John Hartley Williams

In my dream country, people queue for hours to talk about the rain.
It is a country that lacks sunshine, mountains, wine, earthquakes, sex 
	or a native cuisine.
In place of wine they drink warm beer & copious quantities of an infusion 
	imported from a former colony.
Bottles of fluid extracted from cows are delivered to households daily by 
	uniformed men specially trained in the fathering of children.
In place of sex they have pornography & a love of soft toys & other furry animals.
The indigenous fauna was exterminated centuries ago by a Levantine mercenary 
	whom in their gratitude they installed as patron saint.
The main ingredient of the former national dish is an endangered species of fish,
Of which the surviving stocks have been claimed by an even smaller nation with 
	more diplomatic gunboats.
The people have no idea how to cook their new national dish, which originated 
	in a former colony.
When they hear the word culture they reach for their yogurt.
They claim the greatest playwright in history as their own & preserve this 
	distinction by refusing to learn the language of any other candidate.
The newspapers are owned by magnates from former antipodean colonies where 
	large breasts are considered newsworthy.
An annual prize is awarded for the most artistic arrangement of exotic excreta.
There are no composers of international repute & the most lucrative way 
	to exploit any musical talent is by marketing ring tones.
99% of the population own mobile phones, 84% own microwave ovens,
	& 173% own two or more televisions
On which their favourite viewing is ordinary people behaving with preposterously
	exaggerated ordinariness. 
The women are feisty, downtrodden, buxom, slender, & unfathomable, particularly
	when they open their mouths.
The men are beer-bellied, athletic, inarticulate, repressed, in control, new,
 	& hopeless, particularly when confronted with their women.
The children were once sent to boarding schools lest they shd learn about sex
	& are now sent to state schools lest they shd learn anything.
The national dress features headgear otherwise worn only in parts of South America.
There is a monarch who remains all-powerful provided that she forbears to exercise
	her powers.
The people bore you beyond endurance with their worship of eccentricity
	& tell you proudly of their genius for invention
Particularly of all the sports at which they regularly lose to former colonies.
They celebrate their worst disasters with patriotic fervour,
Treating nations who can appreciate only successes with a you’ll-understand-when-
	you’ve-got-a-bit-of-history-behind-you sort of indulgence,
& failing to mask their resentment that the world superpower is a former colony.
They cope with a situation that is always desperate but never hopeless,
 	expecting the unexpected, hoping for the best & taking what comes,
Stoically seeing history as a great queue whose head the mother country can
	never reach again.

John Hartley Williams is a contemporary British poet of some renown. He is joint author, with fellow poet Matthew Sweeney, of Teach Yourself Writing Poetry, which I recommend. Among the poems of his I have enjoyed most are Canada, Hungarian, and John Bosnia, and Albion is my own attempt at something similar. I have faithfully imitated Mr Williams' use of such contractions as "cd", "wd" and "shd", and of the ampussyand ("&"). Personally I find these irritating affectations, but I understand they are intended as a homage to Blake.

Non-Brits may not pick up the references to St George and the dragon, or to the Cod War, which we lost to mighty Iceland. Non-Bolivians may not pick up the reference to the bowler hat forming part of their national dress. The prize referred to is the Turner Prize. The "new national dish" is Chicken Tikka Masala, but the poem is in error hereabouts, since I now believe that this culinary delight originated in Glasgow, when a customer at an Indian restaurant insisted on having "gravy" with his tandoori chicken. 

John Hartley Williams is highly unlikely to be confused with either William Carlos Williams or C K Williams, of each of whom I have also done a parody.

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This page last updated 21/03/2007