Must not lie back on the poems I’ve written, Those sonnets and couplets are all in the past – Thoughts from a week ago, month ago, years, Thoughts of their moment, but never my last. Haven’t I changed since, even a little bit ? Diff’rently conscious, evolving, hard-won. Got to keep writing, keep feeling, keep living, For what good’s a poet who thinks their work done ?
Cats crop up in poetry Like they do in neighbours’ kitchens, But when it’s time for serious, They’re nowhere near to pitch in. They haven’t time for heavy metaphor Or mopey musing – And earnest stream-of-consciousness Will send them straight to snoozing. But crack a smile and shake some wit, Or balladeer some derring-do, And lapping up the limericks, Here comes the kitty-crew: Pepperpot and Sootikin, The tyger tyger in the hat, Macavity and Pangur Ban, The owl-loving pussycat, In nurseries and nightclubs, In the scary and absurd, We’re sure to stumble over them Wherever words are purred.
One more tot and then I’ll start – My pen’s uncapped and primed, Indeed it’s been that way all afternoon. I know my almanac by heart, With beats precisely timed And metric feet to dance to ev’ry tune. It lays it out by grid and chart Of syllables that chime, By trochees by the phases of the Moon. But writing’s such a thirsty art, Especially when it’s rhymed – But one more tot and I’ll be starting soon.
Bloodaxe Books are publishers of poetry – And what a name ! As though these are the sagas of berserkers Seeking Thor and fame, For telling down the trestles of the feasting hall From lord to knight, Or singing by the troubadours to mistresses By candlelight. Odes to ale and hymns to war, And saucy wenches by the score – To lustily recount and roar, And ready for a fight. Or razor-sharp in their attacks, From broadside blasts to cutting hacks – Their impish imprint swings the axe To let their verses bite.
All my teenage years I sought For such a name – Till, furnace-wrought, it came !
Not for them, one conjures, the namby-pamby Hearts on sleeves – Nor whinging confessionals, Or whimsies to the Autumn leaves – No, these are the words of men of action, And dames of destiny, To stir my loins and quick my heart And never rest in me. Yet much of what they print is dry – Their blade is dull, their name a lie – A rubber-and-ketchup alibi That’s sorely testing me. So spare me flabby free-verse faff, And mopey milksops full of chaff – I need good craic to blow the gaff And hone the best of me.
I guess what they do has its place, But all the same, It’s such a waste of a name…
Street, white, hand, song – No rhymes there, best move along. Roots, come, page, near – Shan’t be lurking long ’round here. Found, sharp, luck, role – Nothing there to lurch my soul. Pen, sighed, when, tide – Go on then, I’ll take a ride.
Poets: we’re never too subtle or shy – We’re big on the drama, on even the small days. The all-knowing pen of the all-seeing I, In the first-person first, and last, and always. With a couchful of angst and a sleeveful of heart, We splinter all meaning, we trample all art – For we are the masters of words, And are well-worth the fuss. Depend upon it, from old boy to upstart – For all of our sonnets to lovers and birds, Our verses are all about us.
Enjambment – it’s a nasty little habit That’s likely to derail the locomotion of your meter – For lines that run-away are sure to rabbit, So prose may ride expresses, but the slow train sounds the sweeter.
Yet another poem about poetry, but at least it’s short. I’ve always been puzzled by where modern poets choose to break their lines, particularly as when they read it out, there’s often no pause whatsoever between the lines. The verb ‘to rabbit’ is used here in its cockney sense meaning to chatter – nothing to do with running, except the mouth.
A minister’s office. There is a knock and the Professor enters.
Minister Ah, professor, good afternoon. It’s really very good of you to see me quite so soon.
Professor Oh, no trouble, Minister, no trouble at all. I came the very minute that I first received your call.
Minister Then let me bring you up to speed the problem facing here: Something has been happening, and something very queer. Something has affected quite the very way we speak, It’s spread across the nation within only half a week, It’s very hard to spot, of course, which makes it all the worse – But each and ev’ry citizen has started talking verse.
Professor But surely you don’t mean…
Minister Alas, I rather mean I do.
Professor But what then made you realise ?
Minister (on intercom) Ah, Bridget, tea for two. (to Professor) Oh, little things, just nagging doubts.
Professor You thought you had some pests ?
Minister We wanted to be certain, so we ran a batch of tests. We’ve got our finest boffins out there looking for the source.
Professor But why then did you turn to me ?
Minister It’s time to alter course. We need to find an antidote, we really can’t delay. And that is why I called you in…
Bridget (entering) We’re out of Earl Grey.
Minister Well never mind, well never mind, I’m sure this shall suffice.
Professor I really can’t imagine I could give you sound advice.
Minister But you’re our finest scholar, you must surely have some clue ?
Professor Nothing at the moment, I’m afraid.
Minister One lump, or two ?
Professor But are you really certain that we’re talking all in rhymes ? There hasn’t been a mention in the Telegraph or Times.
Minister We’ve had to keep it hush-hush so as not to cause a panic. Would you like a ginger-nut ? Don’t worry, they’re organic. Of course, it isn’t fatal – no, the country’s not entombed – It’s just so very curious…
Professor We’re doomed, by God, we’re doomed !
Minister Now not to be alarmist, or to overstate things grossly, You’d never even know it’s there unless you listen closely To the steady pitter-patter in the rhythm of each sentence…
Professor We’re doomed, I say ! We must all pray, and beg the Lord’s repentance.
Minister Professor ! Pull yourself together ! I need you now to think; There must be something, anything, to save us from the brink ?
Professor Wait ! There may be something…the problem is systemic.
Minister The problem is we’ve staring at a bloody epidemic !
Professor The problem is within the brain and its linguistic centre Now, usually it’s very good at recognising…
Bridget enters and clears the tea things.
Professor …the diff’rences in how we speak, but something has confused it.
Bridget Shall I clear the paper, too ?
Minister I haven’t yet perused it.
Professor We need to shake it up again, with something quite sublime: By ending ev’ry sentence with a word that doesn’t rhyme ! Now ev’ryone’s aware that there is nothing rhymes with orange…
Bridget I’ve contacted the builders to come and fix the door hinge.
Professor Another word that comes to mind – there’s none to find with chimney.
Bridget That Watkins tries to feel my legs – he said I had a trim knee.
Professor There must be more, there must be more – I’m sure we’re safe with plinth.
Bridget That gift I need to buy your son – was it guitar or synth ? I’ve called the milliners – your wife has found her trilby small. Will there be something else ?
Minister No thanks, I think that will be all.
Professor There’s must be more examples, such as anxious, purple, month…
Minister No rhyme, say you ? That can’t be true ! Why, surely there is… There is… Hah ! You’ve done it ! I’ve stopped rhyming. How can I ever thank you professor ? Your suggestion will save the country. Finally, we can stop the rhyme.
Ev’ry, dammit, ev’ry time My ev’ry sports a ’postrophe, You howl and howl my spelling crime As def’nit’ly catostrophe. But still they pop extr’ordin’ry, Dishon’rab’ly, inord’nat’ly, By lis’ning out for how it’s said When diff’rently from how it’s read. So speech shall speak, and I’ll lit’rature obey – Just deal with it, you soph’mores – cos the commas stay !
1. You are so wrong, so very very wrong, To think that rhymes wreck the verse. Sure, they get used where they don’t belong, And when ill-used are a curse. And yes, they take their time to mature In the life of the poet’s pen – They cannot be nervous, must always be sure, And practiced agen and agen.
2. They write their verses blank and free, And barely bait the hook; But Keats and Frost and Tennyson Can still be grasped by anyone. They write their verses free and blank, And barely sell a book; While Blake and Burns and Betjamin Can still sell-out and fetch ’em in.
3. I tell myself, its cos they rhyme – They hate me that, they hate me that. I know my verse is in its prime – They must see that, they must see that. But still they always get rejected, While some prosy tripe’s selected. Must be just how I suspected – Must be that, it must be that.