Once you had the finest actors Reading the finest verse. These days, all you have are poets – Humourless, or ever worse…- Picking po-faced prosy poems With not a single rhyme, So self-important now, And yet won’t stand the test of time.
What happened to the punk sensibility Of doing-it-yourself, and damn the rules ? Now it’s a lit-fest for middle-class luvvies With their tortured trochees taught in schools. Your audience is tiny and shrinking, With afternoon Sundays such a bore – But you tick the boxes and fill the quotas, And isn’t that what poetry’s for ?
Once you had the finest actors Reading the finest verse, But now your budget is slashed, And your ambition must fit your purse. They read them out in lilting whinges, Full of I Me Mine – Come on, Roger, cheer us up, With a quick and witty line !
Is anyone more self-obsessed than a poet ? Raging and swooning and preaching out loud – These lilting doom-mongers and told-you-so know-it-alls, Playing their ev’ry stray thought to the crowd.
Smugger than columnists, vainer than vloggers, Oblivious pedants and bleeding-heart pseuds – Even the Northerns are middle-class floggers Who castigate readers for wrong attitudes.
With relevance dwindled and audience bored, With their meanings obscured and their verbiage enlarged, They choose to ignore how the world has ignored them – They’re people like me, infact – guilty as charged.
Ogden Nash, a curious beast, A sentiment-famine and sarcasm-feast, A mem’rable name from another age, A cynical-eyed bespectacled sage. A clutter of couplets, a strenuous rhyme, A rapid-fire rhythm in Brooklyn time. And puns by the plenty, both groaners and snorters – Whicj when we try to quote, we forget three-quarters.
What’s that ? This is a sonnet, you say ? Are you sure ? It seems all at sevens-and-nines… A sonnet, I thought, is an interplay, And not just four quatrains missing two lines ? And honestly, this is a mess, all the way, With less imag’ry and more warning signs – It just about holds to its rhythm okay, Though that cannot be said of its half-arsed rhymes. Regarding its volta…I guess that it has one, Though hardly a good one, it’s barely defined – And when it resolves, well, at least there’s no pun ! So, C+ for effort…and that’s being kind…! If this is a sonnet, there’s loads for the taking… Then…oh no !…is that all the point that it’s making…?
I know I’m good, But I’m all alone in knowing, And there’s no-one shares my faith – I know I’m good, But my telephone ain’t blowing, And there’s no-one cares one-eighth. I never meant to be misunderstood, But I can’t make them see it in my neighbourhood – And even a tree has less dead wood than me, I’m just a nobody who knows he’s good, But the world will not agree. I know, I know, I could be mad, A self-deluding lad Who wants to crow – I guess I’ll never let it go…
I know I’m good, But I’m all Jack Jones to know it, And I’m very out of style – I know I’m good, But my funny bones don’t show it, When they just can’t raise a smile. I don’t understand why I’m misunderstood, Like it’s all been planned thus for my victimhood – From Sunderland to Hollywood, I’m panned I’m just a jobbing hand who knows he’s good, But the world is old and bland. I know, I know, I could be wrong, Deluded all along – But I don’t think so. I’ll guess I’ll give it one more go…
To write a poem was the task I set out to achieve. Surely that’s not much to ask, An easy art in which to bask – With so few words upon the page, I’ll strut upon their verbal stage With fiery passion, gothic rage, And earn myself a healthy wage.
But as I try to flow my words I suddenly recall That prior to my boast absurd, ’Twas but with prose my voice was heard. So now I’m fighting to define A rhythm with no sense of time. I jar the meter, strain the rhyme, And hammer into place the line.
With plaintext, now, there is no squeeze, Just liberty unbound – No form to keep, or rhyme appease, I use what words I bloody please. And yet for all it has to tell Such prose so slowly works its spell – But poems rouse and poems quell So swift, so much, and so damned well.
And so shall I, if my lines loose Can all join up in rhyme – Too oft, alas, I’m chasing goose When searching for a couplet’s deuce. Some perfect words, oh yes ! Oh no ! The rhymes are close, they almost go – If we can just pronounce them so ? They almost work, will have to do.
In fact, I see I’m not alone, For even pros get stumped. For even poets have been known To clank a line they cannot hone. No more these pointless rhymes unwise ! No more these hamstrung verbal ties ! For when it works, it sings and flies, And when it stalls, it chokes and dies.
Of course, I need not rhyme my song, ’Tis only one approach. But to me it seems quite wrong Rejecting this tradition long While this art’s held in modish grip Abhorring letting couplets slip. I want a rhyme that darts and skips, Not prose that’s hacked-up into strips.
And even then, I’ve had to cheat, My second lines hang loose. My own command I cannot meet, Such irony is harsh defeat. I pad-out lines with rhymes so fake And tenuous for rhyming’s sake, While half the points I try to make Won’t fit this rigid frame, and break.
So this quaint need I hold so dear For ‘proper’ poetry Will thwart me now from making clear That which I wish the world to hear – My feeble efforts howl with pain, My content swamped in verbal strain, My labours wasted, all in vain !
All great Artists have a vice, But I’m a tepid type – I try to keep my manners nice And give no cause for hype. I’ll never be a rabble-rousing rebel, Nor a cad, Just knocking back the trebles On my way to going mad, With my pockets full of pebbles And a need for worship bad… I’m much more pipe-and-slippers (less the pipe). I guess I am a Larkin or an Eliot at heart Than a Dylan or a Kingsley with a passion full of art – I mean, I have a mongrel and a mortgage for a start ! And I always found Romantics over-ripe. I guess I’m not an Artist-capital-A, But that’s okay. (And it really ain’t my mode, that way.) I’m hardly a conspiracist, eccentric and uncouth, I’m not a Goth or horny toad, or tender, tortured youth, Or rainbow-dressed consumptive who is dying for some Truth – That’s just a load of self-obsessing tripe !
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.