Shakespeare

Shakespeare and Seagulls

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Seagulls are aggressive blighters
they spend their time attacking
people
dogs
themselves

this was one of the key things
I learned in school

not from any text or
enlightened teaching practice
but from observing them
through the window of
room 132

whilst the rest
of Class 12A

had their minds numbed
by Twelfth Night and
other pointless practices

© Davy D 2017

Is Shakespeare Overrated?

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The British actress, Dame Judy Dench, once said “a bad experience of Shakespeare is like a bad oyster – it puts you off for life.”

This, it appears, is the case for me.

Before you all start screaming “PHILISTINE” I would like to put on record Shakespeare is probably the greatest and most influential writer to have graced this planet. The fact his work, 400 years on, is still widely read and performed is testament to his greatness but, despite many hours of reading and studying his work, I can’t warm to it.

At school, lessons involving Shakespeare were torturous – the seagulls on the sports hall roof providing better entertainment. The long-suffering Mrs Davy D, a huge fan of the Bard, has dragged me twice to see performances of Twelfth Night; to no avail the Shakespearian block just won’t lift.

As a child, my early poetic influences centred around the work of Edward Lear, Roald Dahl and Spike Milligan. In teenage years, I had progressed to the more serious work of Dr John Cooper Clarke and Pam Ayres. The onset of a more mature age has taken me to Charles Bukowski, Philip Larkin and a myriad of other poets with a dark slant on life, but still no room for Old Will.

What is it then that determines the kind of poetry and prose we read, enjoy and write?

Is it our upbringing, our early influences, our cultures?

Is it our education, the people we work with, our social groups?

I would be interested in hearing people’s views as I am in a dilemma. A teacher once told me “if you can’t love Shakespeare, then you can’t love poetry.”

The stage is yours, let the throwing of rotting fruit and vegetables commence.

Send in the Clowns

 

clownsIllustration Credit: Ben Smith

The World Clown Association is up in arms.

A recent outbreak of anti-social behaviour, in various countries, by people dressed as clowns is tarnishing their professional image. (This doesn’t include the ones in the British Parliament, or over in the USA, currently involved in the Clinton / Trump Circus.)

These outbreaks are worrying me. I have always held a close affection for clowns. It stems from my childhood days watching them running around the circus throwing buckets of confetti at unsuspecting audiences.

Clowns first appeared in the Fifth dynasty of ancient Egypt and, through time, have provided much material for writers and poets. Fool characters named Clown appear in Shakespeare’s Othello and A Winter’s Tale. Dame Edith Sitwell’s, Clown Houses and Vachel Lindsay’s, The Angel and the Clown, are famous examples of poetry with clowns as the focus. Perhaps the most famous Clown poem is,  A Clown’s Prayer, the writer unknown.

“As I stumble through this life,
Help me to create more laughter than tears,
Dispense more happiness than gloom,
Spread more cheer than despair.

Never let me become so indifferent,
That I will fail to see the wonder

What Inspired Your Love of Poetry?

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When I was 9 years old my parents bought me The Golden Treasury of Poetry by Louis Untermeyer.

The treasury was a selection of more than 400 poems, written through every great period of English Literature, from Chaucer and Shakespeare to Ogden Nash and T.S. Eliot. It became a favourite pet, following me everywhere.  At night- time I would sneak it under the bed covers and read the poems by torchlight till the early hours.

Forty-five years on the book is still with me, in pristine condition, and I am once again enjoying reading childhood favourites like Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s, Paul Revere’s Ride and The Courtship of the Yonghy-Bonghy-Bo by Edward Lear.

Looking back, it was this book that started my passion for poetry; a love affair that has been like any long-term relationship, full of laughter, tears and long periods where we haven’t spoken.

Over the years I have fallen in and out of love with poetry, and poets too many to mention. I have collected poetry books, gotten rid of them only to buy them again, but this book is the one that has remained in the fold since 1972.

I don’t know why it became a favourite and why it has survived so long. What I do know is it started a love for poetry still burning in me to this day.

What started or inspired your love and passion for poetry? Was it a particular book, poet, poem or situation that lit the fire?

I’d love to hear your stories.

Does a Poem’s Title Matter?

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At the weekend I was out walking when nature gave me one of those gifted moments set-up for poetry. As I walked past the village church the sun illuminated the church clock. It was 6.30 a.m. and the sound of pigeons echoed from the bell tower. A murder of crows hopped around the churchyard. From notes and a number of drafts the following poem emerged.

Six-thirty a.m.
Pigeons sing from the belfry,
Crows bounce on gravestones.

After a few days of pondering I am struggling to give the poem a title. I have come up with a number of possibilities; Stone the Crows, Church Disco, Birdsong. None of them seem to fit. This brings us to the focus of the blog, does the title of a poem matter?

When you write a poem do you start with a title in mind, or does the title come to light when the poem is either in progress, or written?

It is a mixture for me. Sometimes I think of the title first and write the poem around it. For example, I recently read a collection of articles from a digest where one of the articles was titled, Biography of a Wasp. What a great title for a poem. (This one is an in progress).

On most occasions I start the poem from a prompt, observation or experience and the title can change numerous times whilst writing. I also find that when I pick up a poem for drafting, after putting it aside for a while, the title seems inappropriate and changes.

As a reader of poetry it is sometimes the title of the poem that draws me in, but on most occasions the author of the poem and the poems content and subject area are more important. With certain poems I struggle to connect the title with the content, but isn’t that one of the joys of poetry?

Perhaps I should take a lead from Shakespeare and, like his sonnets, number my poems from 1-154.

What are your views on poem titles? Do you have any suggestions for my untitled poem?

I would welcome your thoughts.

Is a Poem Ever Finished?

Is a poem ever finished blog

I was having a clear up of the poetry den this week when I came across an old journal of my poetry. This was a collection of poems I had written between 1987 and 1989.

At the time I was working as a police officer in London and part of a unit dealing with major crime and disorder. The work was, at times, dangerous and handling high levels of stress and pressure was commonplace.

Writing these poems was a release valve, a time out to relax and get some thoughts and emotions down on paper. In 1989 I felt these poems were worthy of Shakespearian adoration. For whatever reason they never got any further than the bottom drawer.

Over twenty-five years later it was strange experience reading them again.
The Shakespearian delusions were shattered but, on reflection, I realised I had a number of useful drafts that could be moulded into pieces of poetry.

This made me think, is a poem ever finished?

Writing a poem is a snapshot in time. A photo of our thoughts, feelings and emotions in that moment.

We draft, re-draft, ponder, spend days mulling over changing a full stop into a comma.

The poem goes away and when we reacquaint ourselves with it, something has changed. Our lives are different; we are no longer the same people in that same moment.

If Sir John Betjeman was alive today would he change the words and tone of his poem Slough?

Would Wordsworth wake up in a sweat and re-write Daffodils?

I would love to hear your thoughts on this.