I was a poet at one time. Actually, I still am – to a degree. I spent a college weekend reading six plays by Shakespeare and ended up walking around thinking in Iambic Pentameter. It isn’t hard. Conversational English falls into it without a lot of effort. In fact, it lends itself very readily to blogging –
It tickles me, to think that I may yet
Ape the Bard, and let my verses fly
Through this strange blog thing, there to smite the eye
Of th’unwary visitor come by
To pause and find refreshment in this spot.
But wilt thou find such rest? – I fear thou’llt not!
But shalt run screaming through the teaming web
(But soft! Dear reader, didst thou notice that
Two rhymes I did cram in that one short line??
Harrow and alack! The knack is back!!!)
——- But I digress ——-
Alas! What can I do to shake this curse
That turns my maunderings into wretched verse?
The answer is, of course, to take pity on everyone and get back on track.
I started to say that I wrote a lot of villanelles and sonnets, Shakespearean and Spenserian, and I still do, more from a sense of humor. I wrote a sonnet about the ABNA (Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award) contest that’s going on right now. I’ll post it at the bottom of this post if anyone is hardy enough to want to read it. Look for the asterisks. ***
|The Bard, with beard, wishing he had a laptop
But anyhow, I was looking for one of my poems to put in a blog post about Richard III. It was published in the spring of my Junior year in college, when I was on the editorial board of an award-winning literary magazine put out by the University. No, it did not win any awards during my watch.
I had been fascinated by Richard III. I thought he had been the victim of a really dirty smear job. The treatment he received – his body and his reputation both – were disgraceful. From what I could see, he had been an admirable man. I had written a series of poems about him, told from the points of view of various people – Henry VII, his nephews who died in the Tower, his brother Edward… I thought they were pretty good, and so did the folks on the magazine. They were published.
I graduated, lost my copies, didn’t have a computer (no one had a computer then), the poems were lost. One day a while back I stumbled across the digital archives of my university – and the publication was there. Well! That was good to know. I filed that bit of information away.
|Statue of Richard III in Leicester
Today I sat down to write about Richard III. I was planning on opening with the advertisement of the City of York after Richard’s death, in which, in the teeth of the new king, they described Richard’s death as foul murder. I remembered the first two lines of Richard III’s poem:
It grieves my soul to be maligned thus,
So spurned, so scorned by all who know of me
But know me not…
Potentially harmless, I’d say. I buckled down, located the digital archive, pulled up the poem – and grabbed my chin as it bounced off the floor. The poem was terrible. Dreadful. So full of posturing and artsiness, I wanted to squirm. And that monstrosity was out there under my name for anyone to see until the stars grew cold or computers rose up in revolt. It would fit right in – it was revolting!
You have to write really good poetry to call yourself a poet, because the bad stuff – like Dame Edith Sitwell’s work – is truly, truly atrocious and stays with you. I am not happy to see that garbage of mine out there, but it’s digital and digital is nearly eternal.
Think about it.
…and now my ABNA Shakespearean sonnet:
|Facepalm from Trajan’s Column, Rome
*** That I had thought to join this festival
of writers of all sorts, both good and ill
Poetasters, posers – scribblers all
Upon these boards -alas! – our guts to spill!
Exhaustion dims the mem’ries of the pain-
we greet The Knight’s thread: “All about the pitch!”
We throw ourselves into the fray again –
And learn, alas, the striving’s still a —
(hm. Insert a word that rhymes with ‘pitch’ that might be deleted by Amazon)
Two weeks remain, and now the questions come –
What? How? When? Where? Does anybody KNOW???
“Read FAQs?” some cry, “Why, that’s just DUMB!”
But then they do, and shout “Oh no! Oh, WOE!!”
Squeals of outrage – how the feathers fly!
What genre? What word count? What should I choose??
Some shriek ”Tis so unfair to me! O Why??’
While the vet’rans soothe their souls with shots of booze.
The scramble starts, the shrieks at morn’s first light!
The dread day dawns, clock-watchers pitch their books –
While others, red-eyed, snatch a last rewrite –
“Cheats!” “Wretches!” “Fudgers!” “Ay me!” “I’ve been rooked!”
All this takes place – but why? Ah! Who can say?
We chase our stars and even kneel to pray –
That some of us be crown’d by Amazon
And say to all the rest “Get hence! Begone!”