More about poetry and its tendency to suck

So, now it’s Wednesday October 21st 2015.

Over ten years ago, at the end of March 2005, I wrote the following piece. I found it in the same notebook as the last piece on here about poetry – Poetry Sucks which was written at the beginning of the same month. I guess the posts are related because I must have been thinking along those lines for the whole month but there was no deliberate link, so it’s a coincidence that the article I read reinforced the conclusions I’d come to weeks earlier.

so here it is:

Monday March 28th 2005

It’s 3 days after my brother’s birthday and I’ve forgotten to send him a card or anything. This has (apparently?) got nothing to do with poetry but I have been thinking more about the thing.

I read an article in some English academic magazine / journal kind of thing about how to study the poetry of Carol Ann Duffy – it went on about how hard it was to study a living poet because while the poet is still alive it’s hard to put them and their work into the context of their lives and the places and times in which they lived.

It seems that to properly study poetry you have to know as much about the poet as possible so that you can form the ‘correct’ contextual opinion of it.

Anyway, according to this learned academic article, it’s all about getting pleasure from de constructing a poem (making yourself feel like a clever dick then).

So, the poet takes all this time building this elaborate machine out of words / syllables / rhythm / rhymes / references / content – whatever, and then the reader takes it apart and pronounces with authority on all its elements. (Clever Dick again then).

So, now I think I finally understand what all the fuss is about poetry: –

So, with that in mind perhaps I’ll try and write a ‘real’ poem just to prove I can.

Here we go


Wooden seed contains the tree of life’s
Essential fruit ensuring certain death.
The bite that unsheathed time’s sharp-bladed knife,
Cut off humanity, left us bereft.
To Cox’s, Braeburns, Bramley apple pies,
Genuflecting to scientists’ whims
Alar, phosphates and insect-killing sighs,
Genetic changes, false gods, crazy things.
The end of all we know’s in sight again,
Where, when and then and now and all is past,
When love and death and life come to an end.
There you and I will be as one at last.
 – But while we strive to bear the stench of bliss,
  – My breath is coruscated by your kiss.

OK, I cheated – this is a poem from my forthcoming collection The Words in Me, Second Edition, and was probably written over 15 years ago in a deliberate attempt to write a technically sound sonnet, or more accurately what is termed by the aforementioned academics as an English (or Shakespearian) Sonnet. There’s various ‘rules’ about rhyming and structure but I won’t go into all that now, it’s all on the Internet if you want to know more.

So, let’s examine my sonnet Coruscation and see if it complies to the definition of poetry that I discovered earlier.

What are the elements again?

  1. Coded language

Yeah, take the first 4 lines: What do you think they are about? I’m not pretending it’s difficult and I’m not really trying to bamboozle anyone. Line by line – the first line ‘Wooden seed contains the tree of life’s’ – it’s just about an apple pip and its potential.

The second line is a reference to the story of Adam and Eve in the bible , i.e. eating the fruit leads to God chucking them out of the Garden of Eden and they become mortal.

The third line ‘The bite that unsheathed time’s sharp-bladed knife’ biting the apple started time, i.e. mortality again.

And the fourth line, or the last line in the first quatrain if you want to get technical. ‘Cut off humanity, left us bereft’ – we, i.e. humanity are disconnected from God and we are lost and adrift in a dark cruel universe.

The poem has also got rhyme – e.g. life – knife, death – bereft, and rhythm – i.e. it’s all written in iambic pentameter (sort of), i.e. each line has 5 steps (feet) of 2 syllables

There’s a lot more I could say but that’s enough to prove that what I’ve written is a proper poem – just as proper as any other poem you can read.

OK, it’s never going to rival Shakespeare’s sonnets in popularity but that has probably got more to do with the other side of poetry – the peer-reviewed academic bit.

I can’t think of anything else to say about poetry – it is what it is – no big deal, it’s just words.



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