Poem: Even You

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Poem: Even You

Post by Jane Berg on Wed Jun 03, 2015 1:18 am

And here is a more depressing poem, but one that expressed some of the malaise I have felt trying to share my poetry with people at the university. I feel sometimes that I am just too conventionally Modernist. Its foolish maybe, but I don't seem to be able to write anything else at the moment. I am fixated upon myself, it would seem. Anyway, I'm glad I can put this here, as I haven't had the courage to read it to anyone else yet.

Look at me, I say that I am alone
and the first chance I get
I am so,
waiting at home
embarrassed by my own ego
once more.
What do I want?
I want to rest, Lord Knows
I deserve to, but
everything is so damn poetic
it makes me sick.
What I hate the most
are those half baked friendships,
really, raw acquaintanceships
full of meaningful arrangements,
missing, leaving,
intentions -
when we all know
how pointless it is,
to know anyone.
Speak enough,
and someone
will start to hate you,
for over ripening a good
taught strangeness.
And this business of willing
over the world
over ones voice
ones limbs and then
But its ok,
we can all be called happy
when we are dead.
And, then?
My great confession
confines me.

Ted Hughes, you are dead,
even you.

I'm afraid, I don't know what to do,
about Iranian women
and they don't give a damn if I do,
of course
mares don't really eat oats any more
not like they used to,
and we couldn't afford to make hay at all,
how can one write anything
when our idioms are
all based in lies
and old wives tales,
there is nothing but thinking.

Ted Hughes, you are dead,
even you.

I have failed yet again
to write a poem  
to any rhythm
other than myself.
I fear, in fact,
that I have been ruined
completely
by literature.
The dryness of those old men
has got into my bones
like the stink of those
mothballs
you never smelled
acerbic and disaffected,
in love with the ideal woman
the purest form
I conceive fully,
or not at all.
Horrible, I am afraid it is so.
Better that I should never, have learnt to spell.
I now know,
I apologize, as I am meant to,
but you see of the dangers of reading
I was never told,
I heard only the old adage
about idle hands.

I suppose there is no hope.
and no point to refuse,
when Hughes is dead, and so are you.


Last edited by Jane Berg on Sat Jun 06, 2015 12:14 am; edited 1 time in total
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Re: Poem: Even You

Post by Tom on Thu Jun 04, 2015 9:55 pm

It made me smile at first reading, just to see how firmly your tongue is in your cheek, but there's a lot beneath the surface. Let me read it a bit more and then I'll get back to you.

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Re: Poem: Even You

Post by Tom on Sun Jun 07, 2015 4:01 pm

Back after more reading.  This still doesn't come across to me as very depressing, I guess because the cynicism is very sharp and, while some of your observations are cutting, the tone is light enough to make the sarcasm work:

I'm afraid, I don't know what to do,
about Iranian women
and they don't give a damn if I do,


I like the way you use the clichés to illustrate the point and for me this is the strongest part.  Writing poetry about writing poetry is supposedly a cardinal sin these days, but I get what you're trying to say here and you express it clearly.  This work (and the human rights piece) is definitely a lot less obscure now then what I have seen before and the voice sounds very natural.  This creates a bit of a dichotomy then:

I have failed yet again
to write a poem  
to any rhythm
other than myself.
I fear, in fact,
that I have been ruined
completely
by literature.


If you are writing to your own rhythm, then how have you been ruined by literature and the "dryness of these old men"?  What exactly is the struggle here?  That you can't find meaningful relationships, only "half baked friendships"?  That you can't communicate truth because of the nature of language? That your own expression is stunted by the "dangers of reading".  These are all great questions but perhaps the poem would be more successful if you focused it more and tried to resolve some part of it.  I really like it as it is and I resonate with it, but perhaps some trimming would give it more direct punch and make easier to grasp?

My suggestion would be to cut some of the beginning.  It seems to only really get going with "Speak enough and someone will start to hate you" and that is a really great line.  I don't really like the repetition of the Ted Hughes lines.  I don't know if it adds anything and seems a bit distracting.  The punctuation is often confusing.  I'm sure some parts are intentional but there are places where it's hard to make out what is meant or where it just looks wrong.  'One's' needs the apostrophe.

I  like this part:
Better that I should never, have learnt to spell.
I now know,
I apologize, as I am meant to,
but you see of the dangers of reading
I was never told,
I heard only the old adage
about idle hands.


I really enjoyed reading this.  I like the style and the sound and you've inspired me to try to write more freely and personally.  I've been too conventionally pre-Modernist and I start to see how necessary it is to explore other directions, whether new or old is perhaps not what's important.

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Re: Poem: Even You

Post by Jane Berg on Sun Jun 07, 2015 6:28 pm

Thanks Tom, I really do appreciate your close reading and response. I really do need feedback in order to get my work into a decent state, I can be very reckless and often just read or upload stuff which has not really been thought through - which is the punctuation issue you were mentioning.  
Although a good poem should need no explanation, I know this one is still very much a work in progress so maybe its excusable here. It actually started out as another poem completely and then turned into a bit of a nonsense piece. But at the root of it is some frustration I have felt as part of this performance poetry group I've been attending for the past year or more.
Now of course I love the people there, but there is that thing that in attempting to know people you just sense the difference between you more, well, sometimes at least. Mostly the poets are quite different to me, male, black, rap artists and slam poets and their work is very political and based in a that conscious post-colonial style.
On the one hand, I'm very inspired by their work and I've tried ( and failed as I mentioned) to and write in a style with more performance quality, more rhythm and repetition. So this poem evolved as a frustration at my own cultural constraints.
But also out of a frustration this year given a recent scandal on campus called the #RhodesSoWhite debate after a popular twitter hashtag by that name and started by another hashtag #RhodesMustFall, which revolved around this protest to remove the statue of John Cecil Rhodes at UCT.
Anyway, all of that just highlighted a sense of self-censorship and exclusion and illegitimacy among white students in speaking about race and post-colonial debates because, oh, of just so many unspoken issues, I don't really know.
So here I was thinking about, well is it true? do we just need to keep quiet, if even the language we have to use and our cultural inspirations (Ted Hughes just being a chance representative of the cannon, and who I happen to be reading at the moment), are inescapably colonial.
Of course, the idea of being ruined by literature is a foolish exaggeration of this idea, which sort of describes my own position on the matter. And the title Even You, raises my own admission of white guilt and the need to look into my complicit heritage, but also the need for everyone to do the same, and that at some level we all complicit in this legacy and perpetuating its effects. Which is just a bit of anger at some of the 'holier than thou' post-colonial rhetoric which is out there.
But I think you are right, it is a total mad ramble at the moment, I am going to look at it and try and strip away some of the self-conscious melancholia and get to the root of the matter.
Thanks once again for your attention to detail. I must at all costs, learn this.
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Re: Poem: Even You

Post by Tom on Fri Jun 12, 2015 9:31 am

You're welcome Jane. I think the poem stands up well even without the explanation. The images and feelings are universal enough to strike a chord with most people, but like you've realised, if it's too melancholic or cloudy it can start to sound self-indulgent from the outside (not that this has that effect). Nevertheless, the background helped me see the layers inside and I realise even more there's a lot of great potential to explore in these experiences and feelings. Keep writing about it.
One thing I have learned over the last couple of years is how much of a part time has to play in this kind of work. The raw expression of feeling is valid and important, but the craft comes when we can step back and refine that initial surge, finding how our personal truth connects in some small way to the universal. Or something like that anyway.

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Re: Poem: Even You

Post by Jane Berg on Thu Jun 25, 2015 4:48 am

Hi sorry its been a while, had an exam to write last week. I think you are very right, I was just doing some editing on some old poems I wrote years ago, and I have to resist wanting to change them too much, and make them into something else altogether.
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