A lot of it is quite baffling – there seems to be a blind spot reached at approximately two lines for the hard, complicated stuff. Like when someone gives you directions and you can only ever remember the first or last things they said. When it’s read out loud I’m still trying to decipher what was said two lines ago. All flow is lost as the different levels of thinking kick in - What is the most important thing I should be looking for - the symbolism, the narrative or the pace? And by then of course the poem has meandered elsewhere.
There was a film recently called Bright Star about John Keats, the poet. As the end credits rolled an intolerable and massively tortuous Keats poem was read out. I have no idea what it was about – it would take some time with the poem in front of me to glean pleasure or enrichment from it. Yet we all sat there listening, either enjoying, trying to enjoy or at least appear that we enjoyed the poem. I did not. It was the same familiar poetry feeling – this piece of work is altogether too personal to the author to mean much to me.
And yet.. There is an undeniable lure to poetry. I want it to be there because I have a sneaking suspicion that all of a sudden I will start to understand and enjoy it. A bit like classical music. It’s lying in wait for when I’m older and am bored of reading Mark Everett and listening to Mastodon.
Rhymes are the bastard children of poets that are all the more attractive to many readers because of it. They are the Lichtenstein of the poetry world – they can be appreciated and looked for by all, and even real people like them because it’s clever and they couldn’t do it themselves.
Of course real people also think that a lot of poetry is like Tracy Emin – it could be done by them because it’s just stream of consciousness stuff. But of course they couldn’t – I couldn’t. You almost certainly couldn’t but might think you can. That’s the point I suppose.
It also seems that like a lot of great art, it can only be appreciated when accompanied by a description or guide by someone a lot cleverer and more versed in the poem. There’s nothing wrong in this – I personally believe that when an artist believes their work should speak to you directly without any interpretation they are mainly deluding themselves (or don’t know how people work). Beowulf – are you fucking kidding? Watch the film and have the interpretation fed to you. It might be wrong but you’ll know a hell of a lot more about the poem than you would having simply read it.
Poetry has a place in our world – of course it does, and it gives many people great pleasure. I just wish I wanted to read more of it and not just tell people I’d read more of it.
Next time: Theatre review