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This article is taken from PN Review 161, Volume 31 Number 3, January - February 2005.

Have You No Homes? Peter Robinson

Marianne Moore ends her poem 'Silence' with a comment on a quotation from Edmund Burke - which is being offered as something 'My father used to say': 'Nor was he insincere in saying, "Make my house your inn." / Inns are not residences.' I was reminded of these lines when reading Under the Influence (Wellington, NZ: Four Winds Press) the latest book by Bill Manhire, New Zealand's inaugural poet laureate, sometime writer in residence in Antarctica, and the present holder of the Katherine Mansfield Fellowship at Menton, France. His father was a publican by trade: 'Southland, Green Roofs, Railway, Oak Tree Inn, Crown, St Kilda - they are somehow the same place. For example, each one was full of drunk people.' When it was time to clear the house - though as Manhire explains this would not usually coincide with 'closing time' - here is what his father really used to say:

I still have in my head as resonant noises the Irish farewell (courtesy of First Corinthians), 'Have you no homes?', the Churchillian 'Our finest hour!', and - obscure of origin yet best of all - 'Home, little bastards, home!'

One of the reasons why the first of these may be a resonant noise in the poet's head is because, pace Miss Moore, if your father is a publican, then an inn is your residence. It is the home you have to go to, even when it's full of adults who ...

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