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This review is taken from PN Review 42, Volume 11 Number 4, March - April 1985.

SOMETHING BOSOM Frank Kuppner, A Bad Day for the Sung Dynasty (Carcanet) £4.95 pb.

Frank Kuppner's grotesque writing delights me so much that most of the time I quite forget to ask whether it instructs me too. This is the 292nd of his five-hundred-odd quatrains:


Finding the funeral monument at the edge of the desert,
He halts reverentially and reads out the inscription;
By the time he reaches the word 'varicose',
He can no longer ignore his giggling servant.


Or here is the 183rd:


An unearthly light shines from inside the cave;
The man stands hesitating by the entrance;
Yesterday, there with him, she lost a hairpin on the
   ground;
Bitterly he regrets volunteering to return to find it.


Or here, in the 247th, is the deciphering of an old poetic text:


Something breasts something something bosom;
Something bust something bosom something;
Breast something something caterpillar something;
A look of doubt crosses the old scholar's face.


Almost every page of A Bad Day for the Sung Dynasty had me shouting with laughter at some incongruous bizarrerie. But after I had thoroughly enjoyed myself I put on my stern expression and demanded, but is it poetry? and where is the value of such nonsense?

To be truthful, I have no idea whether it is poetry. Kuppner arranges his off-beat commentaries in quatrains and prefaces the book with tongue-in-cheek ...


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