“anyone could’ve written them but you try…”

Cold Soup, Nic Aubury, Nasty Little Press, £10
reviewed by Jim Murdoch

cold soup
In the 1970’s, had you’d asked Joe Public to name a living poet, depending on their age you’d have got one of two answers: Pam Ayres or John Cooper Clarke. I doubt Edwin Morgan, arguably the most multifaceted and technically gifted poet Scotland’s ever produced, would’ve got a look in. Master craftsmen Ayres and Clarke may not have been but they were popular. And funny.

Nic Aubury’s an ordinary bloke: a grumpy parent, part-time pedant and armchair philosopher. He’s also a funny poet and I can imagine him being very popular. Many of his poems are framed like one-liners that happen to rhyme:

Casanever

To most men the notion
of ‘romance and mystery’
means clearing the porn from
their Internet history.

Wouldn’t be out of place on a Purple Ronnie card. Have a closer look at that poem though with its pleasant, rocking dactylic rhythms. It’s technically proficient, flows off the tongue, is well-observed and has a clever title, something jokes lack. It’s rather Ogden Nash-ish. One of his to compare:

Celery

Celery, raw
Develops the jaw,
But celery, stewed,
Is more quietly chewed.

Humour comes naturally to most but few can get up on stage and be funny. These poems look like anyone could’ve written them but you try. Getting end rhymes isn’t so hard; it’s varying the rhythm within a tight metre that’s the bugger and this is, for me, where Aubury excels:

Otherwise

The owl is not the wisest bird,
in spite of what you might have heard,
for, if he were, I think – don’t you? –
he’d say ‘Too whoom’ and not ‘Too whoo’.

Not all the poems in this collection are four-liners but most are short apart from one sestina. He finds humour in the commonplace and is frequently self-deprecatory:

Being Frank

And now the end is near for me,
a father, husband, employee,
and through it all, I’m bound to say,
I did it someone else’s way.

Because of their brevity none of these individually will have the staying power—or, indeed, just the power of poems like ‘Evidently Chickentown’ or memorability of ‘I wish I’d looked after me teeth’ (which graces the walls of countless dentists’ waiting rooms throughout the country apparently) but they hold their own again the best and best-loved—comic verse by the likes of Nash or Spike Milligan. They do seem perfectly suited for his Twitter feed.

Nic writes about everyday life; about struggling to be a good dad; about trying to get your kid to eat; about getting over breakups and clearing up after a death in the family. There’s something here for everyone and not simply grannies as one other reviewer suggested; some of the poems—like the one about textese—might lose them:

Thx & rgds

However important you are, or how stressed,
you’re never too busy for vowels, I’d suggest.

Arnold Schoenberg said, “There is still much good music that can be written in C major.” Nic Aubury proves there’s still a lot of good comic poetry to be written in rhyme.

Jim Murdoch
http://www.jimmurdoch.co.uk/

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