Telling Tales
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Telling Tales

Patience Agbabi

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eBook - ePub

Telling Tales

Patience Agbabi

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SHORTLISTED FOR THE TED HUGHES PRIZE 2015Tabard Inn to Canterb'ry Cathedral, Poet pilgrims competing for free picks, Chaucer Tales, track by track, it's the remixFrom below-the-belt base to the topnotch;I won't stop all the clocks with a stopwatchwhen the tales overrun, run offensive, or run clean out of steam, they're authenticand we're keeping it real, reminisce this: Chaucer Tales were an unfinished business.In Telling Tales award-winning poet Patience Agbabi presents an inspired 21st-Century remix of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales retelling all of the stories, from the Miller's Tale to the Wife of Bath's in her own critically acclaimed poetic style.Celebrating Chaucer's Middle-English masterwork for its performance element as well as its poetry and pilgrims, Agbabi's newest collection is utterly unique. Boisterous, funky, foul-mouthed, sublimely lyrical and bursting at the seams, Telling Tales takes one of Britain's most significant works of literature and gives it thrilling new life.

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In Chaucer’s story there are two heroes, who are practically indistinguishable from each other, and a heroine, who is merely a name.
J R Hulbert
Arc? Dead. And if you’re sniffing for his body
you won’t find nothing: ransack the Big Smoke
from Bow to Bank. Arc fell for Emily
ten feet deep … I’m Pal, Emily’s alter.
Think ego. Arc and me, we shared a cell
for months, it was a shrine to her, a temple.
I miss him, like a gun to the temple.
Too close. Two men locked in a woman’s body,
her messed-up head. When I say shared a cell
I’m talking brain. She became us. Arc smoked
the Romeos, and me, I smoked all tars,
we breathed out on her name, ah! Emily.
Blonde with blacked out highlights Emily.
Our host, the goddess. Looks are temporal.
Who reads her diagnosis? It don’t alter
the facts. She made me up to guard her body
from predators, the silhouettes in smoke.
It’s when she wears the hourglass and plays damsel,
she lets me out. It messes with their brain cells,
my voice, her face. All men want Emily,
they think they have a right. It don’t mean smoke.
She acts like growing up was Shirley Temple
and don’t remember nothing, but her body
knows what happened happened on that altar.
Think bed … Arc’s dead. Broke his parole, an alter
crazy on id, he starved us all to cancel
me out for good. It’s written off, our body.
He fought to win: I fought for Emily.
I’m dead beat, but I won up here, the temple,
the messed-up head. Sent her a ring, of smoke.
Having a big fat Romeo to smoke
don’t make you Winston Churchill. Arc was altered.
He won the war but lost the plot. The temple
became his tomb. And me, I got the damsel.
She don’t know yet. We’re stitched up, Emily,
one and the same, one rough-cut mind, one body …
Must’ve blacked out … This body ain’t no temple
but what’s the alternative, a padded cell?
Got anything to smoke? … I’m Emily …

The Kiss

Get me a pint of Southwark piss!
It all took place in a pub like this.
My tongue is black as licorice,
my tale is blue an it goes like this:
I’m just eighteen an newly wed.
My husband’s old an crap in bed,
my lover’s fit, well hung, well read,
his rival’s mad, a musclehead.
Three loves I have an two are thick:
My husband John’s a jealous prick,
the rival, Abs, thinks with his dick.
My lover’s French, il s’appelle Nick,
in his final year at Greenwich,
Engineering Astrophysics,
he’s proposed but I’m a bitch,
I’d leave my husband, but he’s rich.
A carpenter, an ‘ancient oak’
with a heart tattoo, a real bloke’s bloke,
crashed out on what he thought was coke
an fifteen pints of ale. Nick’s joke.
John owns the pub. We live upstairs
an every night he says his prayers,
while Nick, our lodger, flirts downstairs,
where Abs, our bouncer, sells his wares.
This Abs comes on to guys and girls.
He pushes weights an class A pills.
Grey eyes, blond hair with baby curls
an a bod as hard as the drugs he sells.
He buys me wine, real ales an Pimms.
He likes his women weasel slim
with eyebrows plucked till they’re pencil thin.
His gear is class: I put up with him.
But Nick’s more subtle, tweets an texts,
no kiss-me-quick with a pint of Becks.
Belle femme, je t’aime, he says, an necks
those pills Abs recommends for sex.
Three men walk into a pub like this
but only one can kiss the kiss.
What is it makes my bottle fizz?
Je ne sais quoi my arse, hear this:
What’s in a kiss? I’ll kiss an tell.
My husband’s k...

Table of contents

Citation styles for Telling Tales
APA 6 Citation
Agbabi, P. (2014). Telling Tales ([edition unavailable]). Canongate Books. Retrieved from (Original work published 2014)
Chicago Citation
Agbabi, Patience. (2014) 2014. Telling Tales. [Edition unavailable]. Canongate Books.
Harvard Citation
Agbabi, P. (2014) Telling Tales. [edition unavailable]. Canongate Books. Available at: (Accessed: 14 October 2022).
MLA 7 Citation
Agbabi, Patience. Telling Tales. [edition unavailable]. Canongate Books, 2014. Web. 14 Oct. 2022.