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E.P.B. Linstead ‘Harrods’

E.P.B Linstead was minor British poet. Full name Edward Philip Basil Linstead, he was born in 1909. No notice of death so he is probably still around walking on Wimbledon Common every morning aged 103. He is listed as becoming a director of a real estate firm in Wimbledon -Pentaberk Limited- at age 81. His wife or sister Mildred Linstead was also on the board a few years later. Not much on net except lists of his  books one of which is about Sierra Leone Morning at Mount Auriol (1948). There is also a novel Awkward for Joseph and this 1950 book Disorderly Poems - a slim volume of which Harrods is the first poem. It is slightly  Betjemanesque, with an echo of Auden ('buses going on unurgent errands') but there is also a proclamatory tone than you hear 5 years later in beat poetry...a short poem follows this showing Linstead in surreal mood like a Beresford Egan drawing or an oil by Edward Burra - Jelly-Cheeked Gentlemen.

Harrods

1943

When nothing whatever was happening in Hans Crescent
On one long afternoon of 1927 sunlight,
Swing doors ushered us to cool, to shadowed departments,
To secure linen-cupboard, close upholstery odours
–Reposed stabilised airs, sweet leather-scents of handbags–
Guests we came to palaces of immense peace, thick-piled,
Where wide pianos stood in lakes of varnished light
And under the glaze of a spell lay galleries of hushed china
–China which skated, slid, scraped plate-glass when we touched it.

Our saliva condensed, dripped at the sight of salt heaped shell-fish;
From fish-slabs tribute waters flowed to ferns ever-dripping–
Waters fresh-condensed from almost atomised fountains.
Mountainside mists fell over wire-twined flowers;
Carnations rose from moistures, maidenhairs,
Azaleas breathed as from Surrey nighttime gardens
–From all conservatories, steam-warmed, of the warm past
Or all former Conservative garden parties
(When servant night brings privacy to the paths
Owners' cigar-lights glow from the high terrace
And from tiered lawn to lawn fall the aubretias
To Mrs. Edward Laxton1 by her dark well-hoed border
Amongst the rising mould-smells, the mild rose-smells).

Tinily price-ticketted timepieces chime five o' clock ;
We climb the wooden-rodded, green-rigged stairs
To the secure wide sunlit first-floor tearooms
Which overlook Putney buses going on unurgent errands.
Soft roes we want–on salted watercress couches
–Fresh wet stems with the tingle of innate pepper.

–We clear our throats, speak thickened as we eat eclairs :
French-pastry-muffled, we sip, sip, excellent tea,
As saucers clink to the sweet restaurant music
And tongue-tips lick creamed cheeks at the last violin mouse-squeak.

  1 A rose.

Jelly-Cheeked Gentlemen

Jelly-Cheeked Gentlemen in Shaftesbury Avenue
Voluble and sorrowful on tolerable booze,
Fresh from a rendezvous, a frolic at the Monico
Pirouette skilfully on patent leather shoes.

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One thought on “E.P.B. Linstead ‘Harrods’

  1. R.M.Healey

    I too have a copy of this very slim volume, which I bought many years ago. Can't remember where. I think this is a rather good collection. Yes, influenced by Betch in subject matter, but there are also strong echoes of Auden and some of the other 'thirties poets, including Bernie Spencer, MacNeice and even Day Lewis. Manley Hopkins too.But for all this, Linstead has his own voice. I like some of the short poems, which have an ascerbic tang to them. He deserves to be better known.

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