… used to write observational ditties.
Sunrise anecdotes, as they rose to view.
High-rise moments that could tickle and tease.
Bric-a-brac messages from me to you.
Kept them in a folder, tattered and torn:
My Complete Book of Unfinished Works.
A mixed anthology of statements, sworn
to the master of truth; where danger lurks.
It’s a people watcher’s compendium,
an unbound collection of clever quips:
“slivers of silver – soft as cerium.”
“the tighter one grips – the faster one slips.”
. Life is just a series of thoughts condensed,
. cryptic adages, over days dispensed.
To the reader: Snapshots of life in passing are soon lost to memory. Short-term moments that catch your interest but quickly fade from view. These are the ingredients of doodles and ditties. My notebooks are full of sketchy lines and idle jots; half capturing a fleeting thought. And there’s the problem; at some point, do these bits and pieces make collective sense? Unlike entries in a diary or journal these snippets have a weak relationship with a string of time.
To the poet: Side-by-side two poems will often reflect a shared relationship with the poet’s current experience. As often as not they might also reflect the poet’s quick shift of focus. Some poems make reference to past or recurring interests and therefore resemble poems written in a distant period. In poetry chronology and sequence are quite separate issues… two threads; one rope.
Do not give that poet licence to print.
Trust him with nothing more than a bent quill.
Give him no room to manoeuvre, no hint
of suggestion; no modicum of thrill;
nothing to spill upon a naked page.
Just for his own amusement, he’ll distort
an innocent phrase; blatantly upstage
the messenger with elevated haught.
He’ll brazenly award himself credit
beyond his due; without hesitation,
he’ll tag himself as first to have said it…
Man of Words … with big imagination.
. This ‘Man of Words’ is just a dictionary,
. just a parrot, well-skilled at mimicry.
To the reader: It’s not words that commit the crime; it’s the choice of those words in combination with intent to harm or damage reputation. And so, the shady area of exploitation is encircled by interpretation. The cunning ‘poet’ will cleverly disguise his ambiguous message with layers of obfuscated connotation. Using every trick in the book, he’ll burden the reader with responsibility for word association.
To the poet: The parrot might be able to argue his words should not be taken literally. But, as a poet, you do have to take responsibility for the syntax and semantics of your artistic expression. Your deliberate acts of subtle word-play can cause a mischief that requires remediation; or at least, explanation. Blaming the reader for his/her sensitive interpretation is hardly the act of a chivalrous sonneteer.
Made in his likeness. More true than correct.
A permanent resemblance, confirming
his rigidity. In every respect
a replica; and in that sense, a thing
to be admired. As would justify
impressive compliment: so highly classed,
so desirable to this maiden’s eye.
Thus, besotted by his enduring cast,
she would praise upon him commendation.
Wonder at the depth of his conviction.
Absorb his strength, ride his motivation;
’til resolved of Cupid’s contradiction.
. Conviction is not a measure of length,
. without substance we have no strength.
To the reader: Stature has less to do with shape and form; more to do with conviction and substance. While the proportion of a figure provides insight into its mechanical advantages, the nature of its pose and posture suggest its depth of character. Poise and style are features of an impressive presence; something to be admired.
To the poet: Shakespeare enjoyed a little naughtiness. Sprinkled throughout his sonnets are references to all manner of subtle titillations. His last two sonnets (153 and 154) provide the most obvious examples of his brand of bawdiness. Never salacious or explicit just suggestive of something a little spicy. Could that be … surely not?
From that which lies about us we construct
plausible solutions; scenarios
that help explain what life, by chance, has plucked
as this day’s harvest of ripe curios:
people, events, time and place alongside
those artefacts, those things that decorate
this impromptu muddle; unqualified
mess – by chance an entanglement of state.
What lies about us is about us strewn.
A momentary arrangement that becomes
itself revealed as a glimpse; and so soon
becomes the fresh source of infinite sums.
. We are in pieces, patched together, wrought
. of all things about us; in loose contort.
To the reader: I’m a constructivist; intrigued as I watch organic plasticity contend with constant adaptation to non-organic obstacles. Without adaptive agility, existence is a fragile and brittle proposition. At the centre of my own survival guide is a stoic statement of resilience: things change and people adapt. Every heart-beat, every breath, is designed to extend or improve engagement with time and place.
To the poet: Poetry and fluid mechanics have a lot in common. Both seek to understand and/or harness the nature of flow. Fluids, just like poems, derive their character from internal and external forces that influence their dynamic state. The 1960’s hit-song ‘Poetry in Motion’ is a great example of syllabically static lyrics interacting to create the effect of a constantly rolling wave.
The young talk in terms of ‘failing forward’.
They have swallowed an implausible pill.
‘Failure’s now an option’ – one they applaud:
‘Why fear failure? An innovator’s thrill!’
Let’s stop, let’s pause, let’s think on this a bit.
‘To err is human’ let us grant them that.
But ‘what’s broke is broke’ there’s no place for it.
For it has dependencies: tit-for-tat
consequences, poor measures of success.
Poor excuses; a paucity of thought.
Backroom mistakes, it’s those we can bless.
But failure in practice is no good sport.
. Discoveries by accident are rare,
. not to be mistaken for failure’s flare.
To the reader: Playfulness has been appropriated, reduced to a game; and in this gamified world ‘failing forward’ is encouraged as a tactful strategy. This notion of risk-free failure suits a programmed environment where the variables have been given bounds of tolerance. Within set-bounds, the game itself looks after potential disaster; that pretended consequence has been programmatically eliminated. To game is not to play…
To the poet: To learn from your mistakes was the maxim of my generation. Poetry is an open-ended puzzle, and as a playful pursuit it resists any ‘gamed solution’. A poet that plays ingenuous games with his reader will soon be discovered. There’s an expectation of meeting real-risk head-on; over-coming failure (outside the pretence of a game) with intrepid audacity.
Perplexed by the passage of your passing;
the path you have chosen not to complete.
Death, that easy option, that ever-lasting
expression of nothing more than defeat.
Through your dangling obituary death speaks:
“dirges from the book of unfinished works.”
No songs of joy, hymns of praise; sadness shrieks
through a minor key, morbidly it jerks
at the heartstrings, tugs a discordant wrench;
pulls from mortality a cheap reward.
Never was the thirst for life given quench
through the cut and thrust of a broken sword.
. Rest – that which remains of a life unspent.
. Rest – that which contains all of life’s content.
To the reader: In his case, suicide was an ultimate escape; a cynical determination. A deliberate departure from life’s course; one he hadn’t travelled well. Alongside a list of other broken relationships I suppose suicide was just one more; consistent with his self-absorbed character. There were no indulgences he didn’t crave and feed to the detriment of others. Eventually his ‘smartness’ wore thin, and so he resorted to ever greater forms of obliteration; the final one rubbed him out.
To the poet: I’m sure he had many redeeming features. I knew of none. As anonymous he has become the particular avenue of my general vent. In his truncated life, I wasn’t allowed the last word; the attention-seeker makes no sense of that. But now, with his last move made it is my turn to speak. The poet’s obituary can be harsh… who bears the burden?