thirty-two: Harry Smart, Fool’s Pardon

This was my bonus holiday read, to help me catch up with my fifty-two poets (there was a bit of duplication with Saul Williams, and then I fell behind in May, I think). I picked it up in a second-hand bookshop while browsing; I’d read one poem by Harry Smart, courtesy of Jeanette Winterson’s poetry pick on her website, and thought I’d like to read more.

Fool’s Pardon had a real thread of concern with humanity running through it: war, place, people. Favourites were ‘The Don’, ‘Lucky Man’ and the fantastic ‘Praise’, which was the one I’d read before:

Praise be to God who pities wankers
and has mercy on miserable bastards.
Praise be to God who pours his blessing
on reactionary warheads and racists.

For he knows what he is doing; the healthy
have no need of a doctor, the sinless
have no need of forgiveness. But, you say,
They do not deserve it. That is the point;

That is the point. When you try to wade
across the estuary at low tide, but misjudge
the distance, the currents, the soft ground
and are caught by the flood in deep schtuck,

then perhaps you will realise that God
is to be praised for delivering dickheads
from troubles they have made for themselves.
Praise be to God, who forgives sinners.

Let him who is without sin throw the first
headline. Let him who is without sin
build the gallows, prepare the noose,
say farewell to the convict with a kiss.

Fool’s Pardon, Harry Smart (Faber and Faber, 1995)

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