I did not set out to write poetry. I intended to write Novels. And anyway, I am of the view that much superbly written and evocative poetry already exists. The Shadows of Giants loom large. At the moment I have no illusion about even coming close to their kneecaps, never mind shoulders. This time last year I posted “Emulation“, a poem about the finely wrought craft of three (English language) poetry giants.
“Emulation” references two poems that had a notable impact on me during my adolescence: Sylvia Plath’s “Mushrooms” and “The Thought Fox” by Ted Hughes. (Yes, we studied them at school in our English lessons. Some exposures in life just can’t be helped.) Both poems struck me with the synaesthetic potential of words. To this day, I can still feel those mushrooms mouthing their insidious, hollow-breathed o’s at the world (“So many of us! So many of us!”). That Thought Fox still darts with a hot fox stink across my imagination.
(I had not noted, until reviewing these poems for this post, that both set the scene in a forest. How very archetypal; how very Brothers Grimm.)
“Mushrooms” is referenced via Plath’s famous “Tulips” (1961). I came across “Tulips” when I was older . Although a recognised and fine work, it does not evoke the same nostalgia for me.
The third poet to whom homage is paid is John Donne for his poem “The Flea“. Besides the pleasure of the words, it latched onto my leaning towards the miniature and slightly odd. Perhaps my little poem “An arrangement of Strangers” owes Donne a debt.
“His father beat him around
Only a little bit
on Wednesdays, after pay day,
or on Friday late,
after the races.
Clean up your mess, boy!”
The teachers preferred
her creative writing
to include such
So mature for her age!
In the accompanying essay to yesterday’s posted poem, I wrote about my creative process. Today both poem and essay are a comment on subject matter.
In my youth and during my brief teaching experience, I noticed a tendency towards a certain tone of pathos favoured by school creative writing. Describing meaningful life-knowledge in correct language and with well-chosen form, students showed maturity of expression. Such were the conditions of mark allocation.
As a pupil, when I wrote to emulate the style of this School of Pathos and Poignancy, I knew very little. My own life did not seem mark-worthy for creative writing submissions. There seemed to be nothing of Pathos and Poignancy in what I did know about – my suburban home-life, our small family dilemmas, my adolescent anxieties about would it all be ok, the constant balance of schoolwork and extra-murals and monthly visits to the renal clinic. Oh, how I dreaded Tuesday nights, because it would be tomato-bean-sausage pie for supper. My worst!
Now I have grown confident about my small life. I have also been fortunate to meet many who have shared of their lives. In these stories have I been touched by life’s school of pathos and poignancy.