Dienstag, 16. April 2019

Women are really much nicer than men


Der englische Schriftsteller Kingsley Amis (der hier schon einen ausführlichen Post hat) wurde am 16. April 1922 geboren. Sein erster Gedichtband Bright November erschien 1947, im Jahre 1951 erklärte der junge Autor: Nobody wants any more poems about philosophers or paintings or novelists or art galleries or mythology or foreign cities or other poems. At least l hope nobody wants them. Von Philosophen und von Malerei handelt sein Gedicht Something Nasty in the Bookshop (das später in A Bookshop Idyll umbenannt wurde), zweifellos nicht:

Between the Gardening and the Cookery
Comes the brief Poetry shelf;
By the Nonesuch Donne, a thin anthology
Offers itself.

Critical, and with nothing else to do,
I scan the Contents page,
Relieved to find the names are mostly new;
No one my age.

Like all strangers, they divide by sex:
Landscape Near Parma
Interests a man, so does The Double Vortex,
So does Rilke and Buddha.

“I travel, you see”, “I think” and “I can read'
These titles seem to say;
But I Remember You, Love is my Creed,
Poem for J.,

The ladies’ choice, discountenance my patter
For several seconds;
From somewhere in this (as in any) matter
A moral beckons.

Should poets bicycle-pump the human heart
Or squash it flat?
Man’s love is of man’s life a thing apart;
Girls aren’t like that.

We men have got love well weighed up; our stuff
Can get by without it.
Women don’t seem to think that’s good enough;
They write about it.

And the awful way their poems lay them open
Just doesn’t strike them.
Women are really much nicer than men:
No wonder we like them.

Deciding this, we can forget those times
We stayed up half the night
Chock-full of love, crammed with bright thoughts, names, rhymes,
And couldn’t write.

Es ist ein vielzitertes, häufig nachgedrucktes Gedicht. Aber wie vieles bei Amis ist hier nichts wirklich eindeutig. Es wäre ja schön, wenn die Zeilen Women are really much nicer than men: No wonder we like them das bedeuten würden, was da steht. Aber bei einem misogynen Macho wie Amis kann man da nicht so sicher sein. Klingt da nicht eine gewisse Herablassung gegen weibliche Lyrikleser (oder Dichterinnen) durch, die sich mit gefühlvollen Liebesgedichten zufriedengeben? Völlig falsch, sagt Kingsley Amis. Er sagt das in einem Brief an Jan Montefiore, die gerade an ihrem Buch Feminism and Poetry: Language, Experience, Identity in Women's Writing schreibt: But please let me say that your interpretation of the poem is, I think, misguided. I really don't suggest (nor is it my opinion) that the love-poem is a quintessentially female mode; I was trying to make a more general point that women are less inhibited about expressing their feelings than men are, at any rate in our society. And though I'm pleased you think the poem good-natured, surely the people it patronises are not women but men, who cut a pretty sorry figure in the last verse.

Eine andere Engländerin wird immer wieder im Zusammenhang mit Amis zitiert, und das ist Wendy Cope, deren erster Gedichtband bei T.S. Eliots Verlag Faber & Faber erschien. Hier schreibt keine feministische Literaturprofessorin, hier schreibt eine Frau wunderbaren light verse unter dem Titel Making Cocoa for Kingsley Amis. Die Gattung light verse ist ja seit dem 19. Jahrhundert fest in englischer Hand, wenn wir an Edward Lear und Lewis Carroll denken. Und vielleicht ist ja auch A Bookshop Idyll von Kingsley Amis nichts anderes als light verse. Amis kommt in dem Buch von Wendy Cope allerdings gar nicht vor. Er taucht nur in der Titelzeile Making Cocoa for Kingsley Amis in dem letzten Gedicht auf:

It was a dream I had last week
And some kind of record seemed vital.
I knew it wouldn't be much of a poem
But I loved the title.

Wendy Copes Freundin Valerie Grove hat über den Buchtitel gesagt: Her first collection, in 1986, was called 'Making Cocoa for Kingsley Amis', a bold move since she had never, at the time, met him, a man not hard to vex. It was I who brazenly rang him on her behalf, to find out what he thought of her stuff. Luckily he thought it bloody good. He admired her adherence to traditional metres ("She might never have heard of Ezra Pound," he said approvingly) and, to her amazement, turned up to her launch party.

Zum Thema Männer und Frauen hat Wendy Cope, die in ihren besten Gedichten an Betjeman und Larkin erinnert, auch etws zu sagen:

Bloody men are like bloody buses-- 
You wait for about a year 
And as soon as one approaches your stop 
Two or three others appear.

You look at them flashing their indicators, 
Offering you a ride. 
You're trying to read their destinations, 
You haven't much time to decide.

If you make a mistake, there is no turning back. 
Jump off, and you'll stand there and gaze 
While the cars and the taxis and lorries go by 
And the minutes, the hours, the days.

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