Monday, February 11, 2008

Rhythm and Rhyme for a So Special Time

In our family, if it's your birthday, the Communist will write you some birthday verses.

His verses are always well-crafted and very entertaining, though they usually include some tortured rhymes.

Verse is a strange thing: I think it's different from poetry.

You can have verse that's very banal, of the birthday-card kind.

Upon this very special day

I hope that things will go your way

It wouldn't be the kind of card I'd choose: and yet if you happen to be very fond of the sender, I find that somehow overrides the dullness of the verse.

Perhaps I've inherited it from the Communist, but I'm quite good at crafting verses, especially ones that fit an existing rhyme-scheme and scansion . That, to me, makes it much easier. Thinking about writing this piece, I thought I'd better write something to illustrate this point: here's the limerick I came up with whilst driving to Leeds University this morning.

There was a young man from the West

Who saw his girl's bra as a test

Through straps, hooks and glue

And the odd nail or two

He got in. Said the girl, "I'm impressed."

Okay, it may not be brilliant, but I find I can do it very easily - - you give me a first line, or a last line, and I'll come up with the rest.

Poetry, on the other hand, is something else altogether.

I think that, in a poem, the sound of the words, the meaning of the words and the rhythm of the words should all come together to "take you there" in the best possible way: to make a whole that's greater than the sum of its parts. I have a personal preference for poems that rhyme and scan, but that's just me.

Here's a good modern poem: it's by Kit Wright and it's called The Sea in The Trees.

When the warm wind was flowing

In the leaves of the tall ash tree

The old man fell asleep in the park

And he dreamed the sound of the sea.

The branches filled and bellowed

The high mainmast swayed

As long sea-miles of the afternoon

His green galleon made -

In the harbour of the shade.

Here's a great classic poem: it's by William Shakespeare, who was better at it than just about anyone else:

The expense of spirit in a waste of shame

Is lust in action, and till action, lust

Is perjured, murderous, bloody, full of blame,

Savage, extreme, rude, cruel, not to trust,

Enjoy'd no sooner but despised straight,

Past reason hunted, and no sooner had,

Past reason hated, as a swallowed bait

On purpose laid to make the taker mad.

Mad in pursuit, and in possession so;

Had, having, and in quest to have, extreme,

A bliss in proof, and proved, a very woe;

Before, a joy proposed, behind, a dream

All this the world well knows, yet none knows well

To shun the heaven that leads men to this hell.

So why am I thinking about poetry so much at the moment?

I suppose it's because this is such a momentous week in our lives: Emily and Gareth are getting married on Saturday.

I've always written verses: but I think that this deserves a poem. I'd like to have a go at writing one - but, reading a good one - and, even more so, reading a great one - I don't think I'm up to the task.


Blogger Ailbhe said...

I write pomes and poems and I find they are very different and about equally valuable. "The saddest sound" is somewhere in between and has been on my mind a lot lately. I recommend Fry's Ode if you want to learn to craft 'em.

10:10 pm  
Blogger MrsG said...

Wonderful... I was never up to much more than a dirty limerick, myself.

10:55 am  
Blogger Silverback said...

There was a young lady called Amytree,

Who created a comment on poetry;

She kept it precise,

Which we all thought was nice,

Cause women aren't known for their brevity.

2:15 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I bet if you have to read a poem you will rise fantastically to the occasion - you have already proved you can do so much more than you thought you could. I hope it goes wonderfully.

7:36 pm  
Blogger MrsG said...


12:20 pm  

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