Sunday, July 30, 2017

Hobbled prose

From We're Getting Much Verse by Lloyd Evans. Evans ran a poetry competition back in 2001 for the Spectator and this is the article in which he comments on the contributions. In part:
There were numerous efforts claiming to be poetry which were in fact rhyming policy directives in favour of, for example, saving the pound, electrocuting child-seducers or kennelling asylum-seekers on offshore treadmills connected to the national grid.

About a third of the submissions were written in 'free verse' or, as I prefer to think of it, 'hobbled prose'. It amazes me that anyone still bothers with this alphabetti spaghetti. Craftsmanship is one of the essential qualities of poetry, and the opportunity to display skill and ingenuity within an ordered scheme of rhythm and rhyme is the poet's great adventure, his great fulfilment. The mind seeks regularity, it has a natural affinity with repeated cadences, it hungers for marshalled patterns of stresses and sounds. A poet exploits this desire for supervised noise by playing on the expectant mind like a musical instrument, stimulating it, soothing it, confounding it, enchanting it. To ignore all this, to throw it all away and pretend that the reader's unconscious instincts are of no concern to the poet is either great madness or great brilliance. Seldom the latter.

One thing surprised me. As I sliced open envelope after envelope (using the German bayonet left in my grandfather's ribcage during the Battle of Mons), I was disappointed to find no gratuity dropping into my lap to assist me in my deliberations. I'm not above trousering the odd fiver, let's face it. And as a writer I'm highly susceptible to compliments, but there were no flattering references to my scribblings in any of the covering letters. And the man in me, ever prone to the purple-blooded appetites of nature, was dismayed that not one poetess thought to accompany her work with a suggestive Polaroid showing her semi-draped abundance posed beseechingly beside a raging hearth. Pity, really. But I suppose poetry isn't really like that, is it? Then again, why not? In other branches of the creative media, those with ambition will use every means possible — including sex — to claw their way to preferment. But no one would try to sleep their way into Poetry Corner. The idea is absurd.

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