National Poetry Month: Day 2

Metamorphosis: The Womb Years

When the interlocking lumps of proteins
too small for the eye to ever see
meet to form hydrocarbon chains, it seems

one has the basis of you, and me;
the signals sent inform a mass
of undifferentiated matter what to be

and over months there comes to pass
the first tentative shapes of  mankind.
From the start they’re lad or lass

but later some will come to find
that whatever genes have suggested
the body does not match the mind

and rather than live life arrested
in a body that just will not do
the original form is divested.

One factor which many people find off-putting about reading poetry for pleasure is that for many of us (including me) our first exposure to poetry is at school, complete with growling insistence that we’re reading it wrong, that we need to be examining it for this or that theme, and being told what to find beautiful or indeed how to feel about it all.

I fortunately escaped the latter part of that and, leaving aside the soothing lullaby of A A Milne that I barely remember from my pre-school days, my introduction to the world of poetry involved a teaching more or less pranging a volume of Allan Ahlberg‘s glorious, mischievous school-based poems (most likely Heard It In The Playground)  at me and shouting “please read this and be quiet“. And it was by this method that I discovered that poetry, rather than being an awful bore that is inflicted upon one in long passages of countryside, death, maidens, or righteous unrhyming needling of a vague and nebulous The Government, can also be good fun.

A short list: A A Milne dealing in utter absurdities as well as moments of quiet contemplation, Edward Lear, Adrian Mitchell, Roger McGough, Spike Milligan, and the incomparable and utterly opposed to A A Milne Dorothy Parker.

There is also Kit Wright, who came back to my attention recently while leafing through my copy of Staying Alive in order to find more poets to overzealously suggest to a stranger online who made tentative noises about wanting to maybe read more poetry. The poem which caught my attention was a zingy, vituperative satirical verse, but for the sake of this post I am going to link to another of his poems from the same book:

The All Purpose Country and Western Self Pity Song, by Kit Wright.

Please, please, please read this out loud. It trips off the tongue. It tugs you along with the relentless rhythm of a train. It almost commands a tune for itself in its own cadences. It is a marvellous, masterful example of how a choppy rhythm and a rhyme scheme which ricochets with concealed carefulness can drive a poem and make it a positive joy to recite.

He jumped off the box-car
In Eastbourne, the beast born
In him was too hungry to hide;
His neck in grief’s grommet,
He groaned through his vomit
At the churn
And the yearn
At the turn of the tide.
Try it. Just try it.

Throughout this month I will be nagging readers to donate to MSF.


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