And so London Field’s fucked sky is sealed
As Martin/John Self is blue-pencilled, returning him
To Sally, his sister, his father and to Christopher Hitchens,
His friend. And dead from the same disease too.
This is the sort of thing which would have befallen
Keith Talent, if he had been supported by the spell
Of his surname, and yet perhaps no name alone
Can defend against the onslaught of fate;
Indiscriminate, unexpected, with oesophageal cancer
Death’s herald, as it was for Harold and for Christopher H;
Writers throats proving to be the weak heel which first
Tripped Achilles, before toppling the towers
From which these wizards with words met their moat;
The one we all sail when the Ferryman’s oar
Taps our shoulder. Amis would have known.
He was knowing. Opinion infused all his prose.
From The Rachel Papers straight through to his last
Inside Story; an autobiographical excavation
Which he labelled a novel, as if in his dying the body
Characterised and reported incident and indictment,
While fear could not stifle the richness and way
His words flowed. Amis was eight parts mainstream
And two, or maybe three counter-culture. As Kingsley’s kid,
The young rebel sought to unseat state and quo
With constant critique. Martin as self-made sage
Was prolific, both in print and as pundit,
A TV interviewee who said no to the way
That things were, as he made prose seem psychedelic,
Or perhaps progressive, as he was both lumpen
And light frequently. And yet his books are also bright
Coral reefs through which the reader swims, glimpsing
Wonders; whether it’s the jargon and jive within Money,
Time’s Arrow’s smooth horrors, or the spectacular stories
Inside Einstein’s Monsters which bellow
Like Bellow and teach writing itself what to be.
Amis used language like charge, amping up sense
And syntax. His sentences were set to eleven as he rocked
And roared through his books. He was not as dangerous
As he dared, for nepotistic or not, his position was easier
To source and find than for we others who labour alone
While the literati, Illuminati-like avoid hooks. And yet
For artists my age, Amis was also a kind of glam-rock institution,
More of a Bolan than a Bowie, while slyly epitomising
His time. Hitchens defiantly rioted and bore a taint
Of Hendrix about him, and yet Amis and McEwen,
(John Cale-like in his stories) pre-dated punk’s clamour
As each in turn would define literary success, along
With others like Ackroyd, Rushdie, James, Fenton,
Not rebels as such, but a team of societal satirists,
A batch of Peter Cooks in word kitchens, boiling up
Books and bathos, with notions and potions
Which could redden the route of mainstreams.
Martin Amis was also a grand soloist, if not on guitar
Then on keyboards. If I swap genres, he became
A kind of Rick Wakeman overdoing the phrase,
But replete with complete mastery of page as stage
For performance in which point, if not plot
Was proven under the glittering cape of technique.
His books were unique. He wanted to be the English
Updike, or Bellow. Nabokov, Burgess, or Ballard;
Each one of these men his work stalked. Well,
Time will tell. His books are escapade
And entertainment. Sermons from Martin’s
Mount Olympus, via Notting Hill and New York.
Fat phrases spun from a slightly built man,
Whose voice sounded like a kind of whine
As he eyed you, his gimlet view brimming
As he questioned each day with high talk.
But now his death marks another peg freed
From the circus tent world I grew up in.
As Chat GBT can write novels and albums, too,
By which words will we set the state, whether quoed
Or not, we can follow to either measure attainment
Or equivocate with the birds as we soar above
Expectation and standard. As of now Martin’s missing.
So what is Amiss? The absurd. And the state we’re
All in, as idiots and AI overtakes us. As we search
For pleasure, we actually forgoe happiness. And all
For some distant dream that we do not know how
To capture. Perhaps when thinkers die they locate it.
Under spectacular skies, pages fountain, their streams
Feeding futures. Perhaps this is where Martin is.
For now, we will no longer hear of his teeth,
Or of his cousin Lucy, one of Fred West’s first victims;
We will no longer remember a London which sparked
And fizzed, clinked and fused with Fitzgerald’s New York,
Or even Hemingway’s Paris, not that Martin had glamour,
But from such spill he sourced clues which led
To the great mystery of why it is people ruin every chance
Granted and why in time we abuse not only the hand
That first helped and held us, but also the sentence
He devotedly served through each ruse.
He was a writer who won, and who in the fight
With style stayed triumphant. Like him or not,
Martin’s talent – unlike his character, Keith’s can amuse.
As well as reveal the dark and dare in our standing.
In sitting down Amis travelled as far as words go.
David Erdos 21/5/23
Photo Credit – Antonio Monda https://commons.m.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Martin_Amis_(cropped).jpg#mw-jump-to-license