Turned up to Wednesday’s workshop and had a pleasant surprise with the variety of new poems written in the New Year.
Sadayo wrote an interesting piece in free verse called Songs of Orpheus. To say English is Sadayo’s second language, I am always surprised at the sophistication of themes she chooses. Her poems are littered with so many classical allusions and cultural references.
The piece laments the loss of the voice of the ancient oracle. On top of Montparnasse, Orpheus sings his melancholic song to a heard of goats. The song carries down the ‘mountain slopes/blistered by olive trees’ into the village where ‘…goddesses hid/inside the caves long ago.’ Meanwhile, the ‘miraculous words’ of the oracle are lost in spiritualised silence.
Eluned wrote a poem, she wisely titled Precious. The single stanza was about a black and white cat. Funnily enough, she mentioned the cat that she based the poem on is called Toffee. Her writing as usual was tight – though her poem was more of a first draft outline. Eluned told the group, she had constructed it rather hastily. I could see where she was taking the subject matter and I rather liked it. Little needed doing to it as far as I could see, small cuts here and there, plus splitting a line to make the text flow more smoothly was all it needed.
Liz in her irritation to Radio 4’s, Woman’s Hour wrote a cynical attack on feminism. She was of the opinion that the feminist movement aped men and all their terrible characteristics. I think she would have liked to see a form of feminism that both encouraged and developed discourses about positive ‘feminine’ qualities and role models that kept away from oppressed gender stereotypes. Her poem certainly got us all discussing about ‘Women’s Rights’ and fermented much discussion and debate amongst us all. I loved the cheekyness of the narrator. The poem in its tone sounded
‘I’m a liberated woman…
I no longer listen
to your crying.’
The author makes the point that the childcare assistants are paid so little that they can’t afford to have their own families. She says, cynically, ‘so borrow mine!’ At the end of the poem the narrator confesses that her husband has left her, because:
‘Men can’t stand powerful women.’
That is certainly an after dinner poem – if I ever read one – a work that might not be popular with some of the feminist listeners of Woman’s Hour. Liz still manages to court controversy – adding to the never-ending debate about Women’s Rights.
On a slightly different theme, Caroline produced a villanelle on the Relocation of the Temple Artemis (or what remains of it) to the British National Museum. Forms like villanelles can be tricky to write. Their strict rhyme scheme and refrain pattern can make their architecture somewhat constricting. Such a tight structure can be stifling for the writer – so well done Caroline! It always takes much more care and time to do one justice.
The villanelle discusses the ancient temple and its remains.
The Antipator of Sidon who compiled the list of the Seven Wonders of the World, says about the temple in his Greek Anthology:
I have set eyes on the wall of lofty Babylon on which is a road for chariots, and the statue of Zeus by the Alpheus, and the hanging gardens, and the Colossus of the Sun, and the huge labour of the high pyramids, and the vast tomb of Mausolus; but when I saw the house of Artemis that mounted to the clouds, those other marvels lost their brilliancy, and I said, 'Lo, apart from Olympus, the Sun never looked on aught so grand.'
Antipater, Greek Anthology IX.58
Caroline laments about the lost treasures – the theft of the relics of antiquity, by the British Museum.
Before Caroline left tonight she read us her poem ‘Dreams Hemmed and Seamed by Experience’ – a sharply observed poem about her dreaming dog. It worked well, Caroline is a talented writer. I thought her title rather imaginative and provocative. She explained to us all that a dream is a like a portal, which is ‘hemmed and seamed by experience’ according to Caroline a dogs dream (or any being?) is no different (in this respect) to a humans. I never really thought about dreams that way. Caroline managed to provide a fascinating insight into the terrified mind of her dog, who on occasion, suffers from nightmares. I like poems that take unusual perspectives or viewpoints as their main point of emphasis – we were certainly engaged by the way that she led us into the mind of her dog – an intriguing idea that made me appreciate canine psychology.
As you can see there is certainly a selection of talent in our humble little group.
Tonight, I finished off with a parody of Rudyard Kipling’s poem – If.
I though Nick Clegg was fair game for such a parody. I was therefore, delighted to read about him in this evening’s paper. Both the Daily Mail and the Metro ran stories today about Boris Johnson who again, criticised the Deputy Prime Minister on London’s LBC Radio. In a classic comeback, he called Nick Clegg, ‘a prophylactic protection device’ to shield David Cameron from all the ‘cheese.’ The Daily Mail said, that the Chancellor has asked for another £12billion in cuts. Boris Johnson quipped that Nick Clegg was the Prime Minister’s ‘ lapdog who has been skinned and turned into a shield.’ He also said that the leader of the Liberal Democrats was a ‘wobbling jelly of indecision.’ The Mayor of London certainly came out with some classic putdowns.
It was in this vein that my poem criticised the leader of the Liberal Democrats.
Tonight’s group helped me solve a couple of technical problems and corrected a handful of typos. The poem charts the many mistakes of the Lib-Con coalition and is narrated from the viewpoint of Mr. Clegg’s dad on Election Night. The narrator is like a cross between Rudyard Kipling and the Antichrist.
As a sideline, If was voted as the favourite poem of the British public by a poll conducted by the arts programme, The Bookworm in 1995. Written in 1910, the poem was first published in Rewards and Fairies. The Kaiser admired the poem so much that he had a copy on his desk. The Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci who was a political prisoner of Benito Mussolini in the 1930’s – translated the poem into Italian. In case you’re wondering, The Lady of Shallot came second by Tennyson and The Listeners by Walter De La Mare came third. Incidentally, Carol Ann Duffy’s wonderful poem Warming Her Pearls came one-hundredth in the poll. This said, Rudyard Kipling’s poem managed to beat The Lady of Shallot by more than twice as many votes!
You can read the finished poem I wrote by clicking on Parodies – one of the categories on the right hand side of my journal.