Friday, September 19, 2014

Poetry: what is it? Buggered if I know. Then there is a sad, sad tale: my comments on the Scottish referendum are lost forever. And a cheap solution to an eternally pressing problem

For a man of my pretensions, it is hugely embarrassing to admit that ‘poetry’, or at least, modern poetry, not only passes me by, but leaves me pretty much stone-cold. It is to me a closed book, and going on what I hear on the radio not one I exactly want to open at any time soon.

Admittedly, I haven’t read that much poetry. In fact, even that apparently candid admission rather overstates the case. I have, actually, read very, very, very little. Of what I have read, I am more attracted to the ‘verse’ of, for example, Shakespeare, the Metaphysical Poets, Alexander Pope and one or two other, all those who wrote several centuries ago who knew what to do with rhythm and metre more than some of the stuff I’ve heard on the radio. But this is a difficult topic and I am I really danger of making myself look very ridiculous. And even what I have just written might give the impression that I am just being modest. I’m not. I’m just very badly read.

Of more modern poetry, what I have heard by Dylan Thomas I like very much. But then Dylan was fascinated by words, their sound and their import. Then there were the poems I have come across - more or less by chance, which is a shaming admission for a chap who ‘read’ English at university - by Philip Larkin and several others. A few years ago I bought a volume of poems by Seamus Heaney and got a slight inkling of what poetry just might be. But still it passed and passes me by.

But what about the ‘Great War Poets, Ted Hughes, and various other names with which I am so familiar and can’t remember one? Well, I’m sorry to say they, too, just pass me by, especially Ted Hughes. I hear them, am told the are ‘good’, and then quietly wonder exactly why they are good as opposed to ordinary. Dear reader, I don’t have a clue.

Then there’s the recent, as in the past 30 years, tendency to accept that a ‘poem’ is ‘good’ if the ‘poet’ is speaking from the heart. End of story. Well, up to a point, Lord Copper. All too often is strikes me as nothing but ineffably trite sentiment written in prose, then chopped up into lines and verses. The trouble is that we can no longer say so.

These days we are supposed to genuflect before such work merely because it is ‘personal’. For some very, very odd reason a ‘poem’ is supposed to be special, and we are somehow expected to revere a ‘poem’ because it is someone ‘baring their soul’. Well, crap on me, sunshine. Not in my neck of the woods. I’ll give everyone - everyone - the respect and space they deserve, but I’m not about to bullshit myself for the sake of ‘form’. Come one, poems aren’t ‘special’ just because they are ‘poems’ however much the folk on radio want to tell you they are. And almost always the ‘modern’ poetry I hear is nothing but horribly trite shite.

However, all that notwithstanding, I have thought and wondered about ‘poetry’ quite a bit and decided that what attracts me is the sound of it. When I hear ‘poems’ read, it always seems to be in a pseudo reverential tone. (Incidentally, actors, who are nothing more than paid hands hired to read something, always make a far better fist of reading a poem than the bloody poet themselves, who read it in an irritating monotone and don’t for a moment seem to understand their own work.)

It’s as though the ‘poetry’ which does attract me is more that which gets closer to music and is less of the ‘me, me, me’ which so pisses me off. Face it: there are now several billions ‘me’s in the world and each of them is interested in the one ‘me’ - themselves - and not in you. At the heart of it your ‘me’ can get to fuck because it rather crowds the ground for my ‘me’. So as far as I can see making poetry more attractive to the majority by emphasising its musical qualities seems, to me at least, a way forward.

Below is my first - as in most recent since the days when I was a callow 19-year-old fuckwit - poem. Driving home from London on a Wednesday night after supping, usually, two and a half pints of cider, I have come to wonder whether I, too, my not try my hand at this ‘ere poetry lark. But it is most certainly about me (although, in a sense, it is in that it describes my bias).

To be honest I have no idea
what poetry might be
 unless good music plays its part.

And those of us who know that rhythm,
rhythmic excellence,
the omega and alpha of all
that sound might hold,
feel and sense that meaning
is but nothing
but the trite and boring
subterfuge lesser muses,
(keen to hold their own)
enrol to tarn their modesty,
and lose for it all love, respect and interest.

By all means tell me all your secrets,
and by all means join in the noise
and banality of life.

But don’t, don’t ever, don’t,
don’t ever try to persuade me
that they are any more vital and important than
the noise and banality of the secrets
of one, ten, twenty billion other souls
with whom you share this world.

But by all means try.

. . .

Before posting the above I spent about an hour writing an entry about yesterday’s independence referendum in Scotland. But, in all the technical shenanigans of posting these entries I bloody deleted it all. It is now unrecoverable. So: either breathe again or reflect that several pearls of wisdom have been lost forever, because I really can’t be arsed re-writing it. I might be at some point in the future, but don’t hold your breath.

. . .

One last thing: I have now got to the age where I can’t even fart without wearing a pair of reading glasses, and there’s the rub. I could go to an optician and be tested for a bespoke pair. Or I can, and have been, buying two for £2.50 at Asda.

Actually, because I keep losing them I have been buying many pairs, and keep at least one pair everywhere - in the car, in each of my jackets, in my computer bag, in my other computer bag, upstairs in our bedroom, downstairs in the kitchen, in the living room next to the computer, everywhere, in fact, where fate and my life might take me. It is a simple solution to a bloody irritating problem: where are my reading glasses? Doesn’t matter, cos there’s another pair here.

The good news is that Tesco, who are going downhill fast have been up to all kinds of tricks to get the punters back through their doors. And one of those is to offer selected items at just £1. So the other day I bought a bottle of HP Sauce, usual price £19.99, for just £1, ditto a jar of Hellman’s Mayonnaise and, joy of joys, three pairs of reading glasses, again at just £1 each. I thought I’d share that with you.

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