Saturday, 18 July 2015

The Poet

I was tempted to call this post Poetry is Rubbish.

The truth is that generally I find what’s known as serious poetry genuinely is rubbish, a sort of pseudo-intellectual bullshit similar to contemporary art.

Contemporary artists use paint, bricks, unmade beds or in some cases absolutely nothing to appeal to pseudo-intellectuals, inspiring them to wax lyrical about what the painting says to them, using quotes from philosophers and basically talking nonsense to make themselves seem to be more clever than the rest of us.

Some poets do exactly the same – but with words instead of weird materials.

When I was at school, my English teacher forced me to write a critical essay comparing two poems about horses. I read them both and didn’t understand a bloody word. I didn’t trust my English teacher, a man who had forced me to read The Mayor of Casterbridge (arguably the worst book I have ever read) and hailed William Shakespeare as a kind of modern genius (read my post Shakespeare is Rubbish  for my thoughts on the bard).

I was tempted to write the shortest critical essay ever:

The poems are both about horses and they are both rubbish.

Instead, I pretended to be a pseudo-intellectual and wrote a load of old horseshit (pardon the pun). Guess what? I got a good grade and that essay helped me to pass my O-Level English Literature. Incidentally, I had to write essays about William Shakespeare’s plays and The Mayor of Casterbridge as well.

My only conclusion is that all you have to do succeed in English Literature is pretend to be a pseudo-intellectual.

I stand by this.

In fact, I once wrote a poem on this very blog. The poem was proof that anybody can devolve into a pseudo-intellectual and, with the aid of a dictionary and thesaurus, can come up with any old rubbish.

Here for your pleasure (or otherwise) that poem entitled The Loquacious Figment:

I contemplated the torso of a despondent galactic masterpiece
And my heart thanked my voracious sight.
I hastened my swiftness, disoriented by my awareness
Yet somehow did not submit to fright.

It’s utter garbage. Don’t let anybody tell you any different. It took me about two minutes to write.

If there is anybody who thinks it is good, then let me know and I will write an entire book filled with this kind of nonsense and – perhaps – make some money out of it.

Yeah right!!!!

Anyway, you are probably wondering why I decided not to call this post Poetry is Rubbish. The truth is that there are poems out there that I actually quite like. These are usually silly limericks, puerile nonsense and, most importantly of all, the works of terrific songwriters.

Songs are simply poems put to music and I have some terrific thought-provoking songs in my collection that can stand alone as poetry.

Here are some examples of silly little limericks:

A stupid young man from Crewe
Once decided to build a canoe.
When out on the river
He found, with a shiver, 
He’d forgot to use waterproof glue

A funny young fellow named Perkins
Was terribly fond of small gherkins.
One day after tea
He ate ninety three
And pickled his internal workings.

I have also written poetry for a couple of friends on their birthdays. Here’s an example (with the names changed to protect the guilty):

A new decade's upon you; it's your 50th today.
The little hair that you have left will soon be turning grey.
You still play squash and cycle, to cling onto your youth.
But soon your muscles will give way, along with every tooth.
And when your gums are toothless (and chewing is a chore)
The only food you'll manage will be sucked up through a straw.
You take your lady dancing (Mimi is her name)
But believe me, waltzing's tricky when you use a zimmer frame.
Your pension is approaching more quickly than you think.
But forget that for the moment - we'll buy you lots of drink
To wish you HAPPY BIRTHDAY and, if I may be so bold,
To make sure you remember, Bill, that you are VERY OLD.

Now I’m over fifty myself, I think that might have hurt.

Moving on to songs, I think that the words can be almost as powerful as the music itself. In some cases, the words actually elevate a song for me. Here are some examples:

Rush – Nobody’s Hero

Dream Theater – The Answer Lies Within

I can only conclude therefore that poetry is not rubbish, only those pretentious poems seemingly auto-generated from a dictionary.

Well, I feel inspired to write another on for you, dear reader. Picture the scene. I have opened my browser and have begun looking for quotes from celebrated philosophers. I am devolving into a pseudo-intellectual.

I am now an arrogant smartarse who is looking down on the world. My inspiration is complete. In the words of Plato:

“The beginning is the most important part of the work”.

I present to you: The Enigmatic Equation:

The imperceptible formula, cloaked in derangement,
Struggles to reveal its worth.
Yet the analyst blindly persists in frustration
Anticipating its Caesarian birth 

What a load of gibberish. I hope you agree.

Over to you, dear reader.

Do you like poetry?

If so, does all of it make sense to you? Am I just being thick?

Do song lyrics inspire you?


Grace said...

I love poetry - I love the form - I love the music within it. And that is MY definition of poetry - it must be musical. And yes to "My only conclusion is that all you have to do succeed in English Literature is pretend to be a pseudo-intellectual." What always irked me is when we had to answer the question "What did the poet mean?" It only matters what it means to you...we can't really know what it meant to the poet.

Someone said, I don't recall who, "Poetry doesn't have to be for everyone but it has to be about everyone"

Are song lyrics poetry? Yes. In many cases; in most cases. Inspiring? Eh. Trite answer? Depends on you and the writer.

Limericks are great fun and not an easy format to do well - I have a book on the subject and my favorites are quite naughty!

Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi Grace,

That's a good point about what a poem actually means. The pseudo-intellectual ones mean nothing - I would hazard a guess that they mean nothing even to the pseudos who "praise" them. Basically, whatever I answered in my English Lit essay would have not agreed with either the author of the poet or more importantly my English teacher.

I think most limericks are a bit naughty; I opted not to post one in particular that made me laugh out loud (to preserve an element of good taste).




joeh said...

And I thought it was just me.

There is of course very good poetry and as you point out much is poetry that is put to music, but much is pretentious crap that equally pretentious people are afraid to admit they do not understand.

Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi Joeh,

I admit it when I don't understand it - and I have asked pseudos to explain why they find them so fascinating - and they can't (without quoting obscure philosophical horseshit anyway).




drb said...

I can't understand poetry in English (English literature was my worst subject in school) but I love Chinese poems; maybe because my Chinese is better than my English.

Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi DrB,

I've not read any Chinese poems - perhaps because I haven't seen any translated.




River said...

Do I like poetry? Mostly no. Limericks and funny poems that make sense, I like.
Song lyrics? Well, it depends on
a) whether I can understand what's being said
b) whether I understand the meaning of what's being said.
The serious poetry so beloved of literature fanatics is completely beyond me.

Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi River,

That's the problem; a lot of so-called master literary poems are nothing more than verbal diarrhoea and appeal massively to pseudos because of that.




drb said...

It is impossible to translate Chinese poems without losing its poignancy, and rhythm.
A lots of the classic Chinese poems have used lyrics for songs.

Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi DrB,

I imagine that something would definitely be lost in translation.




Jackie K said...

YES I love poetry - and song lyrics.
But I also have read my share of rubbish poetry and pretentious prose.
I love limericks and Roald Dahl's Revolting Rhymes.
And I really liked your birthday poem - you are a poet after all, PM!

Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi Jackie,

You're too kind. Maybe I'll try some humorous verse in future posts.