Frank Kuppner

A Bad Day for the Kuppner Dynasty
So marvellously fecund, the poetic imagination,
To produce such a volume of willow-patterned verses!
But why does this man write so many unrhymed quatrains?
The reader launches into them with restrained enthusiasm.

Some stanzas undeniably have a lyrical quality;
Some are iconoclastic or wryly philosophical;
Some make one tremble with uncontrollable laughter.
One half-suspects the poet may be uncertain which are which.

A crapulous critic squints at his review copy
As his fashionable gondola glides through an ornate bridge.
Why does this man write so many unrhymed quatrains?
And medieval China! That is so last millennium…

In the capital the fiction continues unabated.
At the palace gates a haruspex prods a heap of entrails.
His imperial highness’ life may depend on this liver!
Inside, the emperor calls for a cup of jasmine tea.

The seer frets at the gates, unable to gain entry.
The well-drilled guards’ ears are deaf to his prophesies.
Why can’t they understand it’s an imperial emergency?
He feels moisture on his bald patch as a crane flies overhead.

In a mountainside temple a metal bowl stands ready.
A monk pours in water and moistens his finger.  
He strokes the rim, and music echoes round the valley.
Yaks put their cud to one side, turn their heads and listen.

On his fashionable gondola the critic grows restless. 
Why on earth does this man write so many unrhymed quatrains?
With uncharacteristic insight he identifies the problem:
Unquestionably, all the stanzas must be the wrong length. 

In the unsavoury tenement life continues unabated.
In deep dismay at finding an aching void in his fridge,
The poet adjusts his skean-dhu to an intimidating angle
And ventures with misgivings onto the razor-ganged streets. 

Trudging to the off-licence he muses on inequity.
What the critics have done is something very like murder.
By what right do they wield such telling god-like clout?
He rather suspects they may be in the pay of the other fellow.

On his pretentious gondola the critic squirms restlessly. 
Whatever is the point of these wretched unrhymed quatrains?
He transfers his attention to a lavishly-illustrated magazine.
What are those boys on the parapet above sniggering at?

The parodist is approaching the end of his resources.
How does that man manage to write so many unrhymed quatrains?
It is hard to imagine how another could get the trick of it.
That would be a bad day for the Kuppner dynasty.

Frank Kuppner is a contemporary Glaswegian writer of Polish extraction who gets a lot less attention than he deserves, in my opinion. I hope this parody brings him a little more. He makes me laugh a lot. He also makes me think. His first book of poetry was A Bad Day for the Sung Dynasty, which consists of 501 unrhymed quatrains - an unpromising verse form which he has made his own. He followed this up with Second Best Moments in Chinese History, which is still in print and just as good. His selected poems have been published under the title What, Again? His prose works include Something Very Like Murder and A Concussed History of Scotland - the only novel I know that has more chapters than pages (500 vs. 195). The critics don't actually dislike him - he has won awards - but show substandard zeal in his cause. His books are hard to find, south of the border anyway. My own vision of Glasgow - as a sprawl of crumbling tenements prowled by razor gangs inflamed by whisky and football - is hopelessly out of date, I am reliably informed.

Back to Parodies home page. 

© Bob Newman 2005. All rights reserved.

This page last updated 22/05/2005