Updated on May 19, 2015
31. ‘The English Are Odd’ by Chris Pearson
As you can imagine, living and working in Spain, Qatar, China, Turkey and the UAE will give a person a fair amount of writing fodder. Not surprising, then, that Chris Pearson – whose work as an English teacher took him all over the world – has become a prolific writer. He writes diaries, novels, short stories and poems, and The English Are Odd is his second poetry collection. He is also my uncle and I’ve previously conducted an interview with him on this blog.
This collection features poems written during his time working abroad and more recently, and one of the major themes is linguistic oddity. As an English teacher, Chris heard all sorts of fascinating questions from his students about the language they were learning, and these led him to epiphanies of his own about the strangeness (and often strange beauty) of our language.
Why do we greet each other with, “How do you do?”, a question to which we don’t really expect an answer? Why do we start conversations by saying, “Morning” or “Evening”? According to the poem ‘The English Are Odd (2)’, Agreeing what time of day it is/Seems to be a bonding ritual. Dealing with such ideas about language in the form of poetry – where wordplay and meaning are uppermost – makes for particularly gratifying reading.
Mixed in with these linguistic speculations are plenty of poignant poems which deal with being far away from home in one form or another. There’s ‘Exile’ which describes the imagined inner life of a man in the grips of senility, or (my favourite) ‘Peking
Opera Theatre’ written when Chris was living in Beijing whilst his wife was back in England giving birth to their first child.
“But my mind is focused on a different theatre,
Where a new character is making a dramatic first entrance.
I long to be there, but I’m on the wrong side of the footlights.”
This is a fantastic collection filled with grammar, wordplay, romance, history, technology and the pitfalls of age. Chris carefully mixes humour with sadness and lightheartedness with melancholy, making this an effortlessly moving collection that you can return to again and again.
(And I’m not just saying that because he’s my uncle. It is really good.)
I learned a lesson this week,
and it is this:
She knows better than Me
When She says We
If you liked my review why not read the book and let me know what you think?