April, according to my employer's Intranet page (which I have been known to stumble upon while trying to navigate to espn.com to monitor a Twins day game), is Alcohol Awareness Week. On noticing this, I have the following thoughts, in order:
- God, there is an effin' month for everything.
- I am aware of running low on the freeway-aged wine I prefer.
- I wonder whether my sneering condescension is a defense mechanism and that I should click on the hyperlink to take the recommended self-assessment.
So I click and soon am faced with such questions as: "In a typical week, on how many days do you consume alcohol?" Well, at least I don't have to estimate. "Have you, in the past month, suffered any negative consequences from alcohol consumption?" Happily, they only seem interested in me, and could care less about my wife, who is generally unimpressed by my witticisms after glass #2. "Do you ever consume alcohol to forget about things you'd rather not think about?" I'm beginning to think the author of these questions thinks he's a better, braver man than I.
April is also National Poetry Month. The general population is probably as excited about that as I am about alcohol awareness, so here is a poem by a really great English poet, Philip Larkin, that might catch the attention of poetry haters:
They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra, just for you.
But they were fucked up in their turn
By fools in old-style hats and coats,
Who half the time were soppy-stern
And half at one another's throats.
Man hands on misery to man.
It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Get out as early as you can,
And don't have any kids yourself.
If you were determined to be perverse, you might take the view that the f-bombs are just a cheap trick, like a comic whose routine includes twenty thousand occurrences of "fuck" because it's easier than being funny. But try to substitute something else into this particular poem. It doesn't work. They "mess" you up? No. The coarse bluntness goes with all the rest. Maybe you can detect a bit of reaching in the second stanza, coinages to achieve the needed rhyme, and it's not clear to me that being "soppy-stern" and "at one another's throats" occupy different halves of any known spectrum. Also, if you take the advice of the penultimate line, the advice of the final line is redundant. So it's a little unsatisfying, logically. But I quibble. Even if you disagree with the dim view here expressed, you have to admit it's a memorable expression. (W.H. Auden defined "poetry" as "memorable speech.")
I own the Norton Anthology of Modern Poetry, which comes in at more than 1700 pages, and I'm fairly confident the only occurrences of "fuck," or any form thereof, are in this poem of Larkin's. I just checked, and this one, by Ai, is free of "fuck," so I'm guessing all the others are, too: