Potcake Poet’s Choice: Edmund Conti, ‘In Memoriam’

John Betjeman cannot read his In Memoriam.  Not
Today
    Or ever.

So what’s the use of writing another jot.
    Why, pray,
    Endeavor?

For he who could best compose one is decomposing.  Rot!
    Away
    Forever.

His spirit lives in every ingle-nook where England claims the heart
    And soul.

That poet so lightly musical, so serious and straight (an art)
    And droll.

Whose lines were seen and heard in every church, in every mart.
    And knoll.

Muckby-cum-Sparrowby cum Sphinx, County Westmeath, Cheltenham;
    The set.

Henley-on-Thames, also Highgate, Bristol, Clifton, Mint-on-Lamb:
    Gazette.

Places etched forever in his poems, each one a Betje-gram.
    Je bet!

We remember chintzy cheeriohs in his brilliant combinations.
    Cheeribye.

Farewell, so long, bunghosky, too — Goodbye to all his permutations.
    Never grim.
    Never dry.

Well, it’s getting time for supper and we’ve had our ruminations.
    This is him.
    Dry your eye.

Edmund Conti writes: “I remember saying (to myself) in high school after writing a few verses, “I’m not a poet I don’t like poetry, I just like to rhyme and scan.” I had an image of who poets were and what poetry was, and it just didn’t fit my imagined profile. I stuck to my guns for a while even as I was sending out my verse and getting comments like, “Please, no more rhymes” and “How about sending your smug cloaca elsewhere?” But eventually some poems were accepted and published and I met more poets and I got married. Marilyn loved poetry (no, she didn’t say real poetry but I imagined her thinking it). She was a member of a woman’s poetry group that called themselves The Lady Blue Stockings. They would smack their lips over Amy Lowell (“Christ, what are patterns for?”) and E. E. Cummings (“How do you like your blue-eyed boy, Mister Death?”). Marilyn tolerated my poetry but didn’t appreciate any of my parodies of her favorites.

Meanwhile, I met other poets and joined two groups: The South Mountain Poets and the Bards Buffet. The former was a local group (in NJ) and met weekly and discussed each other’s poems. I was usually advised to have more gravitas. The Bards, all light versifiers, met in a penthouse dining room of an insurance company in Manhattan.  Among them Willard Espy, William Rossa Cole, inventor of River Rhymes and other well-published poets.

So, in spite of myself, I was becoming a poet and appreciating others. Among them, Wallace Stevens, Robert Wallace, Vachel Lindsay, Frank O’Hara, and Robert Southey. And more and more swam into view. Luckily Marilyn brought many poetry books to the marriage and I found myself one day leafing through “John Betjeman’s Collected Poems.” There I came across his poem titled (entirely) “I.M. Walter Ramsden, ob. March 26 1947, Pembroke College, Oxford”. I loved the poem, the rhyming and the place names. Of course, I had to write my own version, not as parody, but an appreciation.  It was fun playing with the format and making up some English place names. One of my two or three favorite poems.

This was originally published in Orphic Lute. Later I sent it to Lighten-Up Online. They accepted it, made some changes to the place names and changed some of the wording. It was republished in my book “Just So You Know” from Kelsay Books. There I had problems with line lengths, some lines longer than Kelsay’s book limits allowed. Here it is, back in its original format.

Edmund Conti has recent poems published in Light, Lighten-Up Online, The Lyric, The Asses of Parnassus, newversenews, Verse-Virtual and Open Arts Forum. His book of poems, Just So You Know, released by Kelsay Books
https://www.amazon.com/Just-You-Know-Edmund-Conti/dp/1947465899/
was followed by That Shakespeherian Rag, also from Kelsay
https://kelsaybooks.com/products/that-shakespeherian-rag

His poems have appeared in several Potcake Chapbooks:
Tourists and Cannibals
Rogues and Roses
Families and Other Fiascoes
Wordplayful
all available from Sampson Low Publishers

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