A touch of wit is worth its writ in gold.
We miss you, John, for being ever bold.
You spoke your mind or, rather, wrote it down
with learning lightly worn, and played the clown.
Your loyal readers understand this truth:
Such seriousness requiring a sleuth
to figure out just what the poet means
clogs the reader’s mind with thick smoke screens.
You dared to entertain and make us laugh
by impish ribbing and the learned gaffe.
Your verse a mix of Geisel and Voltaire
(and just a touch of Ginger and Astaire)
reminds that lyric needn’t make one sulk
as does bad formalism with its bulk
of fossilized remembrance of things past
in lines that ring more like dead wood than bast.
Your lines stay moist and satisfy our thirst.
That good enough might just as well be worst
inspired your quick mind but slowed your hand:
The first word is the last, the last least planned
when something deeper comes you don’t expect,
becoming the best word in retrospect.
You wrote me, It’s much harder to be light
since any fool can be ‘deep’: you were right,
being one who mastered form and joy
that postmodernists are eager to destroy.
They have more ideology than art
in endless variation: Look! I’m smart.

A hero skeptical of the ideal,
dismissing Hegel’s children and their spiel
of dialectic power-grabs (the goal
your Examiners pursue to crush our soul!),
you breathe new life into our tired lungs,
bring burning coals to lips and purge our tongues.
Speak again when we intone your lines
wherein the author purposely aligns
the signified with words and lives again!
Live, and, living, take away the pain
we feel now that you’re gone but for your word.
You wrote because you knew the world’s absurd
with beauty, truth, and goodness and the hell
of loss and ruin. How you taught us well
to laugh at death and, often, to have fun.
You lived up to your word. Your work is done.
Dear John, when you were here, we truly knew ye.
Forever through your words, we’ll always keep thee.





Dwayne Barrick resides in Ohio and works as an independent grant writer. His poems have appeared in Kin, Autumn Sky Poetry Daily, and Southern California Review. His long poem L’avventura, on the great film of the same name by Michelangelo Antonioni, has appeared online at Ragazine.cc.

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15 Responses

  1. Gail

    I am so sorry to have come to know of this person’s work posthumously. And so glad you all are here, so that I may know of it at all. A very fine eulogy.

    • Dwayne

      Thank you, Gail, for your kind feedback. It is never too late to discover a wonderful poet and I am glad to help bring his work to your attention. Cheers!

  2. Susan Jarvis Bryant

    Dwayne, this is a wonderfully wrought poem that captures the essence of the marvelous John Whitworth perfectly – great meter, great rhyme, and an educational message with a witty delivery.

    Even though I come from Kent, England, and am a huge fan of Wendy Cope, I am ashamed to admit, I have only just discovered the wonders of Whitworth. “The Examiners” is my absolute favorite. I have a poem coming out this afternoon which is inspired by that poem… I only hope I’ve afforded it some sort of justice.

    Thank you very much for bringing his name to the fore with a fine work of your own.

    • Joseph S. Salemi

      Get John Whitworth’s book “Girlie Gangs.” It’s great.

      • Susan Jarvis Bryant

        Thank you! I’ve avoided purchasing the $102.08 edition on Amazon (I love him, but not that much) in favor of the $13 one on ebay.

    • Dwayne

      Thank you, Susan. I am happy to take John’s light and put it in this poem. As I noted above to Gail, better late than never to discover the poetry of one of your late countryman. I appreciate your support!

  3. C.B. Anderson

    This poem is a brilliant reflection on a brilliant poet, but this is not the first time Whitworth has come up on these pages. If someone could post a link to Sally Cook’s “What’s a Whit Worth” it would be useful. Mike? Can you find it?

  4. Kevin Rainbow

    A much deserved tribute!

    On a small critical note, though, I can’t help but notice some problems in the final lines:

    “Dear John, when you were here, we truly knew ye.
    Forever through your words, we’ll always keep thee.”

    The inconsistency of pronouns here (you, ye, thee) sort of sticks out like a sore thumb. I think it would be better to stick to “you” since that is the form used elsewhere in the poem, not only for consistency but because “KNEW ye” and “KEEP thee” don’t really rhyme (anymore than “truly” and “sleepy” do. ) It feels like the poem really deserves a much better final couplet.

    • Dwayne

      Thank you, Kevin, for your critique.

      Just a few notes.

      First, you are obviously correct: the last couplet is formed by slant feminine rhymes while all preceding couplets are perfect masculine rhymes. Why?

      I offer three rationales:

      First, “ye” is correctly used in this instance. The OED gives the following definition of the word:

      “II. As object.

      4. With singular or plural reference.

      a. Used instead of you as direct or indirect object, or as the object of a preposition.”

      The OED then uses numerous examples from extant literature. One is from “Paradise Lost,” book 2, line 840:

      “I..shall..bring ye to the place.”

      So, “ye” and “thee” can be used as synonyms.

      Second, as you know, the phrase, “Dear John, when you were here, we truly knew ye” is a playful and allusive reversal of “Johnny, we hardly knew ye.” The latter is a song by Joseph B. Geoghegan.

      But John and his poetry was, and is, a known quality. We are fortunate to have gotten to know him and his work while he was alive. No regrets ultimately.

      Third, the deviation from perfect masculine rhyme is somewhat impish even as the final couplet is a wistful sendoff to a dear man and poet. John was nothing if not a troublemaker; to muss up the rhyme scheme seems, to my mind, appropriate and playful a la Whitworth. The deliberate archaism of the final couplet is playful and sincere in its warmth. It is an affectation allowable in poetry under the right conditions which, I believe, pertain here.

      Despite my three rationales, I certainly appreciate and understand your reservation and criticism.

      Thanks for stopping by and making your voice heard!



  5. Bill Carpenter

    This tribute is classic in its presentation of what the living poet owes the deceased, cast in a form that both acknowledges the debt and testifies to the living poet’s calling. (See Mallarme’s Tombeaux of Poe and Baudelaire.) Mr. Barrick credits John Whitworth with independent-mindedness, scorn for fads, and devotion to invention and craft. He thanks Mr. Whitworth for teaching him, and expresses his gratitude in formal verse, not imitative of Whitworth’s, but expressive of the living poet’s commitment. I’m sure Mr. Whitworth would have appreciated this memorial.


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