2016 minus 16: poetry corner

Posted: 16 December 2015 in 2016minus, writing
Tags: , ,

I’ve never been one for poetry. No, that’s not quite true; I enjoy the occasional poem, but only that. I’m quite prepared to acknowledge that’s from a lack of exposure rather than a considered view, reached after extensively researching the field. There are some silly pieces of verse I learned as a child, and which have stuck in my head, and – again when I was a child – there was a tradition of signing each other’s autograph books when we left secondary school. Having a signature thing to scrawl above an actual signature always made sense to me, and I stole the following to use:

Can’t think
Brain numb
Inspiration won’t come
No ink
Rotten pen
All Best wishes
Amen

My first exposure, you see, was to rhyming verse, and this was probably the first thing I remember liking so much I learned it: The Akond of Swat, by Edmund Lear

THE AKOND OF SWAT

Who, or why, or which, or WHAT, Is the Akond of SWAT?

Is he tall or short, or dark or fair?
Does he sit on a stool or a sofa or chair, or SQUAT,
The Akond of Swat?

Is he wise or foolish, young or old?
Does he drink his soup and his coffee cold, or HOT,
The Akond of Swat?

Does he sing or whistle, jabber or talk,
And when riding abroad does he gallop or walk, or TROT,
The Akond of Swat?

Does he wear a turban, a fez, or a hat?
Does he sleep on a mattress, a bed, or a mat, or a COT,
The Akond of Swat?

When he writes a copy in round-hand size,
Does he cross his T’s and finish his I’s with a DOT,
The Akond of Swat?

Can he write a letter concisely clear
Without a speck or a smudge or smear or BLOT,
The Akond of Swat?

Do his people like him extremely well?
Or do they, whenever they can, rebel, or PLOT,
At the Akond of Swat?

If he catches them then, either old or young,
Does he have them chopped in pieces or hung, or SHOT,
The Akond of Swat?

Do his people prig in the lanes or park?
Or even at times, when days are dark, GAROTTE?
O the Akond of Swat!

Does he study the wants of his own dominion?
Or doesn’t he care for public opinion a JOT,
The Akond of Swat?

To amuse his mind do his people show him
Pictures, or any one’s last new poem, or WHAT,
For the Akond of Swat?

At night if he suddenly screams and wakes,
Do they bring him only a few small cakes, or a LOT,
For the Akond of Swat?

Does he live on turnips, tea, or tripe?
Does he like his shawl to be marked with a stripe, or a DOT,
The Akond of Swat?

Does he like to lie on his back in a boat
Like the lady who lived in that isle remote, SHALLOTT,
The Akond of Swat?

Is he quiet, or always making a fuss?
Is his steward a Swiss or a Swede or a Russ, or a SCOT,
The Akond of Swat?

Does he like to sit by the calm blue wave?
Or to sleep and snore in a dark green cave, or a GROTT,
The Akond of Swat?

Does he drink small beer from a silver jug?
Or a bowl? or a glass? or a cup? or a mug? or a POT,
The Akond of Swat?

Does he beat his wife with a gold-topped pipe,
When she lets the gooseberries grow too ripe, or ROT,
The Akond of Swat?

Does he wear a white tie when he dines with friends,
And tie it neat in a bow with ends, or a KNOT,
The Akond of Swat?

Does he like new cream, and hate mince-pies?
When he looks at the sun does he wink his eyes, or NOT,
The Akond of Swat?

Does he teach his subjects to roast and bake?
Does he sail about on an inland lake, in a YACHT,
The Akond of Swat?

Some one, or nobody, knows I wot
Who or which or why or what
Is the Akond of Swat!

Since then, I’ve always enjoyed rhyming verse, in all sorts of meters, and I’ve written some; some are standalone pieces, and some have been for the fast fictions; The past three years Twelve Days of Fast Fiction have have included one written in verse, and I’ve no doubt this year’s will also include at least one. I wrote two for Twenty Four Hours of Fast Fiction, but only rarel have I written in ‘free verse’.

So… Here are two more poems I like a lot, and then two of my own. Enjoy.

One of my guilty pleasures is watching El Dorado. Every so often during the movie, James Caan’s character, Alan Bourdillion Traherne – yeah, you can see why he goes by ‘Mississippi’ – recites part of a poem.

Here it is:

El Dorado by Edgar Allan Poe

Gaily bedight,
A gallant knight
In sunshine and in shadow,
Had journeyed long,
Singing a song,
In search of El Dorado.

But he grew old —
This knight so bold —
And — o’er his heart a shadow
Fell as he found
No spot of ground
That looked like El Dorado.

And, as his strength
Failed him at length,
He met a pilgrim shadow —
“Shadow,” said he,
“Where can it be —
This land of El Dorado?”

“Over the Mountains
Of the Moon,
Down the Valley of the Shadow,
Ride, boldly ride,”
The shade replied —
“If you seek for El Dorado.”

And The Owl Critic:

The Owl Critic by James Thomas Fields

“Who stuffed that white owl?”

No one spoke in the shop,
The barber was busy, and he couldn’t stop;
The customers, waiting their turns, were all reading
The “Daily,” the “Herald,” the “Post,” little heeding
The young man who blurted out such a blunt question;
Not one raised a head, or even made a suggestion;
And the barber kept on shaving.

“Don’t you see, Mr. Brown,”
Cried the youth, with a frown,
“How wrong the whole thing is,
How preposterous each wing is,
How flattened the head is, how jammed down the neck is —
In short, the whole owl, what an ignorant wreck ‘t is!
I make no apology;
I’ve learned owl-eology.

I’ve passed days and nights in a hundred collections,
And cannot be blinded to any deflections
Arising from unskilful fingers that fail
To stuff a bird right, from his beak to his tail.
Mister Brown! Mr. Brown!
Do take that bird down,
Or you’ll soon be the laughingstock all over town!”
And the barber kept on shaving.

“I’ve studied owls,
And other night-fowls,
And I tell you
What I know to be true;
An owl cannot roost
With his limbs so unloosed;
No owl in this world
Ever had his claws curled,
Ever had his legs slanted,
Ever had his bill canted,
Ever had his neck screwed
Into that attitude.
He cant do it, because
‘Tis against all bird-laws.

Anatomy teaches,
Ornithology preaches,
An owl has a toe
That can’t turn out so!
I’ve made the white owl my study for years,
And to see such a job almost moves me to tears!
Mr. Brown, I’m amazed
You should be so gone crazed
As to put up a bird
In that posture absurd!
To look at that owl really brings on a dizziness;
The man who stuffed him don’t half know his business!”
And the barber kept shaving.

“Examine those eyes
I’m filled with surprise
Taxidermists should pass
Off on you such poor glass;
So unnatural they seem
They’d make Audubon scream,
And John Burroughs laugh
To encounter such chaff.
Do take that bird down;
Have him stuffed again, Brown!”
And the barber kept on shaving!

“With some sawdust and bark
I could stuff in the dark
An owl better than that.
I could make an old hat
Look more like an owl
Than that horrid fowl,
Stuck up there so stiff like a side of coarse leather.
In fact, about him there’s not one natural feather.”

Just then, with a wink and a sly normal lurch,
The owl, very gravely, got down from his perch,
Walked around, and regarded his fault-finding critic
(Who thought he was stuffed) with a glance analytic,
And then fairly hooted, as if he should say:
“Your learning’s at fault this time, anyway:
Don’t waste it again on a live bird, I pray.
I’m an owl; you’re another. Sir Critic, good day!”
And the barber kept on shaving.

And finally, as promised, two of my own:

Her… And Home

She opens the door, and silent music surrounds me.
A waft of perfume strikes my senses and I’m lost.
She brings me home with a smile.
A toss of auburn hair, a feline glide across the room as she sits.
Clumsiness permeates me as I remove my coat and then –
Her eyes promise so much, and I wish.
The day is over, and yet somehow not.
Later, I watch her, sleeping, all stress removed.
The regular pattern of her breathing soothes me.
At rest, I sleep, safe.
And wake alone.

Hangover? What Hangover?


Bang! Crash! Noise!
Oh God, how much did I drink last night?
My teeth itch; my skull throbs
And why does the world look purple?
I’m sure that you’re supposed to wear
Clothes that are silent.
And how did this balaclava get inside my head?
You’re writing too loud.
Please be quiet.
Please.
What’s that you whisper?
Tonight? 8 o’clock?
Sure, why not?
Never agains are for other people.

Something different again tomorrow…

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