Competition

Redoing the hokey-cokey

10 August 2019

9:00 AM

10 August 2019

9:00 AM

In Competition No. 3110 you were invited to provide a version of the hokey-cokey filtered through the pen of a well-known writer.
 
Thanks to George Simmers and C. Paul Evans, I now know that doing the hokey–cokey — said by some to have been composed by Puritans in the 18th century to mock the Catholic mass — could constitute a hate crime. Mr Evans weaved this into his amusing take on Kipling’s ‘If’. Equally enjoyable were reworkings by D.A. Prince, David Silver-man and John O’Byrne of Henry Reed’s ‘Naming of Parts’ (‘Today we have shaking of parts…’) and Walt Whitman’s ‘Song of My Self–Humiliation’, courtesy of Mark McDonnell. There was so much to admire. How I hummed and hawed before settling on the six below, who earn £25 each.
 

Out on the dance-floor, the clock at ten-twenty,
We dance to a rag-time, or is it a waltz?
My feet are flirtatious, but no cognoscenti,
And I lose the first set, scoring two double faults.
 
But oh! the conductor! He straightens his baton
And taps out a rhythm that gladdens my thighs,
As we fish with our left arms, and, following pattern,
Retrieve them, and swivel, but never capsize.
 
Oh hokey, oh cokey, with part-genuflection,
Extending our triceps with vim and abandon!
Now for the right arm, and forward direction,
And back, and so careful there’s no one to stand on.
 
The left leg and right leg take turns, with a flourish,
Before the whole person hurls forth with a shout,
And now I’ve a partner with needs I must nourish,
For that’s what the dancing is really about.
Bill Greenwell / John Betjeman
 
If you can join a group at merry-making
And lose your inhibitions for a while,
Can dance around and copy all their shaking,
And make each foolish gesture with a smile.
Swing each leg in and out and wildly shake it,
Then do the same odd movements with your arms,
Go wrong, be ridiculed, and simply take it,
And carry on, dismissing all your qualms.
 
If you can watch your mother let her hair down
And hear the shy and reticent all shout,
Not bother whether this is high- or lowdown
Just clap and yell: ‘That’s what it’s all about!’
If you can sing out ‘rah, rah’, loud and hearty,
Can sound as if you’re really having fun,
Then you have grasped the spirit of the party —
And you’ll have done the Hokey-Cokey, son.
Alanna Blake / Rudyard Kipling
 
Do not go gentle. Drink till you are tight
And do the hokey-cokey. Seize the day!
Barge like a bull before you say goodnight.
 
Then wave your arms and legs with all your might.
Turn dizzy like a little child at play.
Do not go gentle. Drink till you are tight.
 
Shake, shake like mad to put all pain to flight.
Lunge out at life though you are old and grey.
Barge like a bull before you say goodnight.
 
Just do the hokey-cokey. Show some fight.
That’s what life’s all about the sages say.
Do not go gentle. Drink till you are tight.
 
To dance a final dance while still upright
The hokey-cokey is the only way.
Do not go gentle. Drink till you are tight.
Barge like a bull before you say goodnight.
Max Ross / Dylan Thomas
 
I can but pass opinion as observer
Upon my fellow-man’s obsessive fervour.
I see him put his left arm in, then out,
Then shake this lesser member all about
Before indulging in a lewd contortion
Better unspecified, out of proportion
To the one-armed extension, which the wight
Again performs, though this time with his right.
And now his legs, each thrust into the middle
And, in between, that strange and secret twiddle
Until, at last, his whole self he entrusts
To the all-powerful Terpsichorean lusts
And I can scarce contain a joyful shout —
This, I contend, is what it’s all about.
This is no reasoned action but a whim
Born of inebriation. Good for him!
Ann Drysdale / John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester
 
Nothing is so dear and deft as dance —
When, in a ring, folk flock and fleetly fling
First left arms to the fore, then back they bring
These lively limbs, reforming at a glance
A seemly circle ere they all advance
Thrice more to shake and shimmy in the ring,
And chanting, child-like, ‘in-out, in-out’, sing,
While to and fro in wild delight they prance.
 
What is all this fling and all this flair?
A ritual romp, a friendly frolic, free
From clinging cloud and cloy, concern and care,
Whose crowning ‘ra-ra-ra’ in gladsome glee
And raucous rapture rises like a prayer
To holy Him, the fount of ecstasy.
Alan Millard / Gerard Manley Hopkins
 
1) The hokey-cokey is all that is the case.
2) The hokey-cokey is the totality of positions, not of things.
3) What is the case — the hokey-cokey — is the existence of the position of things.
3.1) It is not right-ness, leg-ness or whole-self-ness, but in-ness, out-ness and shaken-all-about-ness that is the hokey-cokey.
4) A thought is a picture of the position of things in the hokey-cokey.
5) The world and the hokey-cokey are one.
6) To view the hokey-cokey sub specie eternitatis — to take your whole self out — that is what it means to be mystical.
6.1) That is what it is all about.
7) Whereof we cannot speak we must pass over in silence.
Nick MacKinnon / Ludwig Wittgenstein

 

No. 3113: initial impression

You are invited to submit an acrostic poem about a politician (alive or dead) in which the first letter of each line spells the name of that politician. Email entries of up to 16 lines to lucy@spectator.co.uk by midday on 21 August.

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