A Dream Of Wet Pavements Introduction

A wild and powerful condemnation of the greed society.

The Title

Just as objects and colours are distorted and smeared by the wet pavements at night in the city of dreadful night so too the poem gives a lurid and distorted picture to convey the modern corruption. But from the gleams comes a hint of a hidden reality.

How to Read

It is a performance and protest piece. To read it in an ordinary tame way is to make its rhyme scheme and hyperbole seem ridiculous. Think early Dylan but maybe Leonard Cohen semi-chant. Can be said with a sort of sneering emphasis, helping the rhyme scheme to not be distracting. The comic grotesqueries need a special style of delivery or else will sound too contrived and exaggerated.

The Poem

Drives on and on through its 95 verses, ends with the great jarring image of the God-Man stumbling across the stark wasteland. Yes it is influenced by Eliot’s poem but is distinctive enough not to be seen to be seen as derivative. It is a surrealistic nightmare, often a blend of violence with satiric humour. It can seem overlong and forced in places but has power and entertainment value. He risks some incoherence at times to convey the disgust, to show the only way poetry can grapple with such a world. The insistent rhymes reinforce a feeling of entrapment.

In the 63rd verse (page 18) Francis coins the word ‘streptophonic’. I think he does this to convey just how hidden and foreign to this society the current of love and innocence is. It means something like buried current of sound as Francis says in his note. For a few verses here this hidden current surfaces but then disappears as a desolate frozen day succeeds the nightmares.

The final stanza of the poem shocks by putting the final responsibility for Love’s Crucifixion on our frozen hearts. By the way it is, in the second last verse, we and not the vultures who are wandering ‘like beasts with wordlesss cry.’

Keep in mind it is the beginning of a sequence leading up to Hymn To God The Man.


[Author: Geoff Gunther]