Pinter, Poetry, and the Post

From today’s Washington Post:

“Why did 15 people gather in Istanbul the day of the murder? Who did these people receive orders from?” he asked. “Why was the consulate opened not immediately, but days later, for investigation? When the murder was obvious, why were inconsistent explanations given?”

“Why is the body still not found?”

From Harold Pinter, “Death,” (1997)

Where was the dead body found?
Who found the dead body?
Was the dead body dead when found?
How was the dead body found?

Who was the dead body?

Who was the father or daughter or brother
Or uncle or sister or mother or son
Of the dead and abandoned body?

Was the body dead when abandoned?
Was the body abandoned?
By whom had it been abandoned?

Was the dead body naked or dressed for a journey?

What made you declare the dead body dead?
Did you declare the dead body dead?
How well did you know the dead body?
How did you know the dead body was dead?

Did you wash the dead body
Did you close both its eyes
Did you bury the body
Did you leave it abandoned
Did you kiss the dead body

People made fun of this poem when it came out, made fun of it afterwards, too, when he cited it in his Nobel lecture. TLS says “The poem verges on nonsense verse (“How did you know the dead body was dead?”), but the suggestion of humour is dismissed by the sombre, unpunctuated final lines.” I have never thought this poem was nonsense and I have no idea why anyone else did. It always seemed – like so much ‘stylized’ work – absolute and utter realism to me.