August is coming

The title of the poem is “Any Prince to Any Princess”, the poet is Adrian Henri, one of the Liverpool poets of the 1960s and 1970s. This is poetry as entertainment, designed to be read aloud in a smoky pub in a thick Liverpool accent. In that city, at that time, this group of poets got poetry off the page and into the lives of ordinary people, by using their language, going to their usual place of entertainment and setting out to inspire laughter and surprise. Here is the poem for today.

Poem: “Any prince to any princess,” by Adrian Henri, from The Loveless Motel(Jonathan Cape).

Any prince to any princess

August is coming
and the goose, I’m afraid,
is getting fat.
There have been
no golden eggs for some months now.
Straw has fallen well below market price
despite my frantic spinning
and the sedge is,
as you rightly point out,
withered.

I can’t imagine how the pea
got under your mattress. I apologize
humbly. The chambermaid has, of course,
been sacked. As has the frog footman.
I understand that, during my recent fact-finding tour of the
Golden River,
despite your nightly unavailing efforts,
he remained obstinately
froggish.

I hope that the Three Wishes granted by the General
Assembly
will go some way towards redressing
this unfortunate recent sequence of events.
The fall in output from the shoe-factory, for example:
no one could have foreseen the work-to-rule
by the National Union of Elves. Not to mention the fact
that the court has been fast asleep
for the last six and a half years.

The matter of the poisoned apple has been taken up
by the Board of Trade: I think I can assure you
the incident will not be
repeated.

I can quite understand, in the circumstances,
your reluctance to let down
your golden tresses. However
I feel I must point out
that the weather isn’t getting any better
and I already have a nasty chill
from waiting at the base
of the White Tower. You must see
the absurdity of the
situation.
Some of the courtiers are beginning to talk,
not to mention the humble villagers.
It’s been three weeks now, and not even
a word.

Princess,
a cold, black wind
howls through our empty palace.
Dead leaves litter the bedchamber;
the mirror on the wall hasn’t said a thing
since you left. I can only ask,
bearing all this in mind,
that you think again,

let down your hair,

reconsider.

From <http://writersalmanac.publicradio.org/index.php?date=2004/01/02&gt;

The poem reads like a precursor to something like the movies Shrek, Tangled or Frozen, subversive retellings of familiar fairy story themes. It make any reader recognize the subject matter and be surprised and delighted by the twists added by the poet or movie-maker. Here the Prince is clearly not the ideal young man whose princess falls at his feet in unconditional and unquestioning love. Here reality interferes, the idyllic prince has problems and the princess is not impressed. The twist at the nd is that she quite possibly might not let down her hair and let the Prince carry her off from the Tower.

As entertainment, the poem succeeds in bringing a wry smile to the reader. Poetry doesn’t need to bare the soul, this works for me.

I was a student in Liverpool in the 1970s and saw a number of these poets. The subculture of inventive language and unexpected humour through poetry was alive and well. But has this poem stood the test of time? I think so, at least so far.

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