A Life Of Fiction LXIX

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: Elsewhere on this site there are a few examples of my poetry. But I am not sure if I have explained, really, why I still feel a need to produce verse; or what sort of poetry I attempt to write. In this article I will attempt to concentrate on my doggerel. I have written about my novels enough, for a while.

I first tried to create poetry when I was at school, in English Literature lessons, when we studied poetry. We had a collection of poems called A Choice Of Poets, which featured poems from the likes of William Blake, John Keats, R S Thomas, T S Eliot, and others.

The first poems which I wrote, while at school, were not very good. I bought a fifty page notebook and filled it with some very bad verse, borrowing a rhyming dictionary from the local library. I don’t have any of that juvenilia, any more. I think that I threw the notebook away years ago. Or perhaps I burned it. It is possible that I tore the pages out one by one and fed them into my open fire.

It is no great loss. By destroying that notebook I have saved the world from some poems which would have made Vogon verse look good. Anyway, if any of those poems were any good then I should have been able to remember them – and one poem did, in fact, survive the conflagration by being able to stick in my mind. I rewrote that survivor years later.

Those poems really were bad. They did not scan properly, and the rhythm was all over the place. And there was no soul in them. They were intellectual exercises, nothing more than that.

Years after I left my sixth form college – years after I destroyed my juvenilia – I began trying to write poetry, or poesy, once more. I’m not sure exactly why I began to write poetry again, apart from the fact that it was around the time when I began to have dreams of becoming a writer.

Perhaps there was an emotional need for me to write verse. I find that when I am depressed, or upset about something, that I am far more likely to write verse than at other times. So this is poetry as a form of therapy, I guess. It is a way of getting bad stuff out of my system.

It usually takes me less time to write a poem than to complete a short story or to write a novel. I still like that feeling, that sense of completion, when you finish writing something. I guess that is another reason why I write poetry, although it is a minor reason.

Then, lastly, there is the hope that people will read my poetry and like it, even if a lot of it is very depressing. I want to entertain people. I want them to read my poetry and for it to have some meaning for them, as well. Yes, I write for myself, but every author, surely, wants the public to read their work.

That is why I write poetry. Now, I think, it is time to look at one of the many poems which I have written. It is time to look at one from when I first began to write poetry again. A lot of those poems featured in the collection Dead Bird Song.

I have already featured one poem from Dead Bird Song on my site: the poem Mirror Deep, which can be found on the page On My Poetry II. Here is another one from that collection:

 

Tracks

 

The tracks are now long gone

Where once were the rails

There are now woodland trails

The world moves ever on.

 

Rabbits scurry through the grass

Over where the ballast lay

Some bits remain, to this day,

But the glory days are past.

 

Thunderous steam will not redeem

The legacy of the railway dream.

 

That was Tracks. I write that poem back when I was still working on the railway. I wrote it about a walk I had out in the country, once, where there used to be a railway line, but where it had been closed down and ripped up thanks to Beeching, and little sign remained that there ever used to be a railway line there.

I don’t like Beeching, and his changes to what was then British Rail. They were extremely short-sighted, and did not take any account of possible population changes in the future, with small towns growing up into much larger ones. A lot of the places closed down under his cuts could really do with a railway service now.

Although that is the way that I feel by the loss of railway lines I am not some romantic in relation to railway history. I used to know people who would spend time on steam trains, on heritage railways such as the Severn Valley. While I have nothing against these blasts from the past, they are not exactly going to save the railway, are they?

 

Sorry. I got a bit sidetracked there. But the point about poetry is that it should mean something to the poet. It must not just be a mere collection of words. I try to make sure that I have some sort of emotional connection to the words which I put on the page. The poem featured above is just one example.

I used to try to have all of my poetry have some sort of rhyme, back when I began writing poetry again. I am not a massive fan of blank verse, although I have written my fair share. to tell you the truth, I am not really a fan of any poetry written later than the early twentieth century. The last poets whose works I ‘get’ are Auden and Eliot. My all time favourite poet is William Blake. So a lot of the poetry which I write is old-fashioned: I don’t think that I would ever be picked up by a publisher such as Bloodaxe, for example.

I was taught to appreciate rhyme, and structure as well. I am simply not that great at it, though. But I think that, even if you don’t like William Blake or Alfred Lord Tennyson, you should still study their works, at least initially. I believe that it is important to have a sold understanding of the rules and structure of verse, before you go around ignoring or breaking those rules. At the very least you may pick up some ideas which will help you with your poetry.

Meter, for example, can be used to provide an effect, even if you don’t have a rhyme at the end of each line. A line of iambic pentameter – ten syllables, with the stress on the even syllables – is, perhaps, the most used meter in verse. Example:

I walk alone through fields and hills and woods

   You could have a whole poem like that, with the stress on the even syllables, and it will be like so much poetry which has gone before. But what if, say, you introduce an element of some other meter, or no meter at all? You will suddenly have a jarring element, one seemingly out of place in comparison to the rest of the verse. But you can use this anti-rhythm to dhow order breaking down into chaos, or just to draw the reader’s attention to some particular point.

That is enough on poetry for the moment. I will return to this subject in a few posts time.

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