The Spoils of Verse



The Spoils of Verse

A publisher picked up my poems
And gathered them into a book.
I thought I was made, my future was paid,
My fortune assured in Mercedes and jade –
Alas, so I greatly mistook.

The public all favoured my poems,
And earned me the best-selling book.
But sad to behold, just two hundred sold –
My train hadn’t gravy, my bank hadn’t rolled,
My economics unshook.

My publisher lauded my poems,
Promotions were planned for my book –
His numbers were great, and he just couldn’t wait
For the readings to start which would quickly inflate
The revenue earnings I took.

“The public will listen to poems,
But won’t read them out of a book.
You wanna earn cash ?  You gotta be flash –
Verses on tour is a lib·rar·y smash,
Using your voice as your hook.”

“But I am a writer of poems,
No actor that agents can book.
My thing isn’t talking, my vocals are squawking –
You wouldn’t demand this of Professor Hawking.
This stagefright I just cannot brook.”

A publisher picked up my poems,
But had to remainder my book.
I cannot recite with the passion I write,
So here I am working at Tesco by night –
My words still in search of a look.



How to Recite Right

old scholar
An Old Scholar Sharpening his Pen by Gerrit Dou


How to Recite Right

“A poem that never has thoughts within lines, but which carries each phrase and each sentence about between one line and next, as its structure is cut into sliver and strand that looks hard to read out”

No.  You’ve done that wrong.
This is a poem – notice the lines.
They’re not just there to say this is a poem,
Or to make for pretty layout designs.
They are there to guide us along;
This is crucial – notice the pause –
The extra beats we don’t say, but we know ’em,
That little silence that underscores.
And the rhymes, the heart of the song,
Don’t bury them all in the throng.
So once again, and let ’em come strong –

“A poem that
never has thoughts within
lines but which carries
each phrase and each
sentence about between one
line and next as its
structure is cut into
sliver and
strand that looks
hard to read

No, you’re still not that tight how you’re fitting it,
No, it’s still not quite right how you’re hitting it,
You’ve really gotta recite as they’ve written it,
There’s no need to fight it to get it to knit –
The breaks, the breaks,
That break up each sentence
In separate takes
Of its clauses and thoughts.
Look to the breaks as the structure and entrance,
And look to the pauses that each line supports.
Trust in the poet not to blow it, but to know,
How to slow it, how to go it, and to show it all so.
Follow their signs, let their lines set the flow –

“A poem that never has
Lines within lines, but
Which carries each phrase and
Each sentence about
Between one line and next as
Its structure is cut
Into sliver and strand
That looks hard to read out”


Poet’s Corny

poets' corner


Poet’s Corny

(In response to Wendy Cope’s Engineers’ Corner)

Oh, shut up Wendy, carping still,
Like a Guardian trendy, elite and crabby.
I suppose you write your poems with a quill
By candlelight, in a world chock-full of balladeers.
But I warn yer, without the engineers
There wouldn’t be a corner, for there wouldn’t be an abbey.




Hope in Satin by Duffy Sheridan



She sent me a poem,
My darling,
A poem,
A poem she sent me,
My sweet Holly Hughes.

“I wrote you a poem,
My darling,
A poem,
A poem I wrote you,
My Michael, my muse.

I hope you can cherish,
My darling,
My poem,
My poem you cherish,
I so hope you do.”

I wish I could cherish
My darling,
Your poem,
Your poem, to cherish
As I cherish you.



Set my Verses Free !

The Socialist by Robert Koehler


Set my Verses Free !

Brethren, Sistren, time has come,
To rend this rhet’ric chain
That keeps our poems tum-de-dum
And ends each line in train.
Enough !  Why must our efforts follow form ?
Enough !  Why must their rhyming be the norm ?
Enough, I say, bring forth the storm !
Blow down this old refrain !

I call on you, eschew all those
Whose meter always chimes.
You doubt how we with formless prose
Can fight these structured times ?
We must !  Until their villanelles concede.
We must !  Until their odes and sonnets bleed.
We must, I say, so take my lead:
Reject this curse of rhymes !

State of the Art

Passages by Dorian Vallejo


State of the Art

You know, the public used to love
A crafted verse, a witty rhyme,
A fresh, bizarre or telling thought –
But that was all a diff’rent time.
These days, the public hardly notice,
’Cept for those they hear in songs –
Elsewhere in there gen’ral lives,
There’s nowhere where a verse belongs.
But, you know, I blame the poets,
Writing verse that’s too obscure –
Too aloof or crass or trendy,
Self-obsessed and immature.
No-one wants to please the masses,
No-one wants to catch their mood –
I tell you, light verse is the highest
Form of poetry pursued.
Ah, but listen to me whinging –
Who am I, so untoward ?
After all, I try to please you,
And my verse is still ignored !



Posy Prosy

girl reading
A Girl Reading by Charles Perugini


Posy Prosy

There’s no shame in prose,
In stories and sayings,
In thoughts and bon-mots,
And pledges and prayings.
But let’s not pretend
They are what they are not:
It’s prose that we’ve penned,
It ain’t poems one jot !
Be proud of our prose
For the prose that it is,
Cos ev’ryone knows
That good prose can still fizz !
And sure, we know sometimes
That prose is poetic,
But without the rhymes
Then our poems won’t click;
And ev’ryone knows
When there’s prose at the roots,
For poetic prose
Is still prose to its boots.
A verse without rhyme
Is a song without music;
But keeps its own time,
Which will helps, if we choose it –
For a song without music
Can still be quite stellar:
The beat lets us use it
To sing a capella;
The song is still driven
On metrical feet.
But a verse without rhythm’s
A song with no beat.
Yet a verse without rhythm
Can still be good prose,
And still can be striven for
When we compose.
So stop all this posing
Of poetic throes;
There’s no shame in prosing,
So let prose be prose !