There's no bad writing on God's green earth, I was reminded earlier this week, like bad poetry. This is because I have been reading a lot of it, for professional reasons. I'm one of the judges of this year's Forward Prize for poetry. [...]The thing is, there are certain really odd things people do in bad poetry that they wouldn't do in another form of writing. Parody becomes the only response:We walked on the sea-shore, no noise/ Save the waves/ In the shingle./ Coming,/ And going. I remember you bought me fish/ And chips. Now, making this poem, in a dark room, I taste the/ Vinegar.Why is it only in poems that poets tell their interlocutor something the person already knows? "Dammit," one imagines the loved one of the above replying. "I know I bought you chips. Pull your head out of your backside, would you. You still owe me three quid."Then there are the weird archaisms, such as "save" instead of "except for", and "sea-strand". The portentous line-breaks. The bathetic final lines consisting of a single word. Lines that break, for Pete's sake, after the word "the" - suggesting that what comes next will be Very Important, an expectation invariably disappointed. The wretched business of always writing about writing poetry. And why are you writing in a dark room? Turn on the light, you bampot!That's just the free verse. There's the formal stuff, too: lines stuffed with filler, limp iambs limping limply towards the rhyme. Ungainly inversions. Banjaxed aphorisms. A constant reaching towards profundity - as if profundity were a necessary or even desirable quality of poetry. Jokes are a no-no. And, oy, but there's a lot of weather in bad poems. Some of them consist entirely of weather. You'd think that a brolly was at least as important a tool of the craft as a pen. [...]
We walked on the sea-shore, no noise/ Save the waves/ In the shingle./ Coming,/ And going. I remember you bought me fish/ And chips. Now, making this poem, in a dark room, I taste the/ Vinegar.
This entry was posted by eeksypeeksy
on Saturday, April 29, 2006 at 10:29 AM.
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