As you can see from the picture, that’s not my title, it’s Robert Okaji’s. His was among the first poetry blogs I came across, and the best, so today I thought I’d give a shout out to those who don’t know it (he does, deservedly, have a lot of followers). I downloaded a copy of the collection If Your Matter Could Reform for the modest sum of €0.95, which makes the price of each word pretty good value for money. (Actually my wife downloaded the whole of Proust for €2.00, so that’s even less per word, but the thing is she gave up on it. Not saying it’s unreadable, mind, but… well, a great choice for Desert Island Discs, put it that way).
Anyway, what I like about Robert’s poems is the precision of each word, the concision of the whole. Just one brief quote, from Nine Ways of Shaping the Moon:
Weave the wind into a song.
Rub its fabric over your skin.
For whom does it speak?
See? There’s a fuller review here if you want. Alternatively, you can just download the book. It’s the sort of poetry that you want to come back to, that makes you realise what poetry’s all about.
Flexibility’s the word: as long as there’s a picture to accompany it, one or more of all the following types of text are welcome – the more variety, the better!
- The true story behind the picture. Why did you take it? What attracted you to that particular subject? What does it show?
- A short piece of fiction inspired by the picture.
- The technical specifications, either at the time of shooting or of editing
- A caption
- A poem
Contributions are welcome any time (just post your link in the comments), and will be rounded up every other Monday, with links back to the original post. Have fun!
There was a young man from Mayotte
Whose innards were starting to rot
When they rummaged inside
The doctors all cried,
“Was ist das? Himmel! Mein Gott!”
N.B. This poem is implausible. As far as I know, there are no German doctors in Mayotte.
After writing my first ever poem, Autumn in rhyming couplets, I discovered a bit later that poems didn’t have to rhyme at all, which made things a lot easier. Three cheers for free verse! It was also possible to write poems about anything, as long as you made them opaque enough for no one to have the faintest clue what they might mean.
In the grunts of inarticulate stars
Bearing the spark of however
Into the night of ignorance and wonder
The epitome of marrow.
That one was inspired by the opening scene in 2001 Space Odyssey. It was about prehistoric cavemen discovering the taste of cooked meat. Not many people got that. The English teacher, Mr. Roberts, certainly didn’t, though he was too polite to say so and he didn’t want to cause any embarrassment by asking me to explain it. Eventually, though, it occurred to me that if I was writing a dozen poems a day with amazing ease, and looking back over them a week later couldn’t remember what they meant myself, then maybe they weren’t poems at all. Maybe they were drivel. There was also, I realised, a fine line between a poet and a pseud, and one or two people, alerted to the distinction by Private Eye (pseud in those days was a popular term of abuse for anyone pretentious or even vaguely intellectual), appeared to be catching on that I’d crossed it. So after a while, I went back to rhymes.
The thing about poetry is that it’s incredibly difficult to write. And the apparent ease of free verse is illusory because “no verse is free for the man who wants to do a good job” (T.S.Eliot). On the other hand, rhyming verse is equally difficult, and less fashionable, as pointed out here by the poet Andy Humphrey. Which is why, on the whole, I stick these days to prose.
There once was a gecko named Paul
Who was so incredibly small
Till up on the ceiling
He got the feeling
He was suddenly ten feet tall.
The seasons turn, the world grows old,
The woodland turns from green to gold.
I hate suet. Rice is better.
I mustn’t forget to post that letter.
That’s all I remember of my first ever poem, called Autumn. It was called Autumn because Mr. Roberts, the English teacher, asked us to write a poem about autumn. I’d never thought of writing a poem before, but I knew you had to find words that rhyme and while I was at it, I unwittingly threw in a bit of post-modernist subversion. Mr. Roberts really liked it.
Sundays, I’ve decided, are for poetry. It’s all the easier for me to talk of my career as a poet as I’m not one. Nonetheless, future critics will no doubt distinguish three phases: the Earnest Period, the Deep Period, and the Silly Period. Between the first two, which to some extent overlapped, and the third, lies a long fallow period of forty years. During that time, many people despaired of ever reading my poetry again. I’m pleased to announce that they can now look forward to an altogether brighter existence.
The Day After Valentine’s
I went far to bring my love
A delightful turtle dove.
Now much farther must I rove
For she wants a turtle dove.