COLLECTED POEMS by Ian Horobin. The Jameson Press, 160 Albion Road, London N16 9JS. Price £2.00.
To have John Betjeman, our newly crowned Poet Laureate, and Laurens van der Post each contribute a separate introduction to a book of poems is quite an achievement for a living poet. Ian Horobin is entitled to that achievement. His poems, to use his own words, “record (and, if possible, evoke) emotion — emotions of a long and varied life, in peace and war, success and failure, hope and sorrow.”
Horobin is a homosexual who has spent several years in English prisons and was also a prisoner of war of the Japanese. He was a Member of Parliament and a Junior Minister in the Macmillan Government of 1957-59. He was gazetted a Life Peer in 1962 but withdrew acceptance as his case was about to come up.
As John Betjeman says “Most poems speak for themselves”. A critical analysis would not be particularly useful, nor, in view of the great variation of the collection, would it be helpful to any potential reader. The poems divide themselves in character into those which express thoughts and emotions, those concerned with the war, and some critical pieces about politics, religion and events. These last will make the most popular appeal and the following quotations will suffice to show why.
From “Holy Orders’’
“A sneak, a pharisee, a dunce
Will tell you what God wants at once,
And do extremely well by it.
But is God really such a shit?”
“To an American Senator”
“Crown me Boston’s, Ireland’s pride;
Watch me run away and hide,
I have my fun with someone’s daughter
Leave her – head safe under water.
Now I’ll run for President,
With the IRA’s consent.
Christian murderers please note:
I’ve scooped the Roman Catholic vote”
From “Finis Coronat Opus”
“From the BBC the children suck
Propaganda and drivel and muck.
The interviewers are rarely civil
Pushing their poison and muck and drivel”.
From “Berber Goatherd”
Jesus loves me. This I know
For Ian Paisley tells me so.
But he hasn’t told us yet
What he thinks of Bernadette”.
Horobin has met with triumph and disaster in his life and has suffered humiliation and public disgrace. But his wit and humour survive and his poems deserve the recognition now denied to him.