My contribution to the work theme...
(Poem #543) Executive
I am a young executive. No cuffs than mine are cleaner; I have a Slimline brief-case and I use the firm's Cortina. In every roadside hostelry from here to Burgess Hill The maîtres d'hôtel all know me well, and let me sign the bill. You ask me what it is I do. Well, actually, you know, I'm partly a liaison man, and partly P.R.O. Essentially, I integrate the current export drive And basically I'm viable from ten o'clock till five. For vital off-the-record work - that's talking transport-wise - I've a scarlet Aston-Martin - and does she go? She flies! Pedestrians and dogs and cats, we mark them down for slaughter. I also own a speedboat which has never touched the water. She's built of fibre-glass, of course. I call her 'Mandy Jane' After a bird I used to know - No soda, please, just plain - And how did I acquire her? Well, to tell you about that And to put you in the picture, I must wear my other hat. I do some mild developing. The sort of place I need Is a quiet country market town that's rather run to seed A luncheon and a drink or two, a little savoir faire - I fix the Planning Officer, the Town Clerk and the Mayor. And if some Preservationist attempts to interfere A 'dangerous structure' notice from the Borough Engineer Will settle any buildings that are standing in our way - The modern style, sir, with respect, has really come to stay.
Despite the common complaint that having to study poems in school 'ruins' them, I've always found my textbooks a lovely source of new poets. One such happy discovery was Betjeman, one of my favourite modern poets, and while 'Executive' is far from his best poem, it was the one that got me hooked on his work. The poem's attractions are evident. 'Executive' is not just a good poem; it is a distinctive one (indeed, much of Betjeman's poetry is - he has a very distinct and original style, though it is hard to say just what makes it so individual). The quick-paced, breezy monologue, laden with buzzwords, captures the image of the yuppie to perfection - note the almost comically boastful tone, the attention paid to status symbols, and ruthless efficiency the narrator upholds as an ideal. Note, also, the hilarious parody of corporate speak in the second verse - indeed, I was surprised to see that the poem was written back in 1974; a phrase like 'essentially I integrate the current export drive' seems straight out of Dilbert. Biography: Betjeman, Sir John b. Aug. 28, 1906, London, Eng. d. May 19, 1984, Trebetherick, Cornwall British poet known for his nostalgia for the near past, his exact sense of place, and his precise rendering of social nuance, which made him widely read in England at a time when much of what he wrote about was rapidly vanishing. The poet, in near-Tennysonian rhythms, satirized lightly the promoters of empty and often destructive "progress" and the foibles of his own comfortable class. As an authority on English architecture and topography, he did much to popularize Victorian and Edwardian building and to protect what remained of it from destruction. The son of a prosperous businessman, Betjeman grew up in a London suburb, where T.S. Eliot was one of his teachers. He later studied at Marlborough College (a public school) and Magdalen College, Oxford. The years from early childhood until he left Oxford were detailed in Summoned by Bells (1960), blank verse interspersed with lyrics. Betjeman's first book of verse, Mount Zion, and his first book on architecture, Ghastly Good Taste, appeared in 1933. Churches, railway stations, and other elements of a townscape figure largely in both books. Four more volumes of poetry appeared before the publication of Collected Poems (1958). His later collections were High and Low (1966), A Nip in the Air (1974), Church Poems (1981), and Uncollected Poems (1982). Betjemen's celebration of the more settled Britain of yesteryear seemed to touch a responsive chord in a public that was suffering the uprootedness of World War II and its austere aftermath. Betjeman's prose works include several guidebooks to English counties; First and Last Loves (1952), essays on places and buildings; The English Town in the Last Hundred Years (1956); and English Churches (1964; with Basil Clarke). He was knighted in 1969, and in 1972 he succeeded C. Day-Lewis as poet laureate of England. [And was succeeded in 1984 by Ted Hughes - m.] -- EB Links For another biography, see [broken link] http://www.johnbetjeman.com/biograph.htm And while you're at it, take a look at the rest of the official Betjeman site: http://www.johnbetjeman.com/ -martin p.s. Thanks to Thomas for manning the fort while I was away