I love poetry. Those words always sounds like you’re trying too hard. But I do really like it. Poetry has a rhyme and meter that can carry you away in a way that story can’t. I still remember poems that I haven’t read for twenty years, I remember how they affected me. There’s one by John Clare, called I Am, that I found recently written on the inside cover of one of my diaries from when I was a teenager. It starts like this:
I am: yet what I am none cares or knows,
My friends forsake me like a memory lost;
I am the self-consumer of my woes,
They rise and vanish in oblivious host,
Like shades in love and death’s oblivion lost;
And yet I am! and live with shadows tost
That kind of thing is pure catnip to a moody teenage girl from Grimsby, sitting in her bedroom in her Doc Martens. It appealed to my ‘nobody understands me’ psyche in a way that Morrissey never could. It was like he had written it for me, which was a coincidence as Robert Frost, who I studied for A-level and who, for the most part, bored me rigid, had also managed to write a poem just for me. ‘The Road Not Taken’ is a poem about indecision. How on earth he’d managed to know that seventy years later I’d be in a dilemma about which college to go to, I don’t know.
For all that I like poetry, I can’t for the life of me write it, which sort of makes me hate it a bit too, and I admire anybody who can. Each time I try it turns into some kind of dirty limerick, the ‘There was a young lady called Annie’ kind of thing, which is quite entertaining at parties but is frowned upon in polite poetry circles. I have problems with whether it should rhyme or not. I also don’t like how poetry isolates people. There’s a snobbery surrounding it and a feeling that you have to ‘get’ it. Poetry appreciation is sometimes the Emperors New Clothes of writing and I feel like I’m the little boy jumping up and down shouting, ‘But I don’t get it, it doesn’t rhyme!’
But I know what I like and that’s all that matters. From Pam Ayres to Brian Patten, Benjamin Zephaniah to E.E Cummings (yes, I know it’s supposed to be lower case but the pedant in me can’t physically type it like that, I tried and came back and changed it) I’ll happily read anything, as long as it sounds good.
I think you’ll find though, that for all her Poet Laureate-ness, Carol Ann Duffy would be quaking in her boots if she knew about the sheer poetic genius that led me to rhyme ‘Nottingham’ with ‘Front Bottingham’.