The Enchanted Bus – writing our lives (and save the villanelle!)
I know this is early but it's ready so let's just get on with it. This week's Poetry Bus prompt was suggested by Chris at Enchanted Oak (thousands and thousands of miles from here). It's a straightforward task – no messing around. She gave us this: Poems that address your existence on this earth. Good, bad, or indifferent, tell us something, anything, about your life here.
I had a couple of false starts on this (won't bore you with all the details... suffice to say writing about me and my life is not something I'm very keen on just now) but then I slapped myself a couple of times in the face and walked the dog again (photo of typical walk this week above and there are many more here). After all that it seemed I was ready to get on and write something. Literal... metaphorical... I'm covering all bases here.
poem temporarily removed
Some of you (maybe even all of you) will recognise straightaway that this poem is a villanelle and this is a poetic form that I use every now and then. I love some villanelles (first loved them via poet Wendy Cope, I think, her 'Manifesto' is good and there's one of hers online here) but I should tell you that they are very unfashionable in British poetry just now. Obviously all the slam/young/hip poets don't bother with them (not as far as I know anyway) but even some of the fogey/literary/academic/respected poets look down on them these days. One of Scotland (and Britain)'s most influential poets, Don Paterson, seems to be running some kind of evil campaign against them as he has slagged them off (again!) in his recent article about Shakespeare and his sonnets (he had a go at them at our Brilliant Poetry event back in April too). There is a long but interesting piece (by Paterson) about his new book “Reading Shakespeare's Sonnets” here and I have bought the sonnets book... because despite his foul smearing of the villanelle I am not anti-Pati (not at all, not at all). In this article however he even quotes that bloody Carol Ann Duffy villanelle about villanelles (again!) and I'd have to say that, from what I've read of it so far, it's not one of her best pieces (even poet laureates have off days, I'm sure...). I mean I just don't understand it (well, I do but I don't agree...) - does a person hate the tango just because ex-conservative MP Ann Widdecombe makes a flying mash of it on “Strictly Come Dancing?” (No, a person does not... but you can see it here if you really want to suffer in the interests of research). So do we blame a poetic form just because some people have used it as a basis for unappealing or just plain crap work? I don't think so, I really don't (and even though I'm here in poetic obscurity I don't think that makes my opinion any less valid... does it?). All this villanelle-bashing makes me feel quite sorry for the poor old form. Even more so as some of my best work has been in villanelles (which probably says heaps of bad things about me and my writing... oh, undoubtedly it does... I like repetition... I said ' I like repetition'...). Indeed if it weren't for the fact that there's so much else to protest about just now (the tories are in power – just that in itself...) I think I might be pacing the streets with a placard reading 'Ring a big bell/save the villanelle!' I might start up a magazine filled entirely (every month!) with villanelles! I might devote my whole life to the cause...
Well, I did say 'might'. In the meantime other villanelles of mine, in case you're interested, are here (Radiohead one), here (Michael Marra one) and here (eating pizza on acid one). And there's one in the next issue of 'About Larkin' (out later this year – I'll let you know when it's available).
Speaking of singing (as I was in the poem before the villanelle declaration) here is one of my favourite singers (though I have a LOT of favourite singers...wrote about some of them a few years ago – back here). I watched the recent TV interview with this singer last night (taped from a few weeks back - "Robert Plant: By Myself") and it covered his highs, his lows, his more popular phases and his times in something more like obscurity. Most of all it was good to watch a programme that was really about the work of singing rather than just all the usual pop/rock biog. nonsense. It was glorious.
Here he is with the old band:
and here he is with a more more recent band doing an old favourite:
I'm not sure how I will manage the Bus next week because I'm part of another writing project next Saturday (details here). I'll try to make it though!
Originally from the north of England, I live in Angus, Scotland where I walk a lot, think a lot, listen to lots of music, sometimes write poems, sometimes read poems out to other people, sometimes write songs, read all kinds of odd things, watch a bit...oh and I look after my family too.
I sometimes organise poetry and music events - details are usually here (though nothing coming up in the near future). This year I went travelling with my family - photos and notes are here. Now we're back I have moved to a new regular blog - it is here.
More about the song
You can buy my book (published 2008) from my website if you fancy it (go to 'book' page) or from www.amazon.co.uk if you prefer the comfort of the multinational corporation. My book is printed on recycled paper and card. I have 12 different poetry postcards available too.