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Betjeman and Cromer Pier

by Mickey 

Posted: 14 October 2018
Word Count: 135
Summary: Cromer v Trebetherick

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I’m sat here at my writing desk
attempting something Betjemesque:
          “On Runton Road
          majestic stands
          the Cliftonville Hotel,
          overlooking Cromer sands …”
but then my inspiration ends.
          “It’s just a short walk
          from the pier
          where, twice a day
          throughout the year …”
whereupon will disappear
another promising idea.
          “The parish Church
          of Cromer town,
          Saints Peter and St.Paul …”
Oh Goodness me, it’s plain to see
this isn’t Betjemesque at all.
     I clearly cannot emulate
     my favourite Poet Laureate.
     No doubt about it I suppose
     the end-of-pier Pavilion shows
     cannot compete with Cornish skies
     when seen through Betjemanic eyes
     It’s pure futility to boast
     that I can praise the Norfolk coast
     or laud the Cliftonville Hotel
     the way that JB did so well
     the Cornish slate and sea-lashed rocks
     the golf links round St.Enodoc’s

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Comments by other Members

James Graham at 20:22 on 15 October 2018  Report this post
Meant to comment today but got into reading Betjeman! Often his poems are deceptively simple, so that when you read them you think, ‘I could do that’. Not so. Mind you, in your last two stanzas you seem to be half way there. More tomorrow.


James Graham at 20:32 on 16 October 2018  Report this post
Well no, it isn’t very Betjemesque. But I think your brief efforts are deliberately not up to Betjemanic standards; if you were really trying to do a good parody of JB I’m sure you could come up with something more convincing. More on this below.
I think I pick up a wee subtlety, though. As I hinted at in my last comment, at the end of the poem, after you’ve given up as it were, your verse seems to be shaping up. I like these lines:
     No doubt about it I suppose
     the end-of-pier Pavilion shows
     cannot compete with Cornish skies
     when seen through Betjemanic eyes
It’s a wry comment about end-of-pier shows, hinting that your head’s too full of these instead of contemplating the marvellous Cornish skies and hills that inspired JB.  There’s often a wry humour in Betjeman and this seems to ‘emulate’ it just a bit. Long way to go, though.
As I’ve said, your lines in italics must be deliberately not close to JB’s level. The first and third are just place-names; JB does mention lots of places but adds a bit of poetry too. The middle one is like something you might write on a holiday picture postcard, except it rhymes. What you’re doing is making sure we know you can’t emulate him – though I think you could make a good stab at it - and thus remind us of how very good he is. The poem is an ironic way of prompting us to read Betjeman. Is this how you thought of it yourself?
Suitably prompted, I came across (not for the first time, but they never pall) lines like
  Nut-smell of gorse and honey-smell of ling
  Waft out to sea the freshness of the spring
  On sunny shallows, green and whispering
This is from ‘Cornish Cliffs’. In the same poem, I love the line about the sea-birds ‘Whose notes are tuned to days when seas are high’. So if you meant to point your reader in the direction of the real JB, you’ve succeeded!

Thomas Norman at 19:43 on 17 October 2018  Report this post
Hello Mike - Whatever or not you pretend to be in this witty poem I love its flippancy and sense of 'well never mind anyway'. I thought the rhymes were excellent and non-intrusive (not an easy thing to do) and the rhythm is very smooth. The penultimate stanza is a real delight.

Thanks for this lovely poem and as James has said it has made me want to read some Betjeman. I know very little of his poetry.


Mickey at 09:25 on 18 October 2018  Report this post
James and Thomas, thank you for your kind comments.  I must admit that my original intention was to write an appreciation of Cromer (home of the last end-of-pier-show in the UK) in the style of my hero, JB.  The three italicised extracts were as far as I got so I decided to include them in a poem about how I couldn’t do it!  Thanks again for reading.

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