Tuesday, April 27, 2010

On Poetry and Dyspepsia

This morning began badly. I had passed a broken night plagued by sinister intestinal arias and had finally slipped into a lightly-greased coma when I was awoken by a troupe of vulgar children taking a shortcut through the grounds. Nothing is more terrifying to me than children en masse. When they had gone I had my Fanny put down some salt, but I have no doubt they will return.

For breakfast I dealt commendably with a sweetbread bap washed down with small beer, but my mood was low, the Black Dog cocking its leg against the scrappy saplings of my mind. Fanny tried to distract me, bless her cotton socks, but I have seen that trick with the billiards balls so very many times that I could barely raise a smile, let alone anything else. I decided that the only thing to do was to get stuck into this review, so Fanny booted on or whatever you call it, and from the ether we summoned Shadow.

Imagine my delight when I discovered that Shadow is a poet! And I mean that without a trace of sarcasm – poetry is my meat and my cream. I am aware that I am in a minority here. Some people have had such traumatic experiences with poetry that they shut down at the mere mention of the word, the way I do when I hear ‘siphon tubing’. It is such a shame, because a good poem, a really good poem, is like a toothful of gods.

Shadow is a prolific little monster. There are well over a thousand posts here, which is a touch daunting for one who would at least like to eat supper before they die. I decided to start with the most recent post and work backwards. Fanny handed me a large Advocaat-and-brine and in I plunged, hoping to have my maculate soul salved by some beautiful words.

But oh! Unhappy day! Shadow rhymes! Of course, in all fairness, rhyming isn’t always a bad thing. From Shakespeare to Edward Lear, people have pulled it off. But the trouble with rhyming verse is that, in the wrong hands, it quickly dissolves into doggerel. Shadow stuffs her words into forms like Fanny stuffs me into my truss each morning and they, like me, end up uncomfortably strained, viz:

"gone is the spark that would dance in your eyes
silent the words that my heart on relies"

"playful the creatures that dance through the night
carried by angels whose calls them invite"

"a feeling as silent and subtle as mist
is rising up through the air
tentacles curling and winding their way
sensations you don’t much for care"

All of the above are very much sic, of course. And I would hope that they illustrate the problems I had with Shadow’s work. I am all for people having a go - we must never shy away from poetry assuming it is only the pastime of the intellectual elite. I must own to having penned the odd stanza or two myself; mostly romantic verse written during my courting days. Prison is most conducive to romantic thoughts, to which the great Marquis himself would no doubt attest. I think the world would be a much nicer place if more people flirted with the odd haiku. However, there is no escaping the fact that I find this to be excruciatingly awful poetry.

It’s not just the rhyme scheme (which is haunting me, forcing all my thoughts and movements into a sing-song rhythm. Diddly-diddly-diddly-dum, I go as I make my way from the daybed to the dressing table. De-diddly-diddly-doo), it’s the repetitiveness of imagery, theme and language. I had Fanny search for posts containing the words dark, darkness, black, pain, sorrow, shadow, moon, kiss, soul, angel, demon, night, but we got bored of counting. I realised when I reached the fortieth post that I had not yet happened across a single arresting image, one startling line. I quite like, "your words are laced with rust," but the poem ends with the plain unforgivable:

"and with the onset of natures death
my soul froze to your plea
cold is the whisper on your breath
i retreat into woods misty"

There are, no doubt, many people who would disagree with me about all this. Shadow has a lot of chums – there are in excess of forty comments on some of her posts, almost all of them extremely supportive. She is a member of a thriving little community, and she’s even got awards! I wish someone would give me an award. They’ve taken all my medals away from me now, and the ones Fanny made from milk bottle tops just don’t have the same je nais se quoi. Anyway, there is clearly a market for this kind of stuff (but this is the internet, where there’s a market for crayoned drawings of ants fucking cardamom pods), and Shadow’s fans have every right to question my authority to judge. I question my judgement all the time. Why, for example, have I just eaten two pounds of whelks? We’ll all come to regret that soon enough.

I must point out that Shadow isn’t all about poetry – a hop back in time reveals diary-style entries about her day-to-day life, her favourite things and so forth. From this and other hints around the place, I came to appreciate that Shadow has seen some tough times. I am not callous enough to make light of anyone’s afflictions, addictions or journeys to recovery, and I tip my cap to Shadow’s strength in making herself well. I’m just here for the poems, as poems are what Shadow has been producing these past many months.

I believe it is customary to give advice at some point during a review, but I am not sure what advice I can give to Shadow. She likes her poetry. Her fans like her poetry. It seems to provide them all with much-needed succour. I would love to see Shadow throw off her ill-fitting forms and frolic naked in free verse, but that’s my personal taste. I could recommend a thesaurus and a big, fat poetry anthology, but they are my panaceas. Everyone should keep a poetry anthology in their bathroom. I can think of no more profound an experience than reciting Yeats during a healthy evacuation.

Eventually, when all Shadow’s poems began to blur into one, I had to desist. I gave it a good shot, but I can’t recommend this blog (unless you like pictures of raven-haired beauties, of which there are many; they look mournfully into the mist, they play the violin against burning skies, they show coquettish shoulders by strange seashores. I prefer blondes myself. Fanny had the most beautiful golden curls, before the accident). There is so much quality stuff out there that I’m damned if I’m going to read any more of this rot. Shadow is a grown woman. She can write what she likes, but I will never return to her site, nor will I ever forgive her. My umbles are protesting and I’m going to need at least an hour on the commode with Dylan Thomas before I can face Fanny’s tripe for tea...

For making me hate poetry, I award Shadow with this brightly flaming finger. Why not write a poem about it?


  1. I want to do nothing more than fling gratuitous flaming fingers her way. Seriously, Meat. I almost adjusted the rating. Sic indeed.

  2. Perhaps I have not yet got the hang of these rating things. I wanted to convey a mixture of 'banal', 'beneath me' and 'bollocks'.

  3. I heart your review
    Forcemeat, a force for certain
    Force your meat on me?

  4. Fire fingers abound.
    Emo poems bum me out.
    She asked, she received.

  5. It is not force, Miss,
    When you crave the meat so hard.
    It just slips inside.

  6. There once was a girl from Nantucket
    and she was a stupid bitch.

    There. I am an effing laureate.

  7. Perhaps we all need,
    Tasty bites of clown sandwich.
    Biscotti no more.

  8. Shinerpunch, that almost made me spill my sherry.

  9. Let's all make forcemeat.
    The recipe is simple,
    adjectives and salt,

  10. A heart of meat is
    the new black. But hipsters will
    ruin it, for sure.

  11. The only thing that could make this blog worse is Loreena McKennitt's, the Mummer's Dance playing automatically when the page loads.

  12. Meat, had I sherry to spill, this:

    (Fanny had the most beautiful golden curls, before the accident)

    Would have ruined my pants.

  13. At least my Fanny's been inspired by Shadow. She's penned her own little ode:

    the pain eats my heart like a zombie Dalmatian,
    my soul by my tears tipped
    to the brink of damnation.

    i plead with my demons, so dark and so legion,
    to let me released be
    from this shadowy region.

  14. God fucking dammit, Miss, I forgot that song existed and there you go, fucking shit up.

  15. Tell your Fanny that Shadow would definitely feel release from her regions at that little ode.

  16. Shiner, perhaps this once, we should have a Haiku of the week instead of quote of the week. Make the minions get creative.

  17. Agreed. Let the verse flow freely. Not too freely, though, because we have limited syllables and it's not even noon at my desk.

  18. Does the poetess? poetrix? know she's been reviewed?

  19. Her feelings too deep,
    Blog like a waking nightmare.
    Words put me to sleep.

  20. A glossy apple.
    She drives a Nissan roadster.
    Though her words still dull.

  21. I give you now Professor Twist,
    A conscientious scientist,
    Trustees exclaimed, "He never bungles!"
    And sent him off to distant jungles.
    Camped on a tropic riverside,
    One day he missed his loving bride.
    She had, the guide informed him later,
    Been eaten by an alligator.
    Professor Twist could not but smile.
    "You mean," he said, "a crocodile."

    Great review.

  22. I told Shadow that she'd been reviewed.

  23. I went back and looked at the older entries. I like her ramblings better than the poems.

  24. Good fucking golly, she writes like 400 shitty poems a year.

    And those old non-poetry entries are definitely better than these horrible poems. They're still emo, but tolerable.

    I should show her my build-a-bear poem.

  25. I agree that the old posts are more bearable than the poems, but in the ones I read, she used 'i' instead of 'I', which I cannot abide. There are very few people who can get away with such stylistic skylarking, most of them dead.

  26. Sylvia Wrath4/27/2010 3:42 PM

    I have a whole notebook full of these kinds of poems. I wrote them all in junior high.

    Rassles - I really want to see your build-a-bear poem.

    Excellent review.

  27. This is one of my favorite reviews I've ever seen on here.
    For a few reasons, but it was particularly colorful without being just plain snarky or bitchy. It also makes me want to read your blog and figure out who Franny is and what happened and all those details are delightful - I agree about the sherry+ruined pants.

    Also fuck yeah a reviewer who likes poetry even a little bit, finally!

  28. Poems are my fuck. To see them thus debased makes me feel all killy.

    Forcemeat, you are welcome to pop round to mine for tea any time you fancy.

  29. I'm really excited about Forcemeat's future round these parts.

  30. I thought Forcemeat
    Screwed me
    But I learned soon
    That we merely cuddled
    In his benevolent spoon

  31. Good show, Mr Stock, good show indeed.

  32. Geez, she has 57 comments for a poem that rhymes membrane and vein.

  33. But wouldn't you rather have eight comments of substance than fifty-seven people affirming nothing?

  34. This blog has a long history of love for good poetry, and lethal hate for those who torture the word.

    Good poetry, reviewed by Calamity.

  35. Forcemeat flutters my meat curtains, by the way.

  36. This drivel is exactly the sort of thing that inspired the following:

    Ode to Some Poor Schmuck on the Occasion of His Retirement/Death/Marriage/Whatever

    I could not possibly care any less
    Than I do trotting out this awful mess.
    Please forgive my lack of humility --
    Coinicides with lack of ability

    I have so much to say, I’ll make it fit,
    Even if doing so sounds quite like shit.
    All that matters, it seems, is that it rhymes
    Despite my committing sonorous crimes.

    I’ll force the expression of sentiment
    With words that show mental impediment.
    Arranged like crackers, my metaphors please
    People like me, who are impressed by cheese.

    (This is the part I don’t want you to know.
    Sleeping, this poem did out of me flow.
    So many occasions to which I’ve been --
    Tell me, what the fuck was your name again?)


Grow a pair.