Magazine article The Spectator

Animal Crackers: Jaspistos

Magazine article The Spectator

Animal Crackers: Jaspistos

Article excerpt

IN COMPETITION NO. 2001 you were invited to fill the bill as the future `poet in residence' at the London Zoo.

Mishcon de Reya, Princess Diana's old solicitors, recently advertised for a poet in residence - L10,000 a year for half a day's work a week. That's just the ticket for me, I thought. I've won a poetry prize, I've lectured on poetry for the Workers' Educational Association, and I'm Jaspistos! I made a few high-level telephone calls to assure smart references, `the press was squared, the middle class was quite prepared', and applied. The printed form that came back was unblushingly ageist: `We are looking for a young poet at the beginning of his/her career.... ' So I don't think I'll put in for the Zoo job. If I did, and presented an honest CV, it would state that I worked there as a food porter in the restaurant in the late Forties and that I found the inmates, in the long run, boring, except for the rats which we had great fun killing in the store-room.

The first five prizewinners, printed below, get L20 each, and the rest L10. The bonus bottle of Isle of Jura Single Malt Scotch whisky goes to D.A. Prince.

Hyenas scavenge: what they eat Is insects, carrion - that's dead And semi-rotting corpse-like meat. (The cafeteria's straight ahead.) The Coleoptera - to you Dung beetles - have grown rather deft At raising young on piled-up poo. (The lavatories are on the left.) Sciuridae - grey squirrels - are British, common, prone to fleas, And known as rats with good PR. (The picnic site's beyond the trees.) Panthera tigris can eat men Blake's `Tyger, tyger, burning bright'So keep your hands outside the pen. (The first aid post is on the right.) (DA. Prince)

The oddest of creatures you'll see in this zoo Is no piglet, no tigger, no Winnie the Pooh, No leopard with spots, no camel with humps, No rhino with skin that's got sinister lumps, No butterfly stamping, no night-walking cat, No reptile that makes you cry, `What on earth's


No quaint armadillo, no tame marmoset, No, none of those monkeys you'd want as a pet, No parrot that's sick, no peacock that's proud No penguin that waddles along with the crowd, No dodo, no phoenix, no pobble with toes, Not even a dong with a luminous nose: All these creatures are thanking their lucky old


That they're safely caged in behind strong iron bars. …

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