Week 528: Office Party, by Alan Brownjohn

This week a very funny seasonal poem. Well, I say funny – really it’s a bit sad and possibly I shouldn’t laugh, but it does capture rather brilliantly the horrors that we inflict on ourselves in the name of jollification, in this case the annual office party. Ah, Alan, did you learn nothing from Larkin’s ‘Vers de Sociėtė’?

Office Party

We were throwing out small talk
On the smoke-weary air,
When the girl with the squeaker
Came passing each chair.

She was wearing a white dress,
Her paper-hat was a blue
Crown with a red tassel
And to every man who

Glanced up at her, she leant over
And blew down the hole,
So the squeaker inflated
And began to unroll.

She stopped them all talking
With this trickery,
And she didn’t leave out anyone
Until she came to me.

I looked up and she met me
With a half-teasing eye
And she took a mild breath and
Went carefully by,

And with cold concentration
To the next man she went,
And squawked out the instrument
To its fullest extent.

And whether she passed me
Thinking that it would show
Too much favour to mock me
I never did know –

Or whether her withholding
Was her cruelty,
And it was that she despised me,
I couldn’t quite see –

So it could have been discretion
And it could have been disgust
But it was quite unequivocal,
And suffer it I must:

All I know was: she passed me,
Which I did not expect
– And I’d never so craved for
Some crude disrespect.

Alan Brownjohn

Postscript: So why did the young woman pass him by? When I first read the poem, my initial theory was that she instinctively felt it would be wrong to violate the aura of quiet dignity that I liked to think surrounded poets. This theory did not survive contact with poets.

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4 thoughts on “Week 528: Office Party, by Alan Brownjohn

  1. I like this one. I have seen it before, I think it was in “British Poetry Since 1945”. It’s very relatable. Our annual office party is next week and we’re being allowed one mince pie and one glass of wine each – lavish!

  2. Eewww! HOW excruciatingly painful!
    I’m nearer 70 than 60, been married almost 45 years and STILL that would stop me in my tracks and precipitate the downward spiral of self-doubt and unworthiness…
    Love your postscript, though

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