Saturday, 13 October 2007

The Pressure of the Critic

This poem, hesitantly titled, is about many different subjects that I was thinking about in my last term at university. I guess it partly explains why I want to keep trying out different writing and publishing it to find out what others think. Also I thought it was quite a fun idea - enjoy the mixture of my own views on writing and my parodies of the limitations of form and expression. Perhaps it is a little cluttered and confused for one poem though, so maybe I'll owrk on it some more at some stage.


My brother-self writes poems,
But although he lets me look,
He won’t let me see what they mean.
Perhaps they are too important to be seen.

Always on the edge of producing
Something that is worth proclaiming,
Composition of glory, eternal peace;
Quietly keeping them is a disgrace.


I have a friend who is a poet
Or so he tells me.

He said, “This one has a whimsical tone” -
Regretfully he would not leave it alone.
I never saw it, but I know it indulged in the crime
Of plagiarising a nursery rhyme
But all the kings horses and all the kings men
Couldn’t pull his hopeless sense of rhyme together.

The idea behind his sonnet series, was, to eloquently express
Beauty’s frailty in him but strength in his chosen goddess,
But the words faltered, and she received half his heart
and a third of his mind.
(He only left that much behind.)

His epic grew longer and encyclopaedic,
Its lost city reaming with meticulous flora
And fauna, ridiculous goddesses
And feasts Mediterranean, Asian, even Caribbean,
Zephyr and gale billowing without limit –
Alas, I could not read it.

When I asked about his elegy,
Mournfully he replied
“I lost all heart for it, so it died,
And I buried it in the garden”,
R.I.P. Elegy, lie in the grave,
Undisturbed by me.

He must refuse to air any error,
But it would be better to see a hideous verse
Than hear excuses – I’ve written worse.
Of course his simile is hideously out of proportion,
Like a sleek brown rat growing longer and fatter,
It is ugly in a poem – but it doesn’t really matter.

There is indeed no man-made perfection
But only progress that needs correction.
What’s so pressing? Can’t I
Enjoy the language, ignoring the way
Sentences run on or syllables clutter a line?
Not questioning the reason for “eight” or for “nine”?

His work is assuredly too demanding for me,
As if they really matter in eternity!
Once he said, “This one has a serious moral
And I want the world to hear it” –
I hoped I wouldn’t have to listen, because
Feeling is as good as knowing, isn’t it?


The critic has that difficult responsibility
To approve, encourage, provoke further thought
But also to let you know when the piece falls short.

His condemnatory words leave scars sometimes
But often it is too little he speaks or shouts –
Maybe work dictates his life, or his heart gives out.

Maybe he thinks that words have nothing to say,
Or he is unaware of the need of the world for him
To think rightly and work and do what he may.

He is no longer sure he has the right
To give and assess and suggest and write
But instead follows whatever people say
– trying to blow his cares away.

© 2007 Richard Townrow

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