Steve Whitaker, Literary Editor

Poem Of The Week: The London Dinner Party By Jayne Joso

The London Dinner Party

Said the composer
I have even met some working-class people
And some of them
Yes, some of them
Are quite decent people
I clear my throat
Clink the ice in my drink
People are nodding, not only a musical genius
But what a kind man he must be
And I?
I will not play the chameleon, but I need a refill
Someone offers and I accept as they pour
The composer smiles as he awaits my cheering him
I rise
And I?
I have met some very posh people in my time
And some of them
Yes, some of them
Aren’t cunts.

Jayne Joso. Image by Paul Musso.
Jayne Joso. Image by Paul Musso.
The simplicity of writer and artist Jayne Joso’s delivery in The London Dinner Party is at one remove from her intention. For her poem of condescension and superiority complex plays along with the glass-chinking, smug conceit of the party’s attendees, until the delicious final pay-off.

The poem’s tone is faux-approving, conversational, complicit only to the extent that Joso’s narrator is present amongst the forced smiles and self-congratulatory avowals of kindness. The London working classes should, it seems, be pleased to be patronised so fulsomely.

Immersed in the party’s bonhomie, the narrator is ‘less deceived’. Although a de facto participant in a game of class charades, the truth resides in her clarity of observation: sealed in bubbles of wealth and self-confidence, the composer and his acolytes are as divorced from the reality of being thoroughly skint as the Bullingdon Club from Tower Hamlets.

The inverse ‘generosity’ of Joso’s final lines pays fitting lip service to the assemblage’s parody of decency.