Poetry? Please…!*

I should not call myself a poet
Not because I do not know it,
Rather that talk of ‘Poetry’
Seems way more pretentious
Than I’d choose to be.
I grew up with the verse of hymns
(Fabulous tunes, some lines a bit grim
But no matter how absurd,
They planted a sense of play with words)
Milne¹ and Louis Stephenson²
Offered a way to keep moving on
Then Belloc³ strolled in uninvited:
His rapid-fire rhymes single-handedly excited
The core of my childish fascination
For ghoulish treatment of friends and relations.
But cometh the change in my education,
Cometh the Fall4 of all motivation,
The dull formalities of a Secondary setting
Less preferable even than voluntary blood-letting.
Everything practical stripped away,
Text books always on display.
English lessons a tedium too far,
Deconstructing texts a process bizarre,
Peeling away any sense of connection
All in the name of grades and corrections…
So, truth be told, I do not know
How this fascination turned out so.
I’ve never thought I have a gift
But playing with words helped fill a rift,
A psychological need for play
At various points in my sensible day:
The metaphorical equivalent
Of some or other therapeutic bent.
The point, I think (Yup- there it is!)
Is there’s nothing smart in this wordplay business.
It’s just a game like any other,
A challenge that helps me quietly recover
From all that ails in the working day.
Turns out the best things in life don’t pay!


* Spawned by the eponymous Poetry Please on BBC Radio 4. No disrespect intended.

¹AA Milne – When We Were Very Young  and  Now We Are Six
² Robert Louis Stephenson – A Child’s Garden of Verse
³ Hilaire Belloc – Cautionary Verse
4 Albert Camus – The Fall

A chance encounter with Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar was my only seminal experience of female authorship. I’m ashamed to say I really didn’t connect with her poetry, or anyone else’s for that matter. My experience of English education at secondary school was absolutely abysmal, to put it mildly.


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