WEEK after week, year after year Roger Woddis was a stalwart of the old New Statesman, in both the front half and the back half, perhaps at his peak in the 1960s and 1970s, writes Anthony Thwaite. He was the unofficial laureate of the Left, producing regular topical political verses which were often both funny and mordant. At the same time he was a notable and widely read parodist and pasticheur, a frequent winner (under a variety of pseudonyms) of Weekend Competitions, in verse and prose.
There was nothing sloppy about Woddis's techniques: he could run you up almost anything in the style of almost anybody, always with strict adherence to the correct and appropriate metre and verse-form. His favourite models were I suppose the traditional ones - Tennyson, WS Gilbert, Kipling, Chesterton - but he was no sort of carpet-slippered whimsical litterateur in what he did, and I think he saw some of his efforts as political acts, not just bits of harmless satire.
He was nevertheless delighted when people on the other side acknowledged his skills, and he was particularly pleased when Kingsley Amis included two poems in the New Oxford Book of Light Verse, alongside such 'real' contemporary poets as DJ Enright and Philip Larkin. His full-length book of poems, The Woddis Collection, published in 1978 and long out of print, is worth hunting for in secondhand bookshops: it is full of his genial, bright-eyed, roguish and wicked barbs - very like the man himself.
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