James Fullerton is a dirty-minded poet. Over the past eighteen years, he has worked in Oxford, Wales, Germany, America, Cambodia and the Philippines, publishing poetry and prose under the twin pseudonyms of James Fenton and John Fuller. But later this month a volume of his own will at last be published in all its murky brilliance. It will set certain tongues wagging.
Partingtime Hall is a colourful, irreverent mish-mash of pieces, a magpie collection ranging from six limericks about nuns that would have delighted Norman Douglas – the poems, I mean – to the long title work which charts the sexual imbroglio behind the suicide of a rich public-schoolboy. There’s a fantasy about Rommel, E M Forster, and an Egyptian (‘Two Cheers for Tramconductors ‘), a survey of the great ‘Ifs’ of literary history (‘Born Too Soon’), a poem ‘From the Aztec’, and a squib in German that passed right over the head of Muggins here. But from the start it is all most intriguing.
Exactly how do you collaborate on a collection of poems over so long a period, and achieve such consistency of tone amid formal diversity? What is the point of the whole thing? The man I intended to furnish me with answers to such queries was James Fenton, translator of Verdi,