Tuesday, December 11, 2007


A comment on one of my other blogs talked about Ogden Nash, and that has sparked off a train of thought about poems. I remember how, back in school, we all had to read and mug up reams of poetry, and it was usually up there with Calmpose for most people, because it's seen as 'culture' and 'intellectual' and all that. I've always loved poetry, especially the Romantics - Shelley, Keats and so on - as well as several other poets whom I've come across, and it seems a shame to hang the tag of 'arty' on poetry and so keep people from enjoying them.

Poems are really interesting, because, unlike prose, editing is the very essence of poetry. It's a very precise art. Prose is more forgiving - it's like painting with oils, where if you goof up, there are things you can do. Poetry is more like water colour - just the right amount of paint and water in just the right spot - and there's no repairing a mistake. It's delicate, it's precise..in a way it's like the work of a jeweller. Each word has to be the right size, has to be polished to sparkle in that exact way. Each and every word has a set place which, in the wrong place, would spoil the beauty of the piece.

I have been meaning to put up a wonderful poem I discovered recently about life in olden times, but I've left my poetry book in the car. So instead, here are some of my favourite pieces. In humorous poetry, the poet has to be all the more careful, because each and every word has to have an impact. Ogden Nash is one of the masters in this genre, and his poems are so droll and so wonderfully crafted that generation upon generation will get the same mirth out of them.

"Some primal termite knocked on wood
and tasted it and found it good
And that is why your cousin May
Fell through the parlour floor today."

This one is by a poet whose name escapes me for the moment. It was my favourite during my (neverending) ugly duckling phase:

"For beauty I'm not a great star
There are others more handsome by far
But my face, I don't mind it
For I am behind it
It's the people in front
that I jar!"

And here's a piece from one of my all time favourite poems, Renascence, by Edna st. Vincent Millay:

"I would I were alive again,
To kiss the fingers of the rain,
To drink into my eyes the shine,
Of every slanting silver line,
For soon the shower will be done,
And then the broad face of the sun,
Will shine above the rain-soaked earth,
until the world with answering mirth,
Shakes joyously and each round drop
Rolls, twinkling, from its grassblade top."

I think it taught us something ineffable, to have to by-heart some of the world's great poetry and to have it available as a ready resource at the back of the mind. It added a certain richness to the mind, and I wonder if schools still make you do it. They should - because sometimes poetry has a way of painting such a vivid image that there are no other words to describe the same thing when it happens in your life...'For oft when on my couch I lie, in vacant or in pensive mood, they flash upon that inward eye, which is the bliss of solitude...' He could be talking about poetry!


Aryan said...

Wow..I am hear for the first time...You are a voracious reader..Keep up the great work..
Have you head the peom " Mending wall" by robert frost?? I am not sure about the author..but "the Dentist" and "mending wall" is still in my mind from my school days..
ofcourse recently I read "The Rime of Ancient Mariner"

bird's eye view said...

Hi Aryan,

The poem mending wall rings a bell though I don't remember it that clearly. What's 'the dentist'?

Yeah, rime of the Ancient Mariner is one of those poems that always sends a shiver down one's spine, like The Raven by Poe.