Gordon brought Tennyson’s Charge of the Light Brigade. Can’t say I’m a big fan of the poem it’s rather dated and contrived.
We laughed at Ezra Pound’s Salutation the Third. Reading the poem eighty years after it was written – it didn’t surprise any of us that Pound was committed to a mental asylum.
Eluned brought in some interesting pieces to read and discuss. We felt the poem: Poem from a Colour Chart of House Paints was pretty good. Nigel seemed unsure of the poem’s artistic merit – I think he distrusted it from the start with its dodgy title. To be fair, I liked much of the poem; I just felt it needed more narrative to concretise its abstractness. I did however, like the economy of its structure. Parts of the poem were quite nicely observed and well written.
We also heard, A Villanelle for Hugo Williams by the poet Wendy Cope – this poem is really a witty exposition into the art of writing a villanelle. I thought it worked quite well. I read out her poem: Bloody Men, which was funny. Liz felt it was a touch disrespectful. She said a male author would not be allowed to get away with such blatant stereotyping. Perhaps, Liz is right – it’s still quite funny if not controversial. Who knows, maybe the poem is a feminist rant? I quite enjoyed its playfulness and its witty observations about human contact. It did describe the love/hate relationship between the genders in a remarkably concise way.
Somebody brought in the short poem Returning, We Hear Larks from a 1st World War poet who was killed in the trenches. It had a sad prophetic note to it. I liked the sublime images painted by the poem. The singing larks are used as an indexical symbol for the life contained in the ever-present-living-moment, which never dies. The last four lines in the septain were full of biblical metaphor and worked well for me.
We checked out some Competition Winners from the Spectator. Some of the verses were clever – maybe even politically relevant, but they were a touch shallow in sentiment.
John brought in Robert Herrick’s seventeenth century poem: His Grange, or Private Wealth. We couldn’t for the life of us work out whether his ‘private wealth’ was the material contentment enjoyed by a gentleman of the day, or whether it addressed an elicit affair with his maid Prew. Reading between the lines, it looked like his servant was a kind of common law wife, which to quote the author: ‘good luck sent’. I found the poem’s archaic spellings rather tiresome – others in the group felt it would be sacrilege to alter them. Sorry, that’s what footnotes are for – if I was the editor the poem would have been thoroughly revised and modernised!
Heather read to us Edward Lear’s nonsense verse. It ranged from very good to terrible. Much of it seems to have stood the test of time and is still popular. I liked Leer’s personification of inanimate objects and playfulness with language. His illustrations were charming.
Last but not least, I brought in T.S. Eliot’s, Journey of the Magi (seen as it’s Christmas). To tell you the truth, I am not a huge fan of Eliot, but this is a masterly poem with textual density to it that is aesthetically pleasing and intellectually stimulating. We found his mixture of modern and archaic words blending together to form a modern and synthetic text very agreeable. We wondered whether Elliot was trying to superimpose ancient Palestine onto England’s landscape – a little like Blake’s New Jerusalem? Did he know about climate changes, which occurred in the area since Christ walked the Earth, or was he being artistically free. I love the poem, its full of detail and little incidents. Though the narrator is not wholly trustworthy, we figured the poem was supposedly set in around A.D. 63 – thirty years after the crucifixion. I feel the text also mirrored the shifting landscape of Europe during Eliot’s life, whether this was intentional or not, who Knows? I was remaindered of the Third Reich: ‘…an alien people clutching their gods.’ For me this poem held certain archetypes, which transcended the narrative of the Magi. The journey involved not only the Magi but also mankind too – it signified the universal movement of Birth and Death, in which the mystery of Christ is realised.