Thursday, August 17, 2006

Sir John Betjeman

(BBC Online)
Well the centenary celebrations of his birth are coming up (Sir John Betjeman was born on 28th August 1906) and well deserved they are to.
I am a fan of Betjeman's poetry, having come across them some twelve years ago (that long!) whilst studying my A'level lit. Favourites of mine include A Subaltern's Love Song and Diary of a Church Mouse and you can find more of his poems here.
Another reason I like him is because he was such a contrast to Ted Hughes, who I studied beforehand, and who I saw give a talk once at Westminster City Hall (a quiet man, but who brimmed with such mesmerising passion about his work that I couldn't help but compare his personality to that of Rasputin in terms of having a hypnotic effect). After all that, Betjeman was like a relaxing evening in front of the fire with a small coffee or whisky.
I am disapointed that he didn't get along with another of my heroes, C. S. Lewis. His tutor at Oxford who allegedly failed him his degree, but I can see how their personalities would not mix.
One of the things I do like about Betjeman was that he had an impish sense of humour. When interviewed a year before his death, he was asked if he had any regrets as he looked back over his life. His reply was "Yes. Not enough sex."
I hope the centenary celebrations will bring more readers forward to his writings, because they are worth reading and he does have a fan base which includes those who don't even like poetry in general.


icedink said...

He was terrific at capturing the absurdity of Englishness and had a highly developed sense of his own and other people's ridiculousness. I never tire of hearing A Shropshire Lad, though A Subaltern's Love Song is wonderful too. People complain that his poems are too "de-dum, de-dum, de-dum", but I think that aids readability.

Paul Burgin said...

Certainly, and it helped his popularity as well