When I was eleven, I went to grammar school. Until that point, I believed that culture was something you found between a five-year old’s toes. At school they tried to knock some culture into my thick old head, but we were never comfortable bed-fellows, culture and I. I enjoyed some Shakespeare, but seldom until I had seen it acted. On the page it was just a beautiful sounding nonsense. I was introduced to some novels that I love to this day and others that I hated instantly. I learned quite quickly that if I didn’t like a novel within a couple of pages, then I might as well give up there and then. We were never going anywhere, book and I.
And then I was introduced to poetry. We have a chequered history, poetry and I. It makes me feel stupid when I don’t understand it and soulless when I don’t enjoy it. Sometimes I only have to look at it and my eyes start to swim. Sometimes it takes a language that I understand and contorts it into something that makes as much sense to me as Swahili. I have discovered, however, as I get older, that there are poets and poems that I love and, I am always open to discovering more. I have read new poetry on this platform and been both moved and amused by it. I have been sneaking an odd poem or two of my own into this blog, as something of an added extra (like a boil on the end of your nose when you’ve already got the flu) and this is just another one.
I think that some people enjoy them – and that really takes some understanding…
An Appreciation of Poetry
The gilded art of polished phrase
That punctuated schoolboy days
Where words of love and joy and rage
Lay lifeless on each dog-eared page
Majestic lines so flatly read
Drummed into every schoolboy head
And arch displays of erudition
Locked in brains by repetition
Where verses raised in cool élan
Are lost to empty rhyme and scan
Forget the words, but keep instead
The rhythm sounding in your head
Observe the faithful paradigm
The rumty-tum of metred rhyme
That void of all emotion drips
Unthinkingly from idle lips
And then recall a line or two
Of the poem writ by you-know-who
That told a tale of daffodils
And wand’ring over lonely hills
Who said we should Stop All the Clocks?
And what on earth are Jabberwocks?
Why do I smile when I stumble upon
A Subaltern’s love for J. Hunter Dunn?
‘Come [something] bombs and fall on Slough’
(I must recall that word somehow)
And memorise a verse from Pope
Now… who had feathers – was it Hope?
Though I know the lines and it sounds absurd
All I ever learned was a string of words.
My mind is full of couplets I can only half recall,
Which maybe makes them monoplets – if they’re anything at all.
P.S. ‘Hope’ (by Emily Dickinson) is the thing with feathers.