Continuing our occasional series of People With Very Unusual Jobs Indeed
No 66: A Vegan poet.
Here are some lines by the poet Josh Bentley:
I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er hill and dale
When all at once I spied a crowd
Of dried bananas up for sale.
Beside the soy, behind the yeast
Oh, what a vegetarian feast!
Josh Bentley is a Vegan. He is also a poet. But he is possibly the first man who has ever tried to combine the two activities by rewriting established poetry so as to remove all traces of meat and fish products. At this very moment he is working on a Golden Treasury of Vegan Verse which will attempt to keep all the goodness and richness of great poetry while eliminating all the blood and meat fat which has so far, he thinks, disfigured so much of it.
"As you probably know," he says, "we Vegans believe that true health comes from a strict vegetarian diet, a natural regime of food derived from pulses and vegetables. Well, if we can purify our diet, why not purify our poetry as well? And remove all non-Vegan traces from it?"
One of the things that have made it easier for him to do this is the fact that the word "meat" rhymes with the more acceptable "wheat", so that Burns's little grace which used to start "Some hae meat and cannae eat..." now goes:
Some hae wheat and cannae eat,
And some wad eat that want it,
But we hae wheat and we can eat
And sae the Lord be thankit.
At the moment Bentley is also rewriting Burns's "Address to a Haggis", which is proving a little more tricky, as it's full of references to blood and innards gushing forth, the kind of thing to make a Vegan feel very ill. So Bentley is pinning the new version on the idea of a haggis as a pudding... "Great chieftain of the pudding race! So full of nutmeg and of mace... " etc etc.
But isn't there something rather namby-pamby about all this? Something a bit bloodless? Something anaemic?
"On the contrary," he avers. "It is the mainstream of poetry which is so brutal. Oddly enough, the worst of the trouble starts in childhood, because traditional nursery rhymes are so anti-Vegan. One or two are all right. Oranges and lemons, fine! Little Jack Horner pulling out a plum – fine! But for the rest, it's all Simple Simon and the pieman, or the wolf trying to eat the three little piggies, or the four-and-twenty blackbirds baked in a pie, or this little piggy which had roast beef, for heaven's sake! Can you imagine children being taught that pigs eat beef! No wonder we had BSE..."
He pushes over a page of revised nursery ryhmes. One starts: "Taffy was a Welshman, Taffy was a thief, Taffy came to my house and stole a slice of quiche." Another reads:
Tom, Tom, the piper's son
Stole a pig and away did run.
The pig did bite the stupid boy,
And serve him right. He should stick to soy.
Mary had a little lamb Which made her feel quite ill So now she eats nut cutlets With rosemary and dill.
"I realise it's a thankless task," says Josh Bentley rather defensively. "All you flesh-eaters think I am a killjoy and a wet blanket. But that's the fate of all prophets. Look, take this with you and think about it..."
On the way home I look at what he has given me. It starts:
The boy stood on the burning deck
Whence all but he had fled,
Holding tight his tofu bar
And his loaf of granary bread..."
Alas, I can bear to read no further.Reuse content