Sprechen Sie Poetry
Last week, in The Poetry Worm, I was gearing myself up to read modern poetry (my own) to an audience, I was alerted, did not particularly appreciate non-rhyming modern, poetry.
Nobody likes me everybody hates me
I think I’ll go eat worms
Long ones, short ones, fat ones skinny ones,
Ones that squiggle and squirm
Bite their heads off suck their guts out throw their skins away
Nobody knows that I eat worms, 3 times a day
(from Nobody Likes Me (I think I'll go eat Worms) on Funny Songs for Kids)
Dissecting the Worm
to quote Debasish Mridha, ‘Fear comes from the lack of knowledge and a state of ignorance. The best remedy for fear is to gain knowledge.’. If there is one statement that I loathe, it's hearing, “I don't like poetry”. That's like saying you don't like food because you once tried jellied eels and they made you throw up. There is an infinite variety of poetry in the world, just as there is a smorgassboard of food to sate an appetite.
So my plan, explaining to the Friendship Club at Abergavenny Methodist Church what modern poetry is and, more importantly, why it doesn't rhyme the same way it did pre-twentieth century, turned out to be a good one! Admittedly, at a poetry reading rather than a workshop, you can't really go into a detailed analysis of the differences, but you don't need to throw the audience in at the deep end without any warning.
I was reminded just this week, when a friend mentioned the film 2001: A Space Odyssey, with its use of the opening from Richard Strauss's tone poem Also sprach Zarathustra, the witnessing of something finally beginning to make sense is a joy to behold! Now, to be fair, my poetry isn't avant-garde modern, it rhymes in patches and paints short scenes rather than presenting a canvas of Jackson Pollockian drips or the unsettling uneasiness of Penderecki’s Threnody.
I've always been fascinated by the avant-garde, the absurd, nonsensical, wacky and downright weird. If you turn up to a poetry reading that advertises itself as all of those things then, well, you didn't ought to be shocked when poems and poets that are hard to comprehend turn up.
Dressing Up, the title poem of my pamphlet, was the most challenging in form to the audience at Friendship Club. It doesn't rhyme. It doesn't make immediate sense on first hearing, or first reading, but with a bit of background explanation first the audience handled this one perfectly well. I'll share it here and, if it whets your appetite, why not pop over to the Cinnamon Press website and check out the Pamphlet :)
The idea for this poem came when I lived in Bristol and co-founded an indie music magazine called Splinter, which existed during 2005/06. The editor and I got on the train to London one day to visit the HQ of Borders bookstores, hoping to get Splinter stocked nationwide, rather than only in the Bristol branch where it was selling a treat. As we surfaced out of the Tube station it was pouring with rain, and my editor friend was wearing flip flops. You can also hear me read this poem here (which is to an mp3 file, not a YouTube video)
what you have on your feet
the difference between
underground weekend engineering work
and a system that does
not tied up
in a diversion of mazes and replacements
inappropriately in the wet
in flip flops
the colour of your shoes
pausing to take a breath
brewing from the paths of percolating days
pacing out to the tune of fretting coffee machines
in the evening meets
as afternoon walks home
heading here in heels
you pause to answer
That's enough of my voice for this week. I'll leave you with a proper modernist poet, Gertrude Stein, reading her poem If I Had Told Him a Completed Portrait of Picasso (link to YouTube).
#Performance #Audience #Modernism