Guest poem submitted by Vijay D'Silva:
(Poem #488) Dear Mr Lee
Dear Mr Lee (Mr Smart says it's rude to call you Laurie, but that's how I think of you, having lived with you really all year), Dear Mr Lee (Laurie) I just want you to know I used to hate English, and Mr Smart is roughly my least favourite person, and as for Shakespeare (we're doing him too) I think he's a national disaster, with all those jokes that Mr Smart has to explain why they're jokes, and even then no one thinks they're funny, And T. Hughes and P. Larkin and that lot in our anthology, not exactly a laugh a minute, pretty gloomy really, so that's why I wanted to say Dear Laurie (sorry) your book's the one that made up for the others, if you could see my copy you'd know it's lived with me, stained with Coke and Kitkat and when I had a cold, and I often take you to bed with me to cheer me up so Dear Laurie, I want to say sorry, I didn't want to write a character-sketch of your mother under headings, it seemed wrong somehow when you'd made her so lovely, and I didn't much like those questions about social welfare in the rural community and the seasons as perceived by an adolescent, I didn't think you'd want your book read that way, but bits of it I know by heart, and I wish I had your uncles and your half-sisters and lived in Slad, though Mr Smart says your view of the class struggle is naïve, and the examiners won't be impressed by me knowing so much by heart, they'll be looking for terse and cogent answers to their questions, but I'm not much good at terse and cogent, I'd just like to be like you, not mind about being poor, see everything bright and strange, the way you do, and I've got the next one out of the Public Library, about Spain, and I asked Mum about learning to play the fiddle, but Mr Smart says Spain isn't like that any more, it's all Timeshare villas and Torremolinos, and how old were you when you became a poet? (Mr Smart says for anyone with my punctuation to consider poetry as a career is enough to make the angels weep). PS Dear Laurie, please don't feel guilty for me failing the exam, it wasn't your fault, it was mine, and Shakespeare's and maybe Mr Smart's, I still love Cider it hasn't made any difference.
The last poem I sent was also by the same poet. Funny thing is that I discovered her in one of my sister's school textbooks on my first trip home after going to college. There is this wonderfully unaffected and honest feel to this poem which I really liked; also, there's lots to chuckle over while reading through it... What really got to me though was that this poem really brings back hordes of memories about school and the rest of my childhood which seems so far away now. For some reason which I cannot fathom even now, I always had a morbid fear of being forced to read "Cider with Rosie" and stayed as far from the book as I could. Makes the poem all the more enjoyable. Other things like English lessons("T. Hughes and P. Larkin and that lot") with people like Mr Smart teaching us "national disasters" also come back. (It's rather ironic that Lee was considered to be one of the contenders for the post of Poet Laureate after Ted Hughes.) The time I had chicken pox and books "I often take.. to bed with me to cheer me up" as well as that desire to live in an imaginary world which I suppose we all have at some time... Furthermore, her calling him "Laurie" reminds me of those knock-me-down crushes we used to have on pretty young teachers at school. Her manner is almost indulgent there. I suppose the subtleties of the poem and what the poet is saying matter as well, but in this case I prefer to delight in how she says it and the fact that it makes me remember rather than make me feel about the poem. In conclusion though, I wouldn't say "I still love Cider". In that respect, "it hasn't made any difference"!! Vijay.