Local Government (after W H Auden*)

by poetrydiary

In Homeric disputation
With civil servants, in chorus,
From Departments of uncertain
Provenance and purpose,

A strangely passioned obstacle
I sit, attempting to fulfil
Great Birmingham and Solihull’s
Most democratic will.

By whose selection (ill-advised?)
I bring my radical appeal –
To officers and time-served staff,
In meetings rarely real.

And daily stand for ‘common-sense’
(Or sometimes things only I know)
From conference room to conference room
In rain, sunshine or snow.

Though warm my welcome everywhere,
Governments come and go so fast,
I cannot say from day to day
If policy will last.

Unless I speak of energy,
A world of which I know a touch,
When people know so little now,
I don’t need to say much.

It does, however, bother me,
When a government announcement
Fresh in from the great capital
– I’m sure it is well meant –

Misspells this proud old region’s name,
Confuses their East with our West;
So simply thus reminding us
That apathy is best.


* This poem is a deliberate ‘parody’ of a poem by W H Auden called ‘On the Circuit’ which I’ve written as an exercise suggested on a poetry course I’m reading. Auden himself suggested writing parodies as the best way to understand the poetry of others.

‘On the Circuit’ has 16 stanzas in an 8,8,8,6 rhythmical pattern with the second and fourth lines always rhyming. I’m afraid I collapsed in exhaustion after 8 stanzas, but I’ve also tried to include some of his style with the odd obscure word and a gently ironic tone (?).

I have a voluntary role in one of our local government institutions here, and this poem describes it.

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