Occasional Ravings – The great poetry joke

I read a couple of ‘poems’ in a daily newspaper today. Poems appearing in newspapers should be cause for celebration but, as always, it caused me despair. Below you will find the two poems: Freehold by Theodore Eli and Her Late Hand by Jaya Savige, as well as an extract from Sarah Holland-Blatt’s breathless take on it as a critic, indicating that she is in on, and has become one with, the joke.

I use the term ‘the joke’ as a parallel to police corruption in Queensland some time ago. ‘The Joke was a system of protection payments that flowed from brothel owners, SP bookies and illegal gaming operators into the hands of corrupt police.’ I am not suggesting corruption in the world of poetry but it certainly has all the trappings of a protection racket.

It would seem that those that Ern Malley lampooned will never die. Once again we were served up images that I would defy the author to elucidate upon (‘the moon’s thawing rind’, ‘sheer weight mows sun into avenues’) and lines broken up randomly to deny any sense of rhythm or metre. (Perhaps these are the same people who are judging the ever more politically correct Archibald Prize for portraiture into oblivion.)

Spare me the ‘beauty in the eye of the beholder’ stuff. I prefer the ‘if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s a duck’. Nothing can disguise a complete inability to artistically communicate with the average educated adult who remembers when poetry meant something to them. But, like the con job that is ‘cool’ jazz, it would appear no-one in academia or literary criticism is prepared to name and shame these naked emperors.

As a result, the reading public is left with the impression that poetry, as they understood it, is dead and that people who write and/or perform ‘poetry’ are as irrelevant as people who churn their own butter and probably senile into the bargain. No wonder young people have welcomed with open arms ‘I’ll make it rhyme if it kills me’ rap songs and their bastard off-spring, slam poetry.

I think the Nobel Literature Prize judging panel made an inspired choice in Bob Dylan. I saw it as a cry to the world from the heart, a last stand against gobbledygook parading as art and a celebration of imagery and words that will speak to generations to come, of a time when there was magic in meaning.

11 thoughts on “Occasional Ravings – The great poetry joke

  1. Ok Doug, as you probably surmise I believe poetry should rhyme-that ain’t what those sage judges who judge poetry contests ‘think’ though. I bring to your attention the Wergle Flomp competition. In the top three plus ten ‘honourable mentions’ there is one offering that rhymes. When I read the top three I humbly could see no merit in two.
    I don’t mind good free roaming verse, I just believe rhyme gives a certain rigour to the words one tries to use. All to their own but… I will cast a jaundiced eye over the Archibalds.
    Convoluted and constipated rap ‘rhymes’ can also do my brain in, yo.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi, Obb. I do not thank you for introducing me to the apocalyptic horror of Wergle Flomp. I’m not against rhyme as such, more the ‘dum-te-dum-te-dum-te-dum structure beloved of those devoid of a scintilla of imagination (see https://sixcrookedhighwaysblog.wordpress.com/2019/08/14/bushwhacked-poetry/) .
      The discipline of form can be, in its own way, liberating just as much as free verse can be an invitation to verbal masturbation. My point is that imagery that can take us beyond mundanity without disappearing up its own fundamental orifice is the soul of poetry.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Verbal masturbation! Now there’s a turn of phrase. As you say about the introduction of Wergle Flomp- wanks a lot!
        Seriously, good poetry is as you say. I like to read a poem that engages. It might be fleeting, not life changing, but it touches. It doesn’t have to be technically brilliant but it should give us pause in our headlong work-yoked trot towards oblivion.


  2. I find it hard to comment without reading the poetry to which you refer. Language and the ways we use this to convey meaning is dynamic, though, and arguing that it all should fit into a particular model or avoid certain ways of doing this seems, to me, fraught with difficulties. I avoided sharing my own poetry for most of my life because of fear of judgement and that what I was doing was self indulgent. You stir these fears, particularly because I am not clear on what you are railing against and would appreciate more information on this to aid my thinking.


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