Thursday, 18 December 2014

The Trials and Tribulations of Poetry.

I like literature. I like big fancy words and notes scrawled in the margins of second hand books. I like the rhythm and flow of words and the careful consideration of wordy chaos. And I like poetry. But not just because I like literature. Literature is an umbrella term at best: the shelterer of all words: of prose and poetry and all other wordy things. 

I like poetry because it has a meaning. Because when I both read or write poetry, I think of others who have holed away in a parallel reality of words. Where words are inhaled and exhaled, an extension of breath. In the flame of candle light, in the harsh light of winter mornings or by the dull grey light in small coffee shops and second hand book shops, I feel a meandering alikeness to those who have gone before. 

I like poetry for its wild freedoms and its archaic structures, its dignified traditions and its peculiar mannerisms. It's timelessness. How poetry is modern and fossilised: a cauldron of seemingly random words. I like how I can etch words into a blank notebook page and consider it literature. Not always good literature, but literature nonetheless. 

Poetry has not always graced me with these poignant shadows of thought. In fact, I despised the thing, up until around two years ago from now. Oh, how I would groan and moan alongside the other miserable students sliding down under the table on their chairs, unzipping and zipping their pencil cases in dejected boredom. I would stare at these poems and infer pretentious strings of words and write even more pretentious explanations. I would study these poems, but never read these poems. I glanced over unrelated words but I never read a single poem. Until the poem that changed all. It's not a work of art. It's not even particularly enjoyable, or clever, or exciting or abstract. It's nothing other than mundane. It's a poem about tap water for Christ's sake - it's as mundane as it gets. But that's the point of it. And I cannot help but endure a serious love affair with it. 

I like poetry because of Hard Water by Jean Sprackland.

I tried the soft stuff on holiday in Wales,a mania of teadrinking and hairwashing,excitable soap which never rinsed away,
but I loved coming home to this.Flat. Straight. Like the vowels,like the straight talk: hey up me duck.I'd run the tap with its swimming-pool smell,get it cold and anaesthetic. Stand the glassand let the little fizz of anxiety settle.Honest water, bright and not quite clean.The frankness of limestone, of gypsum,the sour steam of cooling towers,the alchemical taste of brewing.
On pitiless nights, I had to go for the busbefore last orders. I'd turn up my face,let rain scald my eyelids and lips.It couldn't lie. Fell thickwith a payload of acid. No salt -this rain had forgotten the sea.I opened my mouth, speaking nothingin spite of my book-learning.I let a different cleverness wash my tongue.It tasted of work, the true tasteof early mornings, the blunt tasteof don't get mardy, of too bloody deep for me,fierce lovely water that marked me for lifeas belonging, regardless.
I'm not sure why a poem about TAP WATER struck such a chord inside of me. Or perhaps I am. It's because of the bluntness and clearness in the notion that simplicities and home comforts will always be the true sources of life. It's because this poem is honest. It's raw and its real and it's gritty and it's truth promoting in the most sincere way inclined. 
And so yes, it was a poem about tap water that tugged at the literature students strings and rewound them into a new mindset. This was the poem that taught me that poetry does not have to be rigid in form but it can be disjointed in the most joined way possible, that poetry is real and honest and that it is not always pretentious and regulated. 
I don't mind if poetry is pretentious and regulated, but Hard Water allowed me a glance through a defrosted window to see wild, free-spirited words and rhymes, and I understood poetry. I fell in love with it. My love affair with poetry is long and dwindled, its misunderstood and conflicted, its ridiculous and barely existent at the best of times but it remains. It's a love affair ricocheting with trials and tribulations, but trials and tribulations that marked me for life.
When at half past seven on a Monday night or at three in the morning on the day before an important event, and I prise out a notebook and retrieve a pen, I am not writing poetry to be a poet. I am writing poetry because I feel a need to write - poetry is an aggressively gentle form of literature. It cannot be contained and if ever so only in structure. When you do not glance or skim, but truly read, that odd grammar and sturdy rhythm will make sense. 
Delight in poetry as you do in all literature. Love it: for its trials and tribulations, its turbulent love affair and its hidden nooks and crannies. 


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