Today’s task was to “write a poem that deals with the poems, poets, and other people who inspired you to write poems.” As someone who studied Shakespeare’s sonnets for A level and then chose to take a module on ‘The Idea of the Poet in the Romantic Period’ as part of my English Literature degree, I thought I’d better include Shakespeare and Wordsworth as major influences on my own writing – not that I regard myself as a poet, but I do enjoy iambic pentameter and blank verse, as well as more free form poetry. With all this in mind, I wrote a sonnet in the ‘Shakespearean’ form (three quatrains, followed by a rhyming couplet – different to the Petrarchan form of octet and sestet which I’ve on previous days) which was actually about Shakespeare being my muse; then channelled Wordsworth by parodying his ‘Stealing the boat’ extract from ‘The Prelude’ (1850 edition) – he was my inspiration in the sense that I took a childhood incident and then rewrote it in blank verse, trying to be as pretentious as Wordsworth himself was when he took a whole page to say, ‘I stole a boat, got scared, went home’; then turned to Tennyson’s ‘Charge of the Light Brigade’ and parodied that; followed by a very brief parody of T S Eliot’s ‘The Waste Land’ (brief because I wrote a much longer parody of Eliot last week); and finally, an homage to Ezra Pound. None of it’s great poetry, but it’s been fun experimenting with other poet’s styles.
My muse’s verse is nothing like my own:
If words be flowers, mine wither straight away;
Yet writing all his sonnets, he has shown
Both wit and warmth for all he wants to say.
His rhymes work out, and nothing forced is there –
Unlike my own, which lack his stylish flow.
He writes with ease, as if he had no care,
But I must strive to make my rhythm so.
His language too contains an elegance
That’s sadly lacking in my poor attempt:
Each word he pens is never just by chance –
He’d view my awkward rhyming with contempt.
And yet, by heav’n, I’m proud of what I write –
Enthusiasm’s great where talent’s slight!
One summer evening (led by him) I wrote
A poem about my childhood, taking pen
And thinking on the tIme my hair was cut
By someone close – it was an act of stealth.
A Sunday afternoon with nothing planned;
My mother in her bedroom, writing notes.
For essays due within the following week
(She was an OU student and had much
To do – her essays occupied her life.)
Meanwhile, downstairs, my father sat and talked
With Nana Wood, now in her eightieth year –
A tiny, white haired woman who had come
To live with us – too old to live alone.
My brother pulled the scissors from beneath
His bed – it was the hiding place of choice.
A few swift snips – my long and golden locks
Lay on the bedroom floor, and now the fear
Rose up inside me – like some mighty fiend.
He’d cut my hair! What would my parents say?
But Paul just laughed and handed me some shorts
And then a jersey – it was my disguise –
And down we went and told my startled folk
My name was James and that I was a boy.
“He’s from Australia!” my brother said;
I played along and somehow mumbled, “Hi.”
My father thought at first it must be me;
Then, looking at my hair, he shook his head:
“Not with that hair!” And so we went outside,
Maintaining our pretence until the time
My mother, looking out, observed us both
And overheard Paul shout, “Jane! Over here!”
The game was up; we had to go inside;
A telling off was had; I think I wept.
For many weeks long after, o’er my thoughts
There hung a darkness, call it solitude
Or hair loss grief. No familiar length
Remained, no pleasant golden locks;
But short and jagged spikes rose from my head.
I grieved its loss: ‘twas ever on my mind
By day, and was a trouble to my dreams.
Write a poem, write a poem,
Write a poem faster!
Onto the virgin white page
Pour all your words down.
Make every sentence rhyme!
Or, at least half the time.
Let’s write a poem
With rhythm and metre!
Let’s sanitise the truth!
Let’s give romantic views!
Let’s glorify it all –
Ignore the true carnage!
Let’s glamorise the war!
This is what fighting’s for!
We’ll spin the disaster
And say it’s true courage!
IV. T. S. Eliot
April is the cruellest month:
Brooding isolation keeps us inside,
Mixing memory with desire …
V. Ezra Pound
I read some poems and searched for inspiration:
Others’ genius is my degradation.