Q&A: Felix Dennis, Man of Many Words

Felix Dennis, the British publishing juggernaut behind Maxim and Blender, has never been shy about his love of women. And last spring, he revealed a crack habit that cost £1,500 a day before he destroyed his paraphernalia in 1998. But now a new passion is keeping him up at night: writing verse. His first collection of 200 poems, A Glass Half Full, has been released in the U.K., and Dennis is promoting it on a book tour called “Did I Mention the Free Wine?”

Six hundred pounds. It’s a lunatic advance – probably the least ever paid to a poet.

One hundred thousand quid. I’m traveling by helicopter to places like Glasgow and Grimsby. I insist on two pilots, and two engines, so nothing can go wrong! I’m serving some very nice wines, like Château Margaux. I’m also offering a free holiday in Mandalay [Dennis’s palatial home on Mustique] to the booksellers with the best window display.

Look, when you walk into a bookshop with twenty books of poetry, they say, “I don’t care what you do with those, just don’t leave them here.” It would be better if you were selling Pig Farming for Gay Couples. It’s like Esquire magazine. People don’t buy it because they don’t like it. I want to prove that if you write in strict meter and rhyme about subjects people care about, they will buy poetry.

It’s very, very good. But probably all poets think that. I write about old dogs and why people love them, in simple couplets. Then I write more serious sonnets and sestinas – “White Vase” is a villanelle about the death of Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun.

Very bad reviews indeed.

Excerpt from “Snakeskin Boots [Harrow-on-the-Hill 1964]”

I remember the lids of her eyes as we kissed,
I remember the shock of a gentle slap
As she hissed ‘Not here!’ and circled my wrist
When I fumbled the catch of her brassiere strap.

I remember it rained as we raced for a fuck
To my room. I remember we tore off our clothes
Except for my boot where the zip had stuck –
And her poached-egg breasts, I remember those.

I remember we tumbled both half insane
On the bed, and the arch of her back as I came.
I remember we did it again and again,
And we screamed….
….but I cannot remember her name!

Q&A: Felix Dennis, Man of Many Words