The Rose-Red City’s Lone and Level Sands
Beside the Teeming Shore are fourteen strong –
But that is not enough, when eager hands
Have written their twelve-liners just too long.
For status-conflict-outcome, that’s the key
To stop our sonnets going to the dogs –
But where is there a volta in these three ?
They’re nothing more than pretty travelogues !
Well, Shelley never cared for rules or class,
And who the hell is Burgon, anyway ?
But as for Emma Lazarus – alas,
Her tempest-tost are never led astray !
…But then…why must they pivot, ev’ry one…?
Let’s have some change…! You see, that’s how it’s done !
Rhythms march in syllables,
They count both on and off the beat,
But syncopated signatures in words
Can never fall as neat –
They last too long, or maybe
Not quite long enough to find a home –
They fuel our fire and flour our fear,
To foil and foul the metronome.
Have I told you all about my block ?
Many times, you say ?
Well, this time I’ll tell it better,
By telling the telling-of – very meta !
Oh, it’s easy for you to mock
My rhymes gone quite astray –
But lack of words befalls us all,
The silence always comes to call.
And it’ll be you who’s short on stock –
You’ll see, one bad day !
Of course, I once was just as bold
And laughed at all the wordless old.
So spare a thought for those you knock –
That’s me ! I’ve lost my way.
So let me tell you of my drought –
It’s all I’ve got to talk about.
The world goes by on its way to work,
Quite happy – well happy enough, anyway –
Where poetry books are barely a quirk,
So little do they enter the fray
Of the working world in its working week
To render it a freak to thus
See one being read on the bus.
With sales so low and style so high,
They see no need to try to fathom out
Just what some faff-about is trying to say.
Those pseudy slims are best ignored
By the sensibly-shod of the hurrying horde
On a busy and bullshit-less day.
What they need is football, and punk rock, and thrillers,
And X-Box, and coffee, and soaps, and painkillers
And roses, and downloads, and sheds full of spanners,
And gardens with blue tits, and holiday planners,
And magazine fashions and diet’ry trends
And so many relatives, hook-ups and friends,
So is it a wonder they haven’t the time
For the nuance of slam or the absence of rhyme ?
And the world goes by on its way back home,
Too busy for chapbooks of monochrome.
Pass another mince pie, then,
And oh, another tot ? Why not !
Now don’t hold back, I’ll tell you ‘when’,
Is this the only one we’ve got ?
We’ve plenty others, I could swear,
At least a dozen…Gone, you say ?
Ah well, I’m sure I had my share
When you came round the other day
But no, of late I haven’t written much,
Who wants that slog ?
I’m not concerned I’ve lost my touch –
They’ll flow again, just like this grog…
I say, this is a cosy time,
A cosy time, I always say,
Who cares about the bloody rhyme ?
I’ll write some verse another day.
Def’nitely, though, come next year,
Give or take a month or two,
But well before the Spring is here
I’ll knuckle down to something new:
Sonnets, ballads, villanelles
I’ll drink to that ! Hang on, I’m dry –
Here, fill me up, a double Bells,
And ooh, is that a mincemeat pie…?
There comes a time in ev’ry poet’s jotter-book,
A time when odes and ballads must be set aside,
Where clever wordplay fails to catch the sombre mood,
And pleasing couplets suffer from a glut of rhyme.
And so the chastened poet takes a modern look,
Discarding all the baggage that had been their guide –
All that regularity – predictable and crude –
And even rhythms jangle with their tyranny of time. That stuff works for jokey stuff
For dum-de-dum and call-my-bluff
But how can Terror, how can Truth
Be captured in the games of youth ?
And so there comes a time when ev’ry poet
Makes the same mistake they always make –
They try to turn their free-verse loose, because
They think that’s how such verse must be –
Instead, they force unforcèd-ness, and blow it !
Instead, their archful art is bland and fake.
And finally, they see what skilful rhyming does:
It emphasises by its very unreality.
The Light Brigade, Decorum est, They fuck you up, Before I rest –
A decent couplet tells us what
A thousand noble words cannot.
Verses for the writing-of than reading-out –
Verses, it is often said,
The better to be left unread
Than wallow in the gloomy, doomy Plath-itudes they spout.
Breaking rules because they’re rules,
And rhyming words that barely rhyme:
They have the will, they have the tools,
Yet cannot make their couplets chime.
So unpolished, and yet so smooth of face,
Just wide-eyed cynics unaware of what they can’t achieve –
So desperately earnest and so hopelessly naïve,
(With both the dots obsessively in place.)
Derivative and doctrinaire,
Just swotty, spotty pedants with delusions of a cosmic truth.
But honestly, we’ve all been there –
For ev’ry famous poet was an adolescent in their youth:
Torrid teenage Tennyson,
And Dylan-esque and Lennon-ish,
And shilly-shally Percy Bysshe
And happy Hardy, anyone ?
It’s true – I may not be as great
As any muse you care to rate,
But oh, when I was but a lad
I drivelled ev’ry bit as bad !
So sport your hearts out, mopey mop-heads-
And set our world to right by writing,
Set our toothless prose to biting –
Wither with your punks and drop-deads.
Be yourselves and be your worst,
And wring out ev’ry beat and letter –
Never stop your foolish verse
Until your verse is better.