Why I can’t write poetry

3 Apr

Apparently it’s National Poetry Writing Month (or NaPoWriMo, if you like things short and pithy [apologies for the double brackets but I just wanted to let you know that this makes me think of a kumquat. Short and pithy. No? Never mind.] ) I think I’m in the wrong ‘nation’ for this but I’m going to plough ahead and buy into it anyway because, woo! Globalisation.

Yesterday I cobbled together a couple of limericks just because, well, you know. They were all right. They were, in the best traditions of limericks, a bit rude and rather nonsensical. I sent one to my friend because a) it was about him and b) it was sort of also about Doctor Who, of which is he a fan. The other one was an exercise in two-syllable rhyming (conclusion: it’s really hard). I will not repeat it here and shame myself.

The truth is that despite my best efforts and concerted attempts, I am just no good at writing poetry. It’s either emotional drivel, or unfunny punning. If I could splice some emotionality to some hilarious wordplay a la Ovid, trust me, folks, I would be rejoicing til the cows wended their way home, possibly after a long weekend in Magaluf, partying hard as only cows know how.

Oscar Wilde said that all bad poetry springs from genuine feeling. I can certainly testify. Some of the worst stuff I have written has been about boys, their distance from me and my moping, boo-hoo state as a result. The other worst stuff I have written has been about me trying very hard not to write the first lot. Given that I spend a significant amount of my time pendulating[1] gently between these two scenarios, or in a deep existential crisis, there’s not really much hope. I doubt strongly that anyone is going to gather up my notebooks and publish them to great critical and/or popular acclaim at any point in the future.

I have just about reconciled myself to this literary ignominy. When you can’t write poetry, there’s nowt a lot you can do about it. Given the tragic lives of some of my favourite ladypoets, maybe I should be grateful. As much as I admire Sylvia Plath and Dorothy Parker, I’m not really interested in modelling my life on theirs. Clearly the fate of a female poet is not necessarily limited to depression and suicide (Carol Ann Duffy, Alice Oswald, Anne Carson etc are all still very much alive, hooray) and there are certainly men who’ve gone the same way, but one seems to need a certain mind set to be a poet. An introspective, ferociously self-critical, trying-to-laugh-it-off attitude which allows you to comment objectively about a human experience and then make it achingly, despairingly personal. Or vice versa. Or a heady mash-up of same.

I’m in the position of experiencing the two ways that I believe poets see the world, but I don’t have the apparatus to tie them up. I’ve got both lenses for the pair of 3D glasses, but no frame, nothing to hold them together. I can hold the red and the blue up to my eyes and see in poetry – but then my hands are full, and I can’t write.

So until I stumble across a decent set of frames (I like to think they’d be pleasingly retro, hipster-ish tortoiseshell ones, but knowing my luck they’ll be 19th century pince-nez or something equally ridiculous) I cannot be a poet. As I have said – this doesn’t especially bother me. I won’t cry myself to sleep at night, knowing there’s a magical tool out there that will clarify my imagination until it drips like melted butter through my fingers and smears itself indelibly onto a page. I’ll just carry on writing the way I like. Hope you’re ok with that. I am.


[1] Yes I just made this up. What of it?

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3 Responses to “Why I can’t write poetry”

  1. Adam Sharpe April 3, 2013 at 4:36 pm #

    If GCSE English lit taught me anything, every single poem is an allusion to Jesus – that could be your issue.

    • Natasha April 5, 2013 at 11:29 am #

      You might be on to something there.

  2. stateofthebook April 3, 2013 at 6:01 pm #

    Poetry escapes me as well. So I just appreciate that it’s national poetry month and read poetry. I feel no need to produce to my own. I like to think that all great writers and poets want good readers who can appreciate their work. So that’s what I do.

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