Tag Archives: art

A Bird Sang

A bird sang
In the churchyard as I
Passed by.
A thought unbidden sprang
Into my heart.
For all my art
I know that I shall die.


Why Are People Disinclined To Engage With Poetry

I am part of an informal network where people meet over coffee to discuss their jobs. The idea behind the network is to enable individuals from diverse professions/disciplines to learn from one another in an unpressured environment. These informal chats also furnish people with the chance to discuss non work related matters, for example hobbies. During a recent meeting (having exhausted work related issues), the conversation turned to outside interests. I mentioned that I write poetry. At this juncture there emanated from my companion what I can only describe as a distinct titter. “So you don’t like poetry?” I said. “I don’t have much time for reading”, replied my newly made acquaintance.

Shortly after the above exchange, we shook hands and went our separate ways.

Looking back on the incident, I am torn between amusement at the fact that the writing of poetry elicited mirth from a grown person, and sadness at the seeming inability of my acquaintance to engage (or at least attempt to engage) with something other than their own narrow profession (that of finance).

There are, of course things with which I find it difficult to engage. For instance I am not a lover of opera. I would not, however dream of dismissing (or laughing at) this art form as to do so would indicate boorishness on my part. If a friend where to invite me to the opera I would go along as I am open minded and prepared to develop my tastes. Where I to attend an operatic performance and not find it to my liking I certainly would not titter but, as is so often said it takes all sorts to make a world.

My encounter with this individual reignited within me a curiosity regarding why some people dismiss poetry out of hand. One possible reason explaining the disinclination of people to engage with poetry is that the art form is often associated in the public’s mind with complex imagery and metaphor. For instance to fully grasp Eliot’s “The Wasteland” demands copious reading of notes with their references to mythology, history etc. I, personally find the effort entailed in following up on often obscure references enhances my understanding of Eliot’s work. I do, however understand that others feel differently.

While much poetry is complex, a good deal is not. For instance Alfred Noyes’s “The Highwayman” is a wonderful balad describing the doomed love affair between a highwayman and an inkeeper’s daughter. No arcane knowledge is required to enjoy the poem. None the less the idea that poetry “is not for me” persists in the minds of many.

Does the reluctance of some to engage with poetry stem from a fear of deep emotion. The best poetry frequently tackles issues with which many are disinclined to engage. To take a concrete example, in “Aubade” Larkin ponders on death and, in particular our fear of dying. It is often said that in Victorian England sex was the taboo subject. Perhaps in today’s consumerist society the great taboo is death, hence the reluctance of many to engage with poems (and other art forms) which tackle this topic. It is easier to flick between TV soap operas than it is to immerse oneself in the profundities of poetry.

However not all poetry is of a serious nature. “The Owl and the Pussycat” by Edward Lear and the many limericks, written by countless individuals prove that verse need not be serious.

In conclusion, poetry is for everyone so why are significant numbers of people not attracted to this art form? As stated above, I believe that part of the answer to this question lies in the mistaken belief that poetry is by its nature intrinsically difficult. While some poetry is difficult to interpret, by no means all poetry falls into this category. Consequently any attempt to tackle the misconception that the art form is difficult needs to ensure that young people (and others) are introduced to as broader range of poetry as is possible (both “difficult” and not “difficult”).

As regards the saturated consumerist society in which we live, one in which beautiful women are used to sell all manner of products, this is a more difficult issue. As a liberal (with a small l), I have no desire to tell others how they should spend their leisure time. One man’s meat is another man’s poison and it is not for me to force a dish of my choosing on others. I can only hope that through a rounded education people will come to appreciate poetry at a young age and that this love will remain with them throughout their lives.

There Was A Young Lady Of Dutch Extraction

There was a young lady of Dutch extraction
To whom I felt an attraction.
She was a lover of art
And lived in my heart,
But to her I was a mere abstraction!

Poems by Alice Guile

The below poems are reproduced with the kind permission of Alice Guile and are copyright Alice Guile. Alice’s work may not be reproduced or copied in any manner without her express written permission. To find out more about Alice’s work please visit, https://www.facebook.com/houseofmarvelsdesign/.

The Stable Boy’s sister

You swapped the stamping of hooves
For mud thicker than Mother’s passion fruit jam
Sucking at your boots, sucking you in
Until you could hold out no longer.

The starched linen of my nightdress
Wound the world around me
Like a fly wrapped in spider’s silk
I would emerge in a darker land.

I struggled in the web, eyes fluttering,
Alice. My name travelled across the ocean
From parched lips disciplined by the shudder
Of machines. I never thought you would call.

I hauled the whole household back from a place
Where there is no King’s Shilling, no war
To end all wars. Bob is not gone.
Nightmare. Go back to sleep child.

Three days later the telegram comes, delivered
By a granite faced postman, his fourth that day.
I am already wearing black, I knew the hour.
Death cannot make a brother’s love lose its power.

A Kestrel on Christmas Eve

We floundered in a swirling ploughed field
Dragging up sole after tired sole
From the gulping of earth’s whitening jaws.
The sticky Buckinghamshire sod grappled
With our footfalls in the tireless habit
Of a scorned woman. Out to the far right
We saw a Kestrel effortlessly glide among stars
Her little wings held all the world in a weightless silence,
A feathered atlas above the phantom of a wheat field,
Steadfast as a mirage in the white confetti air.
I took the ring from my pocket as a sparkling wind
Bullied and beat those stubborn hedges.

Snow-flakes caressed our suffering fingertips
As the Kestrel hovered eternal like a sapphire
Cloaked in deep indigo twilight, Orion’s consort
Her obsidian eyes watched us drown each other’s lips.
Dazed and angelic, we were swallowed by the moon
As Kestrel hung still, sheltering us from the weather.

That field is gone. Stiff houses in pedantic rows
Clinical tarmac and town planners have now sanitised
That wild magical place where a Kestrel once hunted
Like a fulcrum of violence, a savage priestess of the moor
Just under the North Star. But they can never destroy
The memory of that moment in time, of nature’s blessing
On the Christmas Eve that I made you mine.

The Rose Garden

A bone crunching noise proceeds
The sudden silence, the smell of acrid smoke
Enveloping a blackened child’s car seat,
An abandoned suitcase or a single shoe,
Hot twisted spires of metal seem
Like something from a disaster film
But more solid, pulsating, unfolding in real time
In front of dewy bovine eyes that stare at the shell,
Faces white and hard as bone china, but with a fascination
Like that of hyenas at the sight of a carcass

But somewhere, far away from blood and tears
There is an empty corridor in an old house
Where a clock ticks unfeelingly,
Carefully tidying away the moment like a relic,
A used wedding dress or yellowing lace
Folded back and back into history.
Through the window, there is a quiet rose garden
Where a butterfly perches on an oak twig
And a sundial echoes with the laughter
Of long grown children.

All the pain that has ever been felt
Is sinking to the bottom of a bottomless pool,
Until all that can be seen are ripples
On the surface of a calm pond.

Listening to the Radio

A young woman, on the radio, sings of crushes
And how love comes and goes.
Heaven knows
She spares no blushes
Regaling me with her affairs.
A song light as air
That passes over where
The party goers play.

It is the tune of this nubile
To which the dancers twirl.
There may be a denial
That this constitutes art.
I, for my part
Find in her voice, a pleasant enough warble
Over which to dordle
As I bathe and shave

We are all creative, are we not?

We are all, in our own way creative are we not?
The above thought came to me a week or so ago as I discussed advertising with a gentleman working in that industry. He is (or was when we fell into conversation) working on an advertisement for an animated pizza.
I have always had an ambivalent attitude towards advertising. On the one hand the industry does, in my opinion attempt to convince potential purchasers of similar (sometimes identical products) that the item produced by one manufacturer is better than another manufactured by a rival producer. In my experience Fairy, Bold or any other branded soap powder is equally effective at washing clothes and all the advertising to convince the potential purchaser of this product otherwise is so much froth and bubbles (forgive the weak pun)!
Advertising can perform a useful function in that it brings to the attention of potential consumers products of which they might otherwise have been unaware. Having acknowledged this benefit, I would add that this function is, in the days of the internet less useful than was previously the case. In the days of the World Wide Web one can, with the click of a mouse discover many things of which one was previously unaware (I must confess that on occasions I wish I had remained in blissful ignorance)! Be that as it may, advertising can, at its best act as a source of information to potential buyers of a multiplicity of products.
Despite my reservations regarding advertising, there is, in my mind no doubt that it is a creative industry. Certain ads stick in my head due to the fact that they are particularly amusing or contain a clip of beautiful music. They may not cause me to purchase the product being advertised. They do, however impress me as a piece of creative media and, on occasion artistic creativity. Being blind I can not see visual representations. Where I to possess sight I would, I feel sure be impressed by the utilisation by advertisers of the visual media in highly creative ways, including animated pizzas!
My creative outlet is via poetry. I burn to release a poem which is running around in my head trying to find a way out onto the virtual pages of this blog and, on occasions onto real paper via my books. Others use their hands to create. I have on one of my tables a beautiful carved turtle which I bought when visiting Sri Lanka in 2001. The turtle is highly tactile and the craftsman producing it obviously put a piece of himself into doing so. To give of oneself in the production of art whether literary or through the making of beautiful objects is the mark of a craftsman or artist. I have no idea whether the gentleman who produced the turtle which now lives in my living room was a lover of literature or painting. I have no doubt however that he is a true creator of beauty.
In conclusion, we are all creative and even if this creativity does not find an outlet, we do none the less possess the latent capacity to be creative whether via dancing pizzas, poetry or carved wooden turtles.