High Speed Poetry
Poets can be queer beasts IMHO. I'd need an ology to explain why convincingly, but sometimes something riles me enough to put electronic pen to virtual parchment.
Mrs. Murphy: Don't you "Don't get riled, sugar" me! You ain't goin' back on the road no more, and you ain't playin' them ol' two-bit sleazy dives. You're livin' with me now, and you not gonna go slidin' around witcho ol' white hoodlum friends.
Matt Murphy: But babes, this is Jake and Elwood, the Blues Brothers.
Mrs. Murphy: The Blues Brothers? Shit! They still owe you money, fool.
The Passage of Time
It's the 20th anniversary of the death of Diana, Princess of Wales and, in tribute to this, Formula 1 racing driver Lewis Hamilton has written a poem which I've transcribed from this Radio 5 story, hopefully without infringing on the copyrights of Lewis or Radio 5.
The day we lost our Nation's Rose
Tears we cried like rivers flowed.
The earth stood still As we laid her to rest
A day you & I Will never forget.
The people's princess Who came to see
The love from a Country We’d hope she'd lead.
England's beauty Captured in one sweet soul,
Carried the torch God rest her soul.
With the gift she had
She'd light up the way
With a smile to show
us a brighter day.
Hearts still full
of the love she gave
twenty years since
she laid in her grave.
There will never be
another like you
now a shining star
in the midnight sky.
I will always
as our sweet nation's rose.
A BBC story reports that ‘Hamilton posted the poem on his Instagram account on Friday and within hours his video had been viewed nearly 200,000 times and received hundreds of comments.’
As with most things in this wide web of a world, people were quick to comment. Some people loved it; other people, many of whom are poets, belittled it.
I'm not going to quote people here, you can Google around for Lewis Hamilton poem and you'll no doubt find them like a rash across the ether. Some people commented that he wasn't even born at the time Princess Diana died ... let's not let incorrect facts get in the way of a good comment, huh?
Lewis Hamilton, b1985
Diana, Princess of Wales, b1961, d1997
(info from Wikipedia)
Stick to What You Know
The comments that disturbed me the most were the ones that urged Lewis to stick to what he knows, i.e. driving racing cars very very quicly. What on earth kind of poetry community doesn't welcome people who try their hand at writing words that rhyme and flow? No, Lewis's words aren't going to worry Byron, but I seriously doubt that was his intention. I'd be delighted if Lewis finds that poetry can be a quiet unleaded space away from the smell of burning rubber, the hairpin bends, the paparazzi and the champagne.
I'm assuming this poem is one of Lewis's first, if not the first, and very likely he hasn't studied poetry to the level most of the acerbic commenters have. And yet he uses rhyme and stanzas; his choice of words is not obsessed with trying to find the cleverest synonym, and it is a simple, honest, response to a famous death that really did make a big impact on people — Lewis was 12 when Diana died and I was 24.
The Art of Remembering
Can you remember the first poem you ever wrote? I can. I don't have copies of the first two poems I wrote because that was in the days before I had a computer so they are living somewhere in the great recycling pile in the sky, but I have electronic copies of poems three and onwards and, in all honesty, those early poems are no better than Lewis's poem — in fact I'd go as far as to say that Lewis's poem is better because it addresses a matter that much of the United Kingdom is talking about at the moment. My early poems were only concerned with one subject, that of a girl I was head over heels in love with and who didn't feel the same way about me!
John Keating: Language was developed for one endeavor, and that is... Mr. Anderson? Come on, are you a man or an amoeba?
[Todd stays silent]
John Keating: Mr. Perry?
Neil Perry: To communicate.
John Keating: No! To woo women!
(Robin Williams as Mr. Keating in the 1989 film Dead Poets Society)
What do I hope this poem by Lewis Hamilton achieves? I'm pretty sure it won't significantly boost his millions of Twitter followers, Facebook friends or Instagram devotees, but pause for a moment and consider that 200,000 people read his poem in the first couple of hours. Chances are that a decent percentage of those are in their teens and twenties, the perfect age for starting to try their own hand at poetry.
If only one quarter of one percent of those 200,000 readers go on to try writing their own poems, in tribute to Diana, for an unrequited love, or a limerick about ducks, that is 500 people who might one day begin to think of themselves as poets. Some of those might become followers of your blogs, readers of your poetry, participants of your poetry courses, attendees at your readings and purchasers of your books. Everything begins somewhere, and if Lewis Hamilton writing a poem sparks somebody else into poetic life, then that's something to praise, not condemn.
#LewisHamilton #princessdiana @LewisHamilton