Not my Best Side

U.A. Fanthorpe

‘Not my Best Side’ by U. A. Fanthorpe depicts a humorous transformation of the dynamic between the characters in Paolo Uccello’s Saint George and the Dragon. 

U.A. Fanthorpe

Nationality: English

U. A. Fanthorpe was an English poet born in 1929.

She passed away in 2009 after publishing numerous poetry collections.

Key Poem Information

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Central Message: Perspective is very important in mythological dynamics.

Speaker: A dragon, a damsel, and a knight.

Emotions Evoked: Anger, Bravery

Poetic Form: Free Verse

Time Period: 20th Century

Within ‘Not my Best Side’ Fanthorpe delves into themes of humor, story-telling, and individual perspectives. The tone varies throughout, but it is always quick, funny, and detailed. Fanthorpe is able to create a lighthearted, joyful, and surprising one.  

Not my Best Side U. A. Fanthorpe

Summary of Not my Best Side 

Not my Best SideU. A. Fanthorpe is a humorous transformation of the dynamic between the characters in Paolo Uccello’s Saint George and the Dragon. 

The poem starts from the perspective of the dragon. He knows he has to be slain, as that’s in the story, but he expresses his disappointment that this particular knight, with his strange horse, is going to be the one to do it. He’s also annoyed that he wasn’t painted better or more bloodied, as if dying dramatically. He goes on to speak ill of the woman he’s supposedly wanting to eat, calling her too ugly to be edible. 

Next, the poet moves on to give the reader the woman’s perspective. Rather than feeling fear, she too is disappointed by the knight who’s come to save her. She’s actually enjoyed spending time with the dragon. She sexualizes him, speaking kindly and lustfully about his colorful scales. 

Finally, the readers get to hear from the knight. Again, the poet puts forward a perceptive that is different than what is expected. Rather than valiant and brave, the knight comes across as self-absorbed and whiny. He becomes easily frustrated with the dragon’s lack of cooperation. 

Structure of Not my Best Side

Not my Best Side’ by U. A. Fanthorpe is a three-stanza poem that’s separated into sets of nineteen lines. These lines do not follow a specific rhyme scheme or metrical pattern. This means that they are written in free verse, a technique that allows a writer greater freedom. They are released from the confines of the meter and rhyme scheme, but that doesn’t mean those things don’t appear and influence the poem. For example, half-rhyme, (along with many other techniques), appears throughout ‘Not my Best Side’. 

Half-rhyme, also known as slant or partial rhyme, is seen through the repetition of assonance or consonance. This means that either a vowel or consonant sound is reused within one line, or multiple lines of verse. For example, the use of the “r” consonant sound in line twelve of the first stanza, or “dying” and “rise” in lines sixteen and seventeen of the first stanza. 

Poetic Techniques in Not my Best Side

Fanthorpe makes use of several other poetic techniques in ‘Not my Best Side’. These include juxtaposition, alliteration, enjambment, and caesura. The first, juxtaposition is when two contrasting things are placed near one another in order to emphasize that contrast. A poet usually does this in order to emphasize a larger theme of their text or make an important point about the differences between these two things. In the case of this poem, the dragon’s, woman’s, and knight’s points of view are contrasted with one another. The first two speakers have a comically different opinion about the knight than he does about himself. 

Alliteration occurs when words are used in succession, or at least appear close together, and begin with the same letter. For example, “horse” and “honest” in line eleven of the second stanza and “beaten” and “boy” in line eighteen of that same stanza. 

Enjambment and Caesura

Another important technique commonly used in poetry is enjambment. It occurs when a line is cut off before its natural stopping point. Enjambment forces a reader down to the next line, and the next, quickly. One has to move forward in order to comfortably resolve a phrase or sentence. There are several examples within this poem, such as the transitions between lines one and two of the third stanza and eighteen and nineteen of the third stanza. 

Finally, there are examples of caesura. It occurs when a line is split in half, sometimes with punctuation, sometimes not. The use of punctuation in these moments creates a very intentional pause in the text. A reader should consider how the pause influences the rhythm of one’s reading and how it might proceed an important turn or transition in the text. For instance, the final line of the poem “You want? You’re in my way” or line three of the second stanza that reads: “Took to the dragon. It’s nice to be”. 

Analysis of Not my Best Side 

Stanza One 

Lines 1-9

Not my best side, I’m afraid.
The artist didn’t give me a chance to
Pose properly, and as you can see,
(What, after all, are two feet
To a monster?) but afterwards
I was sorry for the bad publicity.

In the first lines of ‘Not my Best Side,’ the speaker begins by utilizing the phrase that later came to be used as the title. The poem, which is based on Paolo Uccello’s painting Saint George and the Dragon, starts off from the perspective of the dragon in the painting. His words are colloquial, simple, and easy to understand. He refers first to the way he’s been depicted in the painting, stating that he’s not giving his “best side”. He admits this, then explains why that’s the case. 

Uccello chose to paint the dragon without its two front legs. This choice he made in order to create as many triangles in his painting as possible, a technique popular during the Renaissance. It harkens back to the Holy Trinity and what was at the time seen as an artistically superior way of organizing a painting. The dragon doesn’t go into so much detail though. What he says diminishes what Uccello was trying to accomplish. But, it makes sense. Today, a viewer who is unaware of the artistic “obsession with / Triangles” and why artists chose to put them into their works, would see the composition and find it strange. 

The dragon, speaking as though it was once, and somehow still is, a sentient creature, adds that he didn’t call Uccello out for this choice when he was being painted. He thought then that it wasn’t a big deal for a monster to lack two of its legs. Now though, since the painting has been finished, he thinks the subtraction makes for “bad publicity”. The enjambment in line eight of this stanza helps set the reader up for the humorous conclusion in line nine. 

Lines 10-19

Why, I said to myself, should my conqueror
Be so ostentatiously beardless, and ride
But I should have liked a little more blood
To show they were taking me seriously.

In the second half of the first stanza, Uccello’s dragon continues speaking. He turns his attention to the knight on the horse, judging him for how he looks and what it means to be slain by such a man. He speaks about the man’s lack of a beard, which should be a symbol of strength and manhood, and his very strange horse. As with the dragon, compositional choices have been made that altered the anatomy of the horse. It has “deformed” with disproportioned hoofs that are much squarer than they should be. These lines draw a reader’s and viewer’s attention to parts of the painting that one might not notice. 

Next, the dragon turns to the woman who is chained to him. Supposedly the knight is rescuing her but humorously the dragon refers to her as “inedible”. She’s so ugly he wouldn’t even want to. He also speaks on the string that attaches them. 

Last, the dragon accepts that death is his lot in life and he doesn’t mind it. He’ll die, especially since he’ll always rise again. But, he’d like there to be a “little more blood”. If present, it would signal that the painter, the storytellers, and the people in the painting were “taking [him] seriously”. 

Stanza Two 

Lines 1-9

It’s hard for a girl to be sure if
She wants to be rescued. I mean, I quite
He made me feel he was all ready to
Eat me. And any girl enjoys that.

In the next nine lines of ‘Not my Best Side’ the speaker changes. Now, Fanthorpe channels the woman in the painting. Just as with the dragon, her voice does not match the image. It comes from a very different world than the one Uccello was imagining. This juxtaposition between the past and present appears throughout the poem. 

She states that more often than not it’s hard to know if you want “to be rescued”. It’s not so simple. In fact, the girl adds, she quite likes the dragon. She was attracted to his lovely colors and his “sexy tail”. The greed in his eyes when he looked at her made her feel a way that no man had before. She likes the feeling of someone wanting to eat her. 

Lines 10-19

So when this boy turned up, wearing machinery,
On a really dangerous horse, to be honest
The dragon got himself beaten by the boy,
And a girl’s got to think of her future.

In the next lines of ‘Not my Best Side’, the girl addresses the man in the “machinery”. This is how she describes his armor. He was unattractive, his horse was dangerous, and she can’t see under his “hardware” to know if he’s interesting. There are too many unknowns associated with the man for the girl to commit to being rescued by him. He could be ugly or covered in acne. Any of these things, and more, would make her want to stay with the dragon. 

Nevertheless, she adds at the end, the dragon was slain by the “boy,” (note she doesn’t say “man”) and she needs to think about her future.

Stanza Three 

Lines 1-10

I have diplomas in Dragon
Management and Virgin Reclamation.
I’m qualified and equipped to the
Eyebrow. So why be difficult?

In the next stanza of ‘Not my Best Side’ the speaker changes for the third and final time to the man on the horse. This person shows confidence similar to that displayed by the other characters. He’s unaware that the other two have just recently made fun of his manliness and horse. In fact, he describes himself and the horse quite differently. He says that he has “diplomas in Dragon / Management and Virgin Reclamation”. This genuinely funny detail shows his bravado and starchy seriousness. 

Like a stereotypical man bragging about his knowledge, job, and his car, he speaks in detail on the “Automatic transmission” of his horse and amusingly, its “built in  / Obsolescence”. He addresses his speaker and his armor similarly, referring to the latter as “Still on the secret list”. The use of alliteration in this line help develop the rhyme of the poem. 

The knight’s words are juxtaposed with those of the dragon and girl. Both the previous speakers made fun of the knight’s looks and unapparent strengths but the knight doesn’t see them. He thinks that he’s at the top of the dragon-slaying game and no one can do better than he can “at the moment”. Consonants work to the knight’s advantage in line nine of this stanza. The repetition of the “q” sound is an interesting one and punctuates the “boy’s” speech. He asks the dragon in the last line, “why be so difficult?” He doesn’t understand why the dragon doesn’t give itself over to him easily. 

Lines 11-19

Don’t you want to be killed and/or rescued
In the most contemporary way? Don’t
What, in any case, does it matter what
You want? You’re in my way.

The last lines of ‘Not my Best Side’ convey the knight’s confusion over the dragon’s choice to push back against “the roles  / That sociology and myth have designed” for him. Shouldn’t the dragon, the speaker says, want to be killed in a new, “contemporary way?” Although the dragon does know that he has to be slain, he has a very different opinion about the knight than the knight does about himself. 

The knight becomes more frustrated, trying to convince the dragon not to make this harder than it needs to be. He thinks that he’s endangering the industries that the knight depends on. Finally, in his irritation, he tells the dragon it doesn’t really matter what he thinks and that he’s “in [the knight’s] way.” 

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Not my Best Side

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U.A. Fanthorpe (poems)

U.A. Fanthorpe

This poem stands out among the poet's work for its playful and imaginative approach to its subject matter. While many of Fanthorpe's poems deal with more somber themes, such as death and loss, "Not My Best Side" is lighthearted and satirical.
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20th Century

The poem's irony and humor are characteristic of 20th-century postmodernist literature, which sought to subvert traditional narratives and explore the constructed nature of identity and culture. But, this poem is not one of the best-known of the period.
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This unique poem takes a playful and irreverent tone toward its subject matter. It's also well known for its subversion of traditional mythological tropes. But, it is not one of the best-known poems by an English author.
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The dragon in the poem's first section expresses disappointment in their portrayal in the artwork. Later, the woman expresses her disappointment in her male rescuer.
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The poem raises questions about identity and self-presentation as each character tries to present themselves in a certain way to others. Everyone wants to be viewed differently than they are, including the dragon, who is disappointed with how he's depicted in the painting.
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This poem connects to the theme of anger as it explores the dragon's frustration and resentment towards their portrayal in art and the anger felt by the knight, who feels entitled to the damsel's affections.
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'Not My Best Side' by UA Fanthorpe touches on the theme of bravery through tknight's characterght, who is determined to rescue the damsel in distress despite facing a fearsome dragon. The poem also explores the idea of bravery as a societal expectation.
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The poem 'Not My Best Side' highlights the symbolism of dragons in mythology, particularly as powerful and dangerous creatures who are often depicted as hoarding treasure or guarding sacred places. The poem is quite humorous and uses the dragon in a way that readers are likely not going to expect.
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The poem touches on the idea of heroism and bravery, as the knight is celebrated for his ability to slay dragons and rescue damsels in distress.
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The poem subverts traditional mythology about dragons and knights, highlighting how these stories can be inaccurate or unfair.
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The poem subverts traditional mythological narratives by reimagining the perspectives of the dragon, the woman, and the knight, transforming them from archetypal symbols into complex and multifaceted characters.
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Women's Strength

There is currently no rating for the tag of Women's Strength.
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Free Verse

This poem by UA Fanthorpe is in free verse, which means it does not conform to a specific rhyme scheme or meter pattern. The poet's use of free verse allows for a more conversational tone and creates a sense of spontaneity.
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Emma Baldwin Poetry Expert
Emma graduated from East Carolina University with a BA in English, minor in Creative Writing, BFA in Fine Art, and BA in Art Histories. Literature is one of her greatest passions which she pursues through analyzing poetry on Poem Analysis.

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