Sunday, 29 November 2009

How I do hate the poetry of others

How I do hate the poetry of others:
it sticks in my throat
like an attempt to swallow something large and unpleasant,
like an elephant tranquilizer pill or perhaps a smallish whale;
I feel it wriggling as it forces its way down into my brain.

Having to pretend I like this and that [I don't],
notice about that [I notice nothing - it is all incomprehensible],
appreciate this or something about this [wish they'd just shut up],
know the feeling [I don't know the feeling - I just feel numb],
am transformed by a new understanding
[I'm not - I'm stuck forever at the bottom of a deep dark hole].

Hate it all.
Hate it all.
Wish it would stop.
Wish it would all just stop.
Wish it would all just go away.

Until

against every fibre of will in my being
some slight and innocent-looking words on page
refuse to be treated with my usual contempt
and I am destroyed.

Saturday, 28 November 2009

Pacifist Suicide Bomber

Today a
pacifist suicide bomber
blew himself up in a crowded market square.

51 civilians were killed and eye-witnesses
reported that hundreds more were injured.

There are currently 37 people in hospital in a critical condition,
a defence ministry spokesman said.

See how the poem is mightier than the bomb?

See how I achieved as much as you did
without actually having to kill anyone?

(we both achieved nothing)

Wikipedia: Suicide bombings in Iraq since 2003

Friday, 27 November 2009

A future that's worth not fighting for

On Remembrance Day,
I remember the civilians who had bombs dropped on them
I remember Hiroshima and Nagasaki and napalm
I remember the children who lost their parents
and the parents who lost their children
I remember the justifications and lies told by politicians:
old lies, new lies,
from “dulce et decorum est” right up to “weapons of mass destruction”,
all flavours of lie,
new lies for a new generation,
lies for every occasion, whatever lie takes your fancy.

On Remembrance Day,
I remember the courage of those who have refused to take up arms;
the courage to face up to the stigma of cowardice.
I remember the conscripts who were shot for refusing to kill or refusing to walk into a blood bath
I remember the stupidity of generals
the ulterior motives
the attempt to control of the world’s resources
the complicity of religious leaders,
I remember the profiteering of arms manufacturers
I remember the evil perpetrated by people who were
"only following orders".

On Remembrance Day,
I remember the pomp and circumstance that makes it all seem so glamorous.
I remember the foolishness of young men,
who bought the latest marketing for state sponsored killing and world domination,
who got sucked in by slogans like, “U.N. peace-keepers”,
“global policemen”, “preventing genocide and preventing ethnic cleansing”,
“standing up for the weak against the powerful” (failing to notice that it is us who are the powerful, and them who are the weak)
I remember the naivety of teenagers
who always wanted to drive a tank or a jet fighter and didn't think about what they might have to use it for,
who watched Top Gun too many times when they were kids,
who came from a military family and no one ever taught them any better,
who couldn't think of anything better to do with their lives than join up and suffered from an education system that failed to help them find anything,
who instinctively knew that uniform equals pussy.

On Remembrance Day,
I remember the future we could have
if we all simply refused to kill
if we all simply refused to take part in the killing
if we only ever played violent games with people who had consented to play them with us
if we gave up the option of using our superior military strength to dominate the world's flow of wealth and resources
if we refused to rise to the terrorists’ bait
and refused to fall to terrorists’ level
if we refused to waste our lives getting sucked into petty fights over who has the best ideology
or the best brand of mythic god,
or the most right to a particular plot of land,
if we stopped trying to make up for our laziness and boneheaded inability to innovate,
by stealing other countries oil and other natural resources,
which if we only would put out minds to it we could quite happily live without.

On Remembrance Day,
I remember the courage it takes to oppose the status quo
The unquestioned social agreement that dying in horribly painful ways while obeying orders merits honour and respect and gratitude,
When actually it only merits sympathy or at most compassion,
The unquestioned assertion that I and my community benefit from “freedoms” that exist by virtue of the sacrifices the ones who have died made,
The courage it takes to refuse to honour or respect soldiering or terrorism of any kind and certainly not when it is voluntary,
I remember how that marks me out to be ostracised and derided,
How our society is oriented around the blind acceptance that war may be a dirty job, but someone has to do it, and they should be respected for that.

On Remembrance Day,
I remember what we could do with our lives if we lived in a world where violence only occurred between consenting adults,
I remember what could be possible if we used our creativity to make the world a better place,

I remember a future that is worth not fighting for.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

The Wild Swans at Coole, W.B. Yeats

THE TREES are in their autumn beauty,
The woodland paths are dry,
Under the October twilight the water
Mirrors a still sky;
Upon the brimming water among the stones
Are nine and fifty swans.

The nineteenth Autumn has come upon me
Since I first made my count;
I saw, before I had well finished,
All suddenly mount
And scatter wheeling in great broken rings
Upon their clamorous wings.

I have looked upon those brilliant creatures,
And now my heart is sore.
All's changed since I, hearing at twilight,
The first time on this shore,
The bell-beat of their wings above my head,
Trod with a lighter tread.

Unwearied still, lover by lover,
They paddle in the cold,
Companionable streams or climb the air;
Their hearts have not grown old;
Passion or conquest, wander where they will,
Attend upon them still.

But now they drift on the still water
Mysterious, beautiful;
Among what rushes will they build,
By what lake's edge or pool
Delight men's eyes, when I awake some day
To find they have flown away?

W.B. Yeats 1919 (1865–1939)

Jerusalem, William Blake



And did those feet in ancient time,
Walk upon Englands mountains green:
And was the holy Lamb of God,
On Englands pleasant pastures seen!

And did the Countenance Divine,
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here,
Among these dark Satanic Mills?

Bring me my Bow of burning gold;
Bring me my Arrows of desire:
Bring me my Spear: O clouds unfold:
Bring me my Chariot of fire!

I will not cease from Mental Fight,
Nor shall my Sword sleep in my hand:
Till we have built Jerusalem,
In Englands green & pleasant Land.

William Blake 1757–1827

Monday, 16 November 2009

The heart of my self

There is a tree that has grown up
In the heart of my self
That has weathered a thousand storms,
And looks set to weather another thousand
Before it falls.

Maybe it will not fall;
Maybe when the life has left it
The dead trunk will still stand there
Defying elements, refusing to rot,
Refusing to bend back down into the earth.

It has deep roots this tree of mine:
Sunk deep in the compost of extraordinary love
That a father and mother and sister and brother gave it,
And the storms that tried to humble it foolishly brought with them rain.

Rain nurtures, thunder calls forth exaltation,
Lightning makes a dazzling silhouette,
Wind gives exercise to its supple strength,
And after the storms die back
Sunshine warms the heart of its trunk.

No doubt it will be gone, after a while.

Note to self: an essay on meaning

Note to self: an essay on meaning
(or why words don't only mean what we want them to mean)

The reason lots of people
In particular myself
Tend to think that my poetry is not very good
Is because they (and I mean us) think that what I mean
By "poetry"
Ought to correspond to what they mean
By "poetry".

When I (and I mean you) talk about "poetry"
I am not talking about something
which I have construed as needing to in any way correspond,
or be compared to or put along side what other people (and I mean us)
may or may not call "poetry".

If you (and I mean me) want to know
what I (and I mean you) mean
By "poetry", read my poems;
My poems provide definitive and exact examples of
What I mean by "poetry".

Please do not ever under any circumstance
Expect my "poetry"
To match up to some standard you have of what
You think poetry ought to be.

My poems just aren't ever going to do that.
My poems just aren't ever going to do that.
My poems just aren't ever going to do that.

You'll only be disappointed (and I mean me)
And so will I (and I mean you).

Why will I be disappointed too?
Because you (and I mean me) came to me expecting
That when I say I write "poetry" I ought to be writing something like
what you would call "poetry"
And I don't:
I only ever write something like what I call "poetry".

But I never promised to write what you call "poetry"
And then call it what I call "poetry" in the first place.
So you accuse me of doing something
Which I never promised I wouldn't do
and now you're blaming me for breaking an agreement I never made
based on an assumption that I never agreed to.

I promise I'll sleep with you
if you promise to stop jumping to the wrong conclusion
and then blaming me for it
(and I mean you)

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

The Old Lie - WILFRED OWEN

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.

Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind.

Gas! Gas! Quick, boys! – An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling,
And flound'ring like a man in fire or lime . . .

Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.
In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin;

If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,

My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie; Dulce et Decorum est
Pro patria mori.

WILFRED OWEN (1893 – 1918)

Sunday, 8 November 2009

High Flight

Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds - and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of - wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov'ring there
I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air.
Up, up the long delirious, burning blue,
I've topped the windswept heights with easy grace
Where not lark or even eagle flew -
And, while with silent lifting mind I've trod
The high untresspassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand and touched the face of God.

by John Gillespie Magee, Jr.

Hate of few: fought by many

Hate of few: fought by many,
Man destroying man,
Manipulating horror causing death,
An army of flesh reduced,

Now leaves rank upon rank of white crosses.

A red more precious than rubies,
though wasted for lesser prizes,
is encrusted on the remnants of
kindred killed by kindred.

Living under torturous hardships
devised by ministers,
figureheads, heroes of the people;
murderers of soldiers.

Armies dead, killed fighting for the comfort of their killers.

[It is remembrance Sunday (today) and following the theme of remembering,
the poem above is one I remember from a school magazine - written by one of our classmates, although I don't think he was in my year.
I have written it out here from memory, so may have got bits wrong.
Unfortunately I do not remember the author's name, and my attempts to find it on the web got nowhere.
The author may not have thought it worth keeping around into their adulthood,
but I have always loved it.
If anyone knows the author name maybe you could leave a comment?
Thank you.]