A Life Of Fiction XXXIV

For those of you new to this WordPress site, this site is about me and my writing – and a little about my role-playing, as well. It gives readers a chance to sample my work before purchasing it on the Kindle store; and gives me the chance to say a little about the genesis of each novel, or about the process of writing in general.

On Poetry: I am not the best poet in the world, despite the fact that I have had my poetry featured in some small press publications. Most have turned me down, however, and I can understand that, as my poetry is probably not modern enough. I read what passes for modern poetry, and I am not that impressed by it, compared to somebody like William Blake.

I am not trying to criticise modern poets. I am sure that they are all incredibly talented, and I have a couple of collections of stuff by Carol Ann Duffy, the current British poet laureate. But the modernist style does not appeal to me as much as some of the poets of the past. I understand that poetry has to move on. But is it necessarily moving in the correct direction? Sometimes I long to turn the clock back, to the time of William Blake and John Keats and Percy Shelley. I know how good modern poets are with words – with the use of simile and description and so on. But sometimes I also long for meter and rhyme (and you can call me a hypocrite, as I have written plenty of poems which don’t feature either).

Here is a very famous extract from Eloisa to Abelard, by Alexander Pope, to illustrate the sort of poetry which I like (as the poem was published in 1717, I’m guessing that it’s well out of copyright by now). The full poem goes on for 366 lines.

How happy is the blameless Vestal’s lot!

The world forgetting, by the world forgot.

Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind

Each prayer accepted, and each wish resigned.

I write poetry not for other people, but for myself. I find that it calms me down; and that, while working, it soothes away a lot of my mental troubles: poetry as medication. A lot of the poetry which I write at my most depressed is terrible, emotional stuff. But at least it excises those dark emotions out of my system.

I tend to write poetry while at some tavern, usually waiting for my friends to arrive. I always carry a notebook with me, so that I can jot down any ideas which I have. I have a lot of unfinished poems: just the odd line which has come to me, and which I hope to build some poem around. But, more often than not, all that I am left with is that couplet.

I have tried to give up writing poetry several times, saying this much, and no more. Each collection, I tell myself, will be the last, as I feel that most of the poetry which I produce now is not of the calibre of my early work. But I still find myself being compelled to write the odd bit of verse, even if I have definitely slowed down in recent years.

I find myself drawn to the Japanese form known as the haiku quite a bit. The haiku, for those who don’t know (and I’m certain that most of you do), is a very sort poem, of three lines and seventeen syllables; five, seven, and five syllables. This form came to prominence during the Tokugawa Shogunate. The writer Basho was considered to be a master of the form. Haikus tend to be impressionistic in form, because of their short length, suggesting a mere fragment in time.

Haikus often invoke one of the seasons. I have spent a lot of time trying to get a haiku just right. I have some from years ago which I have not published simply because I don’t think they are good enough. Yes, you can reel off seventeen syllables quickly enough. But I want everything which I do to be the best thing of which I am capable. Better to leave something, and come back to it at a later date, than to sign off something which you are not happy with. With each haiku I write I want the whole to transcend the substance of those three lines.

I am currently working on a collection called Whispers and Vespers. By working on it I mean that when I have something approaching a finished piece of verse that is where I put it. At some stage I will presumably have enough product in it to release it to the world via the Amazon Kindle store, my current method of releasing material to the masses. I have no idea when that collection will be finished, however, as it is something which I am only passively working on. I might write to poems in a week, and then write no verse for another month or so. But, eventually, I guess that it will be complete.

I will sign off for this post with one of the poems from Whispers and Vespers. When it is complete I will post a page with a few more samples of the verse. But here is the poem:

Bored Student

Dissecting similes like pulling wings off flies

The bored poetry student draws squiggles

In the margins of Carol Ann Duffy.

He likes her verse, but the lesson is stuffy

And his unchallenged intellect wriggles,

Wishing to be outside, under blue skies.

No one should have to learn when skies are blue

And the sap rises in him and tree alike

And he would rather be a doer than a thinker

Some eighteenth century wandering tinker

Or some nineteen thirties Liverpudlian tyke

With nothing but tricks and japes to do.

He’d wander from town to town, girl to girl

And entrance them with his plebeian charms

Until they gave him entrance to their hearts

And to other, lower, fleshy parts

And he could lie within their arms

Droit de seigneur of a peasant earl.

The teacher’s writing on the white board

This would-be roué is returned to school

Away from his imagined misadventures

And back to metaphors and teacher’s dentures

He sighs, and pretends to be a studious fool

Smiling so that teach does not feel ignored.

But Don Juan of Cloud Cuckoo Land

Does not realise how much he’s learned

All this food to feed his mental meanderings

His imaginary, soulful wanderings.

He will do his homework essay tonight

No longer bored, but transposed to delight.

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