Thursday, 22 May 2008

Good morning poets

I put a poem on my MySpace blog about once a week (link to the right somewhere) and this week I put one I wrote last year called 'Sea of poets'. It probably came to mind because of Jim Murdoch's blog this week on poems about poems...though mine is more about poets than poems but it's a fairly fine line. It's been getting some interesting comments so you might fancy taking a look. My regular 'friends' on MySpace are a good bunch...musicians, writers, photographers, wandering minstrel types, all sorts, people who've been around lots of blocks... and not all of them spell and punctuate as correctly as you lot but I hope you won't be looking down on them for that. In fact one of them (a poet called Jackie Hagan) wrote a very good poem about just that the other week (spelling was...not standard English...ideas and choice of words were fantastic). So...if you've time...see you over there...


Jim Murdoch said...

I can see why the piece would be popular, and I'm sure it's the kind of poem that works well at poetry readings. I am not fond of most rhyming poetry – I think it is very hard to do well – so I'll skip commenting on that aspect of the piece. What I would have preferred is to see the poem formatted as 5 stanzas which is how I laid it out to read.

The idea is very good and you develop it well. Rather than 'groups' I would've used 'schools' to use the play on schools of fish and schools of poetry. I'm not sure that water can be soused but that's me being picky. Personally I didn't like 'drowning while I swim' – to my mind you're swimming or drowning – and I would have preferred 'drowning in poets' but, of course, that would screw with your rhyme scheme. A nod to Stevie Smith's 'Not Waving but Drowning' would've been nice if you could've squeezed that in.

Rachel Fox said...

I find that when people say 'I'm sure it's the kind of poem that works well at poetry readings' what they really mean is 'I think it's a bit crap'...but I don't mind - we all have our own idea of crap! In fact I've never read this at a reading or performance...I don't read many poems about poetry when out as I am generally reading to an audience who aren't poets on the whole.

I really like writing rhyming poetry and I have a fairly open mind about it. If it seems the right way to go with a particular poem off I go...if it works I carry on...if it doesn't I stop. It is hard to do well and that's a challenge. Just because something's hard doesn't mean you don't try, does it (unless of course it's something I'm terrified of like driving on motorways then obviously not trying makes perfect sense...double I prefer bad rhyming poetry to bad non-rhyming poetry personally (and of usual...we all have our own idea of bad..just ask Michael Jackson).

The 5 stanzas...yes, I have changed other poems in that way before but I quite like this one compact as it is.

The schools would have been good - nice double entendre. Somehow that didn't come to me...I wasn't thinking about fish, I suppose, just poets. And I hate the whole idea of schools of poetry...when they teach literature in that way I hate makes it so dull. Still, maybe I did miss a trick there.

As for the 'swimming or drowning' and the 'can water be soused' thing I like about poetry is the flexibility of words within it. For example in the dictionary 'souse' can mean to 'make drunk' and so, on the one hand, the water could be made drunk with meaning...which I quite like. There are endless possibilities. I even like it when words do things that shouldn't or can't happen in 'real life'. So water can't be a poem it can...imagine it...what might it look like? It feels soused!

I did have Stevie Smith at the back of mind but didn't want to labour that. I thought the drowning reference might be enough. I do like her poems...crazy stuff.

Jim Murdoch said...

I have a whole blog coming up about sensitive poets so I'm being very cautious with what I'm saying these days. But what I will say is that if I thought the poem was crap I'd have said nothing about it. I did actually read it aloud to my wife which is why I said what I did. I think a lot of – to use your expression – "bad rhyming poetry" can be pulled off when you add a personality to the mix.

My main objection to contemporary rhyming poetry is that when the general public come across it they judge all poetry by what they hear. Of course there's a place for poetry-lite; people like Pam Ayres have been making a living off it for years. I find it hard to pull off although I did write a poem for a girl at work a few years ago completely in lisp called 'Repultith Pultheth' (Repulsive Pulses) which worked so I know I can do it but I never kept a copy of it. It was a throwaway as far as I was concerned.

Rachel Fox said...

It's OK Jim I'm not that sensitive..well, not on Thursdays...and I know you made a mix of points about 'Sea of poets' and I was just answering them. I put the thing about 'works well at readings' kind of as a joke...but also because it is something people say a lot and I'm pretty sure it's not always what they mean. I wasn't really saying you were calling me crap...not this time...You know too much about telling the truth and telling lies...

You have been very positive about other poems before and I don't expect everyone (or indeed anyone) to like everything in all of my poems. I write lots of different types of poems - some appeal more to some, others more to others...I found your comments interesting.

As for poetry-lite...I particularly like writing something that seems 'lite' but is not at all. Pam Ayres is an entertainer and a good one if you like her subjects (they can be a bit tame for me). She gets dragged in to a lot of arguments about poetry because she is the only poet that a lot of people know...just last week a neighbour asked me 'your stuff, like Pam Ayres is it?' I just smiled and didn't agree or disagree. I have another poem called 'Poetry places please' which is a little bit about that kind of thing (on website under's not one I read or use much...wrote it more to help myself figure out where I stand).

Ken Armstrong said...

I think some people occasionally confuse 'accessible' with 'lite'.

I know, 'cos I'm 'lite' and I strive to ascend to 'accessible'.

BTW: when I hear 'works well at poetry readings' I just reckon it sounds good being read aloud.

Rachel Fox said...

A much more sensible's difficult not to be a little sensitive about these things but I will keep that in mind and not always assume the worst! It's just snobbishness has always been one of my least favourite ways of thinking and drives me crazy! I have a poem called 'Snobs' too (on website under 'Other people').

hope said...

I wandered here from Shug's page and it was worth the trip. :)

I love your line:
"Some of us are better
The rest of you – get out!"

When I was in college, I had professors who believed poetry was the sole possession of the rich and overly educated. I'm pretty sure they are the sole reason my writing turned away from any poetic meanderings and into what I tend to call "creative rambling".

Keep swimming...and let the pretenders sink. Whether they rhyme or not is optional. :) I'll be back to visit.

Rachel Fox said...

Hi Hope - nice to read you.
Glad you like the 'Sea of poets'. The lines you mention are quite a key point in that poem. We all like some poems more than others, we all think some poets are better than others and we all have moments when we think maybe (just maybe) we might be good (and other moments when we think quite the opposite)...but the important thing is to not make the mistake of thinking that we know everything all the time and therefore that we are in a position to tell other people to 'get out'. I read and hear poems I think are rubbish but I don't say so (unless the poet is a total and complete and unrelenting arse). It's not that I'm scared to offend...I just don't think my opinion is the last word on poetry.It is only one opinion and I have my tastes and favourite styles and subjects. I will offer comment and say some bits of a poem are stronger or weaker but I will not say so-and-so can't be a poet and should leave the sea!

Rachel Fox said...

And speaking of 'rambling' - have you seen the title of this blog?
Ramblers unite!

hope said...

Oh how the eyeballs can deceive when the full title they fail to read. :)

I read "More about the Song" and for some reason, my brain stopped there. I will not, however, fail to return to read more of you. I love words and how they can be pieced together to create so many moods. You do good work. Instead of knitting mine tightly, into a poem, I tend to crochet them loosely into stories.

Now, can someone write a poem to define that phrase, "He/She had the soul of a poet"?

How is the soul of a poet different than those who merely write sentences or sign checks? :)

Rachel Fox said...

Scottish poet Don Paterson uses this phrase in his book 'The Blind Eye' - 'it is something broken in the head'.