So Glad We Agree

So Glad We Agree

This week’s choice is “You Will Be Hearing From Us Shortly” by U.A. Fanthorpe, which evokes the feeling of a hostile job interview.

We are conscious ourselves
Of the need for a candidate with precisely
The right degree of immaturity.

                                                              So glad we agree

U.A. Fanthorpe (1929—2009)

Poem 210. You Will Be Hearing From Us Shortly

You feel adequate to the demands of this position?
What qualities do you feel you
Personally have to offer?
Let us consider your application form.
Your qualifications, though impressive, are
Not, we must admit, precisely what
We had in mind. Would you care
To defend their relevance?
Now your age. Perhaps you feel able
To make your own comment about that,
Too? We are conscious ourselves
Of the need for a candidate with precisely
The right degree of immaturity.
                                                              So glad we agree
And now a delicate matter: your looks
You do appreciate this work involves
Contact with the actual public? Might they,
Perhaps, find your appearance
                                                              Quite so
And your accent. That is the way
You have always spoken, is it? What
Of your education? Were
You educated? We mean, of course,
Where were you educated?
             And how
Much of a handicap is that to you,
Would you say?
               Married, children,
We see. The usual dubious
Desire to perpetuate what had better
Not have happened at all. We do not
Ask what domestic disasters shimmer
Behind that vaguely unsuitable address.
And you were born—?
                                                              Yes. Pity.
So glad we agree.

This free verse poem tells us about a nightmarish job interview where the interviewer has no interest in the talents or skills of their victim whose experiences are never going to satisfy their sadistic interlocuter.

The interview is a monologue—we hear only the supercilious commentary of the interviewer but that is enough to form an opinion of the kind of person they are (and perhaps the kind of organisation they work for).

The interviewer starts with mild incivility as they offhandedly ask about the candidate’s suitability for the role, marking dissatisfaction with a simple “Ah”. They then attack their victim’s qualifications, forcing him or her to explain how they fit them for the role in question, concluding this stanza with “Indeed”, conveying a kind of weary acceptance of the explanation.

From the third stanza onward, the interviewer becomes more and more personal, attacking the applicant’s age, appearance and speech—this last provides the breath-taking “Were/you educated? We mean, of course,/Where were you educated?”

The final stanzas cover the candidate’s marital situation, casting aspersions on their fitness for family life, and their “vaguely unsuitable” home address before wrapping up by implying that the victim’s place of birth is completely inappropriate.

I like this poem but it is hard to say quite why. I suppose it is because it is a skilful lampoon, an excoriation of an apparently sociopathic individual enjoying their moment of power over another.  The interjections at the end of each stanza really provide the sting to the query expressed in the preceding lines so that the poem continuously builds its impression of antipathy.

I firmly believe that Ursula Fanthorpe endured similar interviews more than once in her lifetime and executed her revenge in this little gem.