Lucy Vickery

Redoing the hokey-cokey

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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.