Poetry. In General.

As I write this I am growing painfully self-conscious of the fact that I am displaying poetry to an unseen audience. I do not normally read my poetry aloud, or really show it off in any sense. Which is strange, because put a beat and a bassline behind those words and I am compelled to shriek them down a microphone whilst spanking myself with a tambourine (I have been tempted to speak to some sort of doctor about this in the past).
I only started writing poems about two years ago, and still consider myself very much a beginner. To be honest I suspect that it’s very much a dying art form – perhaps it always has been, and certainly hasn’t helped itself with its inescapable elitism. I mean, the whole point of poetry is to state something in a way which is indirect, difficult even, and thus importance and status is bestowed upon it by those who possess this ‘elaborated code-breaker’ (as Basil Bernstein may have put it) with which to translate it. To be absolutely honest, most poetry leaves me cold. I know what I like, and what I like stretches to maybe ten or fifteen poets and not much further. I have a good friend who is a passionate champion of contemporary popular poetry, and I have tried reading some of it but been put of by the thought of ‘What is the point in this?’ the whole way through it. Contemporary poetry seems to rail against some sort of salon, but really just preaches to the converted. Nobody reads it other than literature students and poetry fans. It isn’t going to be picked up again by the masses, in the same way that theatre isn’t either. The Arts have evolved, and it’s just a shame that we are stuck between eras, trapped by the glass cage of post-modernism and self reference.
Saying this, ‘love poetry’ seems to stand apart. I’m a bit strange on the subject of love; I don’t particularly like talking about my relationships with people, and I doubt very much I will on here. We shall see. However, I found myself a few months ago writing ‘love poetry’ for the first time ever…and writing it prolifically, churning out dozens of the things in a single sitting, most of which will probably never get passed on or seen by anyone. I still don’t quite know what caused this sudden gushing of emotion, but it produced some pleasing and curious work.
Here is one, which was written for a particular person, but ended up being a weird sort of tribute to the Andaluscian writer Federico Garcia Lorca, who was killed, accused of Trotskyism, in the Spanish Civil War. Its the kind of poem I would like to receive, I think, because it doesn’t state anything about the person it is written for.

Love Poem no.46

If I were Federico Garcia Lorca,
I think I would spend this sleepless night comparing you
To a carafe of reddest wine, or Andalusian evenings
(All bloody and bold in Iberian ways).
I would whittle away the smallest hours, writing of your movement,
The ‘duende’ of you, the same passion of the flamenco,
With burning soles and the rhythms of clockwork, the slowness of sand,
Love which moves like violence.
‘Yes!’
Lorca would sing in his broken Spaniard’s voice
(So old before his time).
The whipping mane that is your self,
That falls at your feet,
The Angelus,
All of Franco’s men.

(But I am not that poet, nor even of his blood.
Just a boy in love, wishing with his gypsy’s heart
That you felt his gypsy’s heart would do.)

I cannot compare you to wine, or sin, or matador!
But I dreamt,
I did,
We shared a bed of flowers I once saw,
In a sacred garden where no man dared walk at night
At risk of seeing what no living man can see.
Of more gods and ghosts than lived inside
Even that sad young Spaniard’s mind.

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About Benjamin Norris

Published writer of short stories, long stories, poems. Well received art critic and cultural commentator for Berlin magazines. Collaborator with operatic societies. Co-writer of fictional historic psycholinguistic journals. Lecturer of architecture and art history at a Budapest University. View all posts by Benjamin Norris

2 responses to “Poetry. In General.

  • R.G.

    This poem is beautifully eloquent. And I have much appreciation for the thoughts you posed before. The concept of poetry as elitism seems dead on and what how it has tried so hard to progress that the art form has ended up in a place beyond elitism and flinging itself hazardously into the narcissism of the authors.

    Don’t let me put words in your mouth, though.

    The anonymity of the poem is unique, not for its anonymity per se but rather the grace in which you’ve given the lover a voice in an intimate and entirely obscured fashion. It’s as if you’re telling the reader in a universal way that the lover is as much infatuated with the idea of his beloved as he is with the beloved’s self.

    Thank you for sharing this work. It takes much courage and is much admired.

  • benchic

    Thankyou very much for your thoughtful comments. I think you’ve identified fairly successfully the intentions and feelings behind the poem – love poetry is almost by definition narcissistic and slightly masturbatory, but every now and again something a little purer can get through by distancing the want from the wanted.

    Anyway, nice one.

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