Williams is fairly reclusive these days, but his position as a cultural terrorist and unappeased hippie intellectual remains intact. And these wonderful poems – funny, bright, touching, merciless – seize on political absurdity, planetary destruction and social injustice with relish and delight, as well as great erudition and verbal dexterity.
Here is an explanation why duplicity reigns in Downing Street: it’s in the fabric, the very name, of the building. Two thousand pranksters walk invisible dogs (no carbon paw print). The first flash mob in Rome (in 2003) asks for non-existent books, and releases them.
All bikes are weapons running on empty, no-one feels unhappy on one, Einstein thought up his theory of relativity while riding one, and the Grateful Dead say they are better than guitars for picking up girls.
Hutchins, tall and lean, with the chiselled good looks of a film star, is a deceptive interpreter, hiding a fist in a velvet glove. He bares his teeth when he smiles, then he bites your head off. He is a tremendous advocate of poetry that should be much better known than it is.
Thoreau, another recluse, said that you don’t have to go round the world to count the cats in Zanzibar. You can buy a postcard of them. Williams detonates this idea in the wittiest of diatribes against air travel.
He reasserts the life of the soul, the journey of the mind. And when somebody dies, they stick around, too: “When you lose somebody you love, you gain an angel you know.” Brilliant, and true.