Steve Whitaker, Literary Editor

Poem Of The Week: A Point of Logic By Kingsley Amis (1922-1995)

A Point of Logic

Love is a finding out:
Our walk to the bedroom
(Hand in hand, eye to eye)
Up a stair of marble
Or decently scrubbed boards,
As much as what we do
In our abandonment,
Teaches us who we are
And what we are, and what
Life itself is.

Therefore put out the light,
Lurch to the bare attic
Over buckets of waste
And labouring bodies;
Leave the door wide open
And fall on each other,
Clothes barely wrenched aside;
Stay only a minute,
Depart separately,
And use no names.

Image by Andrew Gallagher from Pixabay
Image by Andrew Gallagher from Pixabay
Kingsley Amis’ cold-blooded, misanthropic examination of what ‘coupling’ might engender for the eager participant holds only a fleeting place for love in the sweaty transaction. Instead, the poet’s narrator finds post-coital ennui and sardonic irony where emotional bonds should be.

The promise of the first verse – the affection, the locked-in gaze and the pristine alabasters of fidelity – is itself abandoned in the ‘abandonment’ of the orgasmic moment, leaving a grubby and near-dystopian satisfaction of organic urges in the second.

The ‘logic’ of the title is platonic, inviting a sense of inevitable loss like filings to a magnet, for Amis’ conceit is studied, a parody, almost, of love’s diminution on contact with the mucus and gristle of copulation. The fragmenting metre of the second stanza is mirrored by the guttural language: the lightless attic, ‘buckets of waste / And labouring bodies’ submerge the arrangement in shit, removing any vestige of innocence, and conjuring an Orwellian vision of faceless bodily function.

That Amis is taking the piss is a reflection of the contrary, naturally ambivalent disposition of his close friend, Philip Larkin. The didactic colouring of the closing lines of the first stanza invokes a sense of a coterie of the ‘less deceived’, a kind of philosophical certainty whose underpinnings are half fatalistic and half disingenuous. An inverse variation on the half-meant, time-transcending faithfulness of Larkin’s armorial figures in ‘An Arundel Tomb’, Amis’ denial of the blandishments of sexual monogamy is a neat mirror to the practice of his own well-documented infidelity.

‘A Point of Logic’ is taken from British Poetry Since 1945 (1970)