Friday, 20 March 2015

World Poetry Day

As you will no doubt know: it's World Poetry Day. I know. Exciting!

I woke up really energized by the prospect and I immediately logged onto the World Poetry Day website. Today is the day when we can exchange our poetry for coffee!

You might know that poetry is my secret shame. I spent years studying it in academia and though I don't read much modern verse (I'm more of a Shelley, Pope, Donne, Byron, Yeats, Stevens, Hughes man), I do occasionally write poems which I send to be rejected by poetry journals. I have a 100% record of having my poems rejected by literary journals and I'm extremely proud of the fact.

However, today was going to be different. Today my poetry would earn me something: a free cup of Joe! My bag was packed and I was ready to head to whichever cafe was participating in this clever scheme to bring poetry to the masses. Naturally, I expected to travel a little distance. Perhaps as much as twenty miles to find a place to get free coffee for my verse.

You might say I was a little disappointed when I saw the map.

200 sodding miles! That's how far I'd have to travel! 200 sodding miles!

So, here's a poem I'd picked out which I was going to donate to my local coffee shop. I wrote it a few years ago and I should warn you that it's rather powerful stuff. It deals with my love of coffee and the effect it has on my body. It's part of the Stan Archives and didn't make the cut of my finished book so I might as well post it here so it might live on. Donations for a cup of coffee gratefully accepted.

Ode to My Bladder by S. Madeley (poet)

After John Donne

Deceitful ounce of flesh! The trickster God called Bladder,
Always waits until I’m in a lift or perched atop a ladder,Or just when I’m dozing and Vanessa Feltz fills my dreams,Up or down I go, urged on by unreasonable streams;That Horlicks taken lastly with the ITN News at TenOr that early cup of Java meant to help renew my strength.Oh curs√®d God called Bladder, unfaithful and cruel,You are the geriatric version of a Lord of Misrule.Why do I have a bladder small? Just who do I thank?Wish I for a leak-proof tap or suitably appendaged tank.

Not had you enough of my poetry? Well have a refill. It's my tribute to my cat.

On The Death of Sandhurst (Cat)

Goodbye Sandhurst, you were my favourite cat,
Born of the union of Miggles and Tabitha Black,
Who was a friend in her day, but nothing quite like you,
So placid since you were neutered at the tender age of two.
Oh, I’ll miss you, Sandhurst! There’s no doubt about that!
Sad it was to see you lying there, so round and so flat.
For five long weeks you were a constant source of worry.
Why did you cross the path of Asda’s refrigerated lorry?
I doubt I’ll love another, you really were unique;
But I’ve bought myself a kitten. I think I’ll name him Squeak.


  1. Sadly, poetry has always passed me by – particularly the “modern” sort, with no pattern, rhythm or rhyme, and, usually, point. Perhaps you should count yourself lucky that you are so far away (love the appended map, btw – made me laugh out loud!), as you would probably have to listen to a lot of doggerel that others will think is art personified… or “wordified”… or whatever. Here’s my example:

    I rage.
    I rage against the world;
    I rage against the night;
    I rage against the weather
    Can nothing do it right?

    Glad you couldn’t get more?

  2. Not at all. Compared to some of the drivel I've had to read over the years, that was going somewhere. I mean, I could understand it and it made me laugh. That's point on the board, as far as I'm concerned.

    I should really write a blog post about poetry and why I hate so much of it but love a lot of it. The problem is that people are taught to hate poetry by people who don't understand poetry but understand the posturing of poetry. As soon as you stop reading it as that pretentious stuff, you realise that the best poetry is no different to any good prose but a lot better than most good prose.

  3. PS. Good to see you back. I'd missed your comments. ;)

  4. You are too kind. I have tried to understand poetry, but do find much of it – particularly the “modern” stuff – just pretentious drivel. Things that have stuck in my mind are such as Ozymandias, and much of John Masefield’s work – the pace and rhythm of each of the verses of his “Cargoes” can be seen even by me! (And the story of “The Dauber” is a treat, too, if a little sad (I mean, the subject dies!).)

  5. Oh, now, that is good. I've not read that before or, if I have, I don't remember it. It's exactly why I fell in love with poetry and what is so often missed when people talk about it. Poetry can be a masculine experience (and I know that sounds trite or simply silly but I don't think it is). Poetry is presented too often as a kind of feminine over-sensitivity, for little old ladies to talk about in their reading groups and nothing is more certain to get me angry than little old ladies in reading groups being precious about verse. I was first taught poetry by a fierce Welshman with a great voice and he taught me that it's really a kind of passionate intensity put into words. I love the blood in this, the organs, the violence. It's like reading Mamet before Mamet went odd and hyper-Zionist on everybody including his real fans, such as myself.

    I'm not totally intolerant of free verse, though it's really a few exceptions that pass muster. I believe most things worth doing in life involve craft and craft is about structure and form. Free verse gives people who have no poetic bone in their body the liberty to call themselves poets and, in my humble opinion, most poets who call themselves that are merely posturing hacks. It's why poetry is a dying art form: the form has disappeared from the art.

    That said, the first poem which really excited me, was Denise Levertov's Rain Walkers, which defies my logic to explain why I love it. This was the first poem I just adored close reading, seeking explanations for the line breaks. It's got a touch of Imagism about it, a bit of the not-crazy Ezra Pound. It's also American and I love America in poetry. I even like things like Ginsberg's America, though perhaps I love the recording more than I love it on the page. Ditto William Borough's 'American Prayer'. Yet, really, for me, poetry doesn't get better than things like Donne's Holy Sonnets or Byron's Darkness. I like twisted gnarly stuff, with a hit of God or the Satanic about it.

    However, Denise Levertov's Rain Walkers is where I began:

    An old man whose black face
    shines golden-brown as wet pebbles
    under the streetlamp, is walking two mongrel dogs of dis-
    proportionate size, in the rain,
    in the relaxed early-evening avenue.

    The small sleek one wants to stop,
    docile to the imploring soul of the trashbasket,
    but the young tall curly one
    wants to walk on; the glistening sidewalk entices him to arcane happenings.

    Increasing rain. The old bareheaded man
    smiles and grumbles to himself.
    The lights change: the avenue's
    endless nave echoes notes of
    liturgical red. He drifts

    between his dogs' desires.
    The three of them are enveloped -
    turning now to go crosstown - in their
    sense of each other, of pleasure,
    of weather, of corners,
    of leisurely tensions between them
    and private silence