Plenty of Ewart’s verse, not all of it light, appeared in theTLS from the 1970s onwards. He paid tribute to the paper’s brain-teasing “Author, Author” competition with an unsolvable pastiche, and defended his friend Peter Reading’s poem “Cub” from a charge of anti-Semitism. “Conversation Piece”, published at the end of December 1977, is a serious business, too, despite its playfulness (that punning title, that parenthetic “are we direct?”). The subject is age of several kinds, as well as sex: the aged relatives; another age (“same game / . . . different rules”); the timelessness of myth; old age in general. In the end, as if exhausted and resigned at last, the conventional abab rhyme scheme does its best to flatten out, into aaaa.



Conversation Piece


I sit and hear my mother and my aunt
 
talking of dog-carts, of a century gone
 
I try to imagine (there are some who can’t).
 
Their total age is 181.
Under the clothes, the bodies were the same
 
as those the striptease, shamelessly as cards,
 
deals to the watchers now. Just the same game
 
but played by different rules;
 ripostes, on guards,

 

masks of all sorts, the flirting with a fan, 
a kind of fencing with an instinct. Who loved who
 
they had their ways of knowing, woman and man
 
Something outside them told them what to do.
 
They weren’t direct like us (are we direct?),
 
Victoria sat there like a monolith
 
but even nice girls knew what to expect,
 
how Zeus crept up on Leda in the myth –

 

without a visiting card, in fancy dress. 
No lady left the house without her gloves.
 
Deafness makes meaning something they must guess,
 
arthritis stiffens Venus and her doves,
 
for three decades no lovemaking at all –
 
beauty was jolly, with a motoring veil.
There should be writing, writing on the wall:
 
All sex shall fail, but love shall never fail.

 

Gavin Ewart (1977)

 

 

 

 

 

 

LINKS:

 

Mr. Bauld's English - 7 poems

Poem “The Dildo”