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Dead Poets

(on reading Alun Lewis and Ted Hughes in Poetry group)

Well the poems of Alun Lewis were good. He comes over as an intelligent, interested observer of life and living. Some of his phrases are full of bold imagery – one can feel greatly moved by his words and compassion.

It is interesting to learn that he was such a young man to be making these observations. But it’s my opinion that any poem has to stand independent of knowledge about the life of the poet. I don’t need to know the name of his wife, or his employment, (unless it’s the subject of the poem) or how he killed himself!!!

I also question the mood. We learn that poets like Lewis and Hughes were depressed. But is it only their poems of despair and sadness that make them posthumously famous? Surely they had happy times. Surely they had joy? Maybe their verses of joy are hidden within sad text, just to sound mysterious and doleful. Maybe if I had read some of their happy poems I would have felt interested to read more of their work. It does not work, for me, the other way round.

As a poet myself, I know that mood is my inspiration, whether happy, excited, annoyed, aggrieved or downright angry, as well as sad and grief-stricken. But those saddest poems are not ones I wish to share. Much. They are my own personal innermost record. In my book, Candle, I did include a trilogy of poems reflecting my “depressed” time, but only for completeness, to show I had that sensitive, deep side. Otherwise my poems are every-day happenings and fun with words.

Light Verse, then, is to be read for pleasure. Not something deep to inspect. Less valuable, it seems, in the context of a poetry group, where the focus is on examining and disecting the possible meanings in between the lines that the poet gives us.  I don’t want to be a deep, emotionally depressed writer. I think it does “writing” an injustice.

It’s in the same vein as the 21st century  book/script writing which focusses on crime, death, horror. Is our world so pretty that we need a balance of horror to give us a completeness of emotion? I don’t think so. I think the opposite. I think horror grief and death in books film and T.V. have become commonplace at the detriment to  reality. I fear for the future generation who grow into a world of blood and tears, thinking it is normal. Screen games pursue power over others, and diminish the value of life. Soap operas dramatise aggressive speech and emotional abuse. So depressing.

There is a place for sad poetry, of course. Non poets can find solace in the beauty of words that express feelings that they could not put into words themselves.

But poets are often egoistic word-smiths, needing public praise of their work. Performance poets can be funny and dramatic, but they can also shock and disturb. You don’t know what you will get with performance poets.

In these pandemic times, there is much to grieve, much to be angry about, and much to praise. We all do this in our own way. I hope we can also count blessings, love one another, and have a jolly good laugh. So let’s put to one side the depression of dead poets, and live the best, happiest life we can.


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