The HyperTexts

Richard Craven

Richard Craven is an Anglo-Canadian former academic philosopher who writes high-burlesque literary fiction and formal verse, primarily iambic pentameter in its two dominant forms, the sonnet and the heroic couplet. His writing satirises the sociocultural deracination and degeneracy, of his adoptive Bristol specifically, and of contemporary Western civilisation by extension. He is the author of the novels Bile (written as Mark Brand), Amoeba Dick, Pretty Poli, Odour Issues, and the forthcoming Helix Folt the Conservative, and has also written a full-length Jacobean revenge tragedy, The Senseless Counterfeit.

For reasons known only to the poet, or perhaps not even by him, he elected to write one more sonnet than Shakespeare's 154. At times the poet comments on the difficulty of his self-appointed task: for instance, in sonnets 69 and 141 (the latter in both French and English). Then, for equally mysterious reasons, he elected to use Arabic numerals for his Sonnets, Mostly Bristolian cycle of 155 sonnets, but Roman numerals for his Odes, Epigrams, & Further Sonnets, an ongoing accumulation. — Michael R. Burch, editor, The HyperTexts

Sonnet 56

The editor considers Pope passé,
and is postmodern about shopping lists.
“Stick to Sauternes, Prosecco’s far too gassy.”
She grips my elbow with a tiny fist.
“The fashion’s not for polished, mannered wit.
The ossuary’s sediments of slime—
think Heaney, Hughes, subjective feel. Think shit
and squirt it out, jarringly, and unrhymed.”
She leaves me worrying about my voice:
a cleverclogs in thrall to formalism,
a meter maid, cuckold of my own choice,
vas deferens for watery old jism.
I thank the oracle for her advice,
and help myself to orange juice and ice.

Originally published by Clementine Unbound

Sonnet 59

lines about Marcel Duchamp’s urinal

No barbarous australopithecine
shall squirt his jet on your concavity,
in which there lurks no turquoise rusk of pine,
for you’re ephemeral and really witty,
white porcelain’s perfection, of pissoir
apotheosis. Zamfir’s curdling pipes
cloak no unseemly sounds. Instead, a choir
of Dadaists pompously talking tripe.
For you’re ephemeral—I mentioned this—
you were effaced in 1917,
thrown out by Stieglitz, sacrificed as trash.
And yet, of all the pots Mott made for piss,
your fame endures: a shiny pot and clean,
fit for a Platonist to have a slash.

Sonnet 69

When I stare grudging at this screen of mine,
then slowly fill it with my old man’s scrawl,
change font from Papyrus to Palatine,
upload my bilious and sneering drawl,
the angel on my shoulder bids me stay
my hand, not dip my feathered plume in stink,
forgive the dank, soiled actualité,
o’erlook fatuity and foisted fink.
And thus, though vendredi be frittered out
and Baron Samedi rape again the clock,
my freshened pen acts palimpsest to doubt,
that ice be broken, genius unblocked,
and Indian Summer with his rays console
the dampened animus its thwarted goal.

Sonnet 74

Whan that Novembre wyth hys soddynge leaves
of Yndyc Summer hys layt standde hath drownn’d,
and raynnes yternal blyte ye mowldy glebe
and clerkes skulck yn thayr cells yn studye brownne;
whan erly nyt and drearye mornyngge greyye
array ye darklyngge slummes yn damppe drabbenesse,
and laytest tydyngges fromme ye U.S.A.
extyngwyssh’d havve alle howpe and happynesse,
than longen knayves to gowe onne herowynne.
Nowwe sleezye marchaunts bearyngge Chyna Wyte,
and hypsters wyth a thyngge for Bombayye jynne
and Wyte Ace drynkers, these forsaykyngge Spryte,
converge lyk starvyngge dogges onne queynt Stowkes Crofft,
and daunce Saynt Vytus jyv wyth armes alofft.

"Sonnet 74" was a commended entry in the Sentinel Literary Quarterly poetry competition. “Stowkes Crofft” is Stokes Croft, the infamous Bristolian street.

Sonnet 75

Leigh Delamere, you should have written verse:
a minor, whimsical, Pre-Raphaelite,
or modernist perhaps, but not too terse,
although stooping betimes into the trite.
Now come we in our cars to chew your stodge,
buy petrol—ludicrously over-priced—
take part in orgies in your Travelodge,
and moan about your toilets not being nice.
Leigh Delamere, I’ve been your Porlock too.
I’ve visited your stately pleasure dome
skidmarked your nylon sheets and blocked your loos,
stolen your towels and buggered off back home.
For these foul desecrations, let this be,
Leigh Delamere, my true apology.

Technically, "Sonnet 75" has been previously published. The author explains: "Leigh Delamere is a motorway service station on the M4 between Bristol and London. To my mind the name sounds rather like one of Dante Gabriel Rossetti's chums, and that's the basis for the sonnet. Its technical publication history is that it survived for about a year as a TripAdvisor review of Leigh Delamere Service Station, getting several likes, before the powers-that-were noticed and removed it."

Sonnet 141

Après avoir ces cent quarante écrits,
je suis épuisé et me considère
une langue craquée léchante, dedans, un puits
empli d’une boue visqueuse, d’une croûte grossière.
Il en reste quinze encore, coincés, cachés:
des crapauds rotants que les murs moussus
font résonner. Enfin, bloquée, fâchée,
la langue, toute sèche et vulgaire devenue,
va bifurquer, et désormais siffler.
Chaque midi, pour un instant, le soleil
éclaire cette vie grimpante - viens regarder!
Voilà en bas, frétillante et vermeille,
la langue, les crapauds fugitifs, la chasse
avant que l’ombre couvre la disgrâce.

"Sonnet 141" is the author's one and only French sonnet. He explains: "I speak decidedly subfluent and at present very rusty French. Briefly, the Sonnets as a whole were envisaged as a cycle of 155 sonnets, i.e. beating Shakespeare by one. Thus the fifteen toads represent the fifteen remaining sonnets (i.e. 155-140) which the poet's bifurcated tongue has to lick up from the filthy cultural well." The poem was originally published in the French Literary Review. Its English translation is "XVII" below.

Sonnet 141 en englais, traduction de l’auteur

These forty and one hundred thus inscript,
being sore fatigued, myself I do conceive
as cracked tongue licking in a dirty crypt
filled with a slimy mud up to the eaves.
Just fifteen of them left, captive, concealed:
those toads whose croaking on the mossy walls
reverberates. At last, rancid, congealed,
the tongue, gone dry from talking utter balls,
will bifurcate, and like a serpent hiss.
Each midday for an instant, the sunshine
illuminates the orgy—come, watch this!
Down there below, writhing and intertwined,
the tongue, the hunted toads, the brutish chase,
before the shadow covers the disgrace.

Sonnet 142

It’s katabasis for the French school kids,
and he’s the psychopomp, decoding tags
with the chutzpah of Pound libelling yids.
Appropriately lame, his flat feet drag
along the sidewalk, past the gurning drunks
and jaundiced ghosts outside the pharmacy.
The overwhelming reek of Mendip skunk
betrays the junction with Jamaica Street,
where Murakami’s Wave was haply sprayed.
String ties to rail a fleabag Cerberus
under the calvary where Christ’s been made
to spin upon his head. Our Virgil must
now take his leave, for chums of his slouch here
with Stowfords cider and, he hopes, some gear.

"Sonnet 142" won Second Prize in the Sentinel Literary Quarterly poetry competition. It’s about an individual of the author's acquaintance who used to conduct graffiti tours around Bristol.

A Sapphire in the Mud
Inscribed Mattress, Ashley Road, St Pauls, Bristol

Behold the “nothing mattress anymore”
mattress—king-sized, warped, stained, propped up against
damp brick. Beguiling like an unlocked door,
the truth thus written is, without pretence:
this mattress, having lost its function must
no longer as something mattress exist.
Instead, a canvas for a wit’s mot juste,
the mattress bears the koanistic gist
of its own annihilation. Just this once,
one countenances some conceptual art
as something not shat out by blue-haired cunts
with attitude who hold themselves apart.
This thy Upanishad, thy Torah, Tao.
Away to the recycling centre now.

The author explains: "Somebody wrote "nothing mattress anymore" on a mattress which had been left propped up against a wall in the street. I thought this was hilarious, and wrote a sonnet about it."

The HyperTexts