Two quotes about poetry today

“[the poet] is expected to construct new poems out of the plastic and Styrofoam garbage that litters the twentieth-century linguistic floor, to make fresh art from the used verbal condoms of social intercourse.”

Stephen Fry

“Poetry is the highest art.”

Terry Pratchett

Defeated … by the ballad

Apparently there is just something about ballads that I cannot write. Day 25 of the napowrimo had an exercise to write a ballad, and I just couldn’t do it. There is something about the rolling, rhyming lines of the ballad that I couldn’t do. Not that I can’t rhyme. I have written quite a few rhyming things in the past and all of them seemed to work fine. But the ballad seems an insurmountable obstacle.

Oddly, this isn’t the first time that this has happened recently with a ballad. I’ve also been working through exercises from Stephen Fry’s excellent ‘The Ode Less Travelled’, a book I would absolutely recommend to beginning or even advanced poets everywhere. What is an advanced poet exactly? I’m not sure. But anyway. There was an exercise in that book to complete a ballad started by Stephen, and I couldn’t do that either. I’d written one once before (done the same exercise) and all that kept popping into my head was the lines I’d already written. Clearly there is something about the ballad that drives one towards insanity, or at the very least, non-productivity.

So I shall end this quick post with a question or two. Have you ever run into a block when writing something, especially a ballad? Do you have any advice for me writing ballads? And finally, what on earth is your appendix for anyway?

A poetic experiment…

Or should I say an experiment in poetry. Whether or not it’s poetic is up to you to decide. Anyway, I recently started re-reading a lovely book on writing poetry called The Ode Less Travelled, by the stupendous Stephen Fry. This book contains a number of exercises on writing poetry, which I’ve been working through lately. The latest one was on syllabic poetry, which we’re all familiar with in the form of the haiku. Whether or not haiku work in English language poetry (they don’t), syllabic poetry can be interesting as an exercise in form.

Anyway, the last time I read this book was in 2006. So take a look at two things I wrote, about six years apart, with the same exact structure and the same topic, cleaning. The syllable pattern in this case is 361484163. Which do you prefer?

2006

It comes off

With dust like white soap flakes

Scum

Washed right away

Bleached and clean as the Lethe’s flow

The naked rinse

Fresh

Letting you breathe again

Through closed eyes.

 

Your hairs lie,

Trapped in between the sheets

Dark

As negatives,

Dirty as the trace of a sore,

The bleach will

Stop

This thread of memory,

Cold water.

 

2013

Scrub, scrub, scrub

Out out damned spot, she says

While

He is slumped, out

Of commission on the couch

Slumped like daydreams

Clear

As the spray of Lysol

On windows

 

And he is

Circular argument

All

Prosaic tilt

And run of slackness, undone string

And lacking lilt

Ekes

Out life like squeezing, hard,

A tiny sponge