... but I stopped. Now I'm a dad, and may blog again...

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

414: A Night of Poetry Appreciation at Home

I know nothing about poetry.... but I know what I like... and that's Gothic 90's metal with lyrics that sound kind of like they could be by an 19th Century Romantic poet... chiefly I'm talking about the Cradle ofFilth albums The Principal of Evil Made Flesh and Cruelty and the Beast, but for a laugh I'm going to throw in Marilyn Manson's Antichrist Superstar and Type O Negative's Bloody Kisses and October Rust, even though I'm going well off my initial claim. So what, it's my blog I can say what I want, and I'm trying to get it writ' as quick as so I can flick back to the other OpenOffice doc with the novel partially laid out inside.

As a break from trying to work out character, setting, motivation, and communicate all those using free-flowing yet tightly structured prose in a minimalist style free from cliche and lazy adjectives. It's tiring work; not as hard as doing a real job, but it's not my job so I reason I am free to complain... having said that, I'm doing it out of choice because I love doing it, so I have no right to complain. But I so enjoy complaining, oh I really do. My back hurts, and I don't have a comfortable writing chair, so I will soon be crippled by bad posture and repetitive strain. OK, complaining over. Now back to the poetry.

I have four, no five, actual books of poetry, and have rarely skimmed them. They are as follows: Japanese Death Poems, Rimbaud, Collected Works of Keats, 'Emergency Kit' Poems for Strange Times', and Poems from Lancashire Life by Jonty Throp. For your delight and delectation I will recite here my favourite poem (well, excerpts, not the whole bloody things) from each book:

by Jonty Throp

Mi faither's main 'obby were smookin'
'E'd allus a pipe in 'is gob
Un' Mam favvered t'allus t'be chunnerin'
Abeawt aw t'brunt matchstalks reawnd th'ob

When 'er geet proper mangy 'er'd tell 'im
'E thowt mooer o't'pipe than 'is wife.
Ah couldn't stond seein' Mam strikin'
Un' it put me off smookin' for life.

Sometimes I like to ready Jonty Throp aloud and piss my self laughing, and the broad language and humour. Despite being born and bred in Lancaster, Lancashire I cannot work out which Lancashire dialect/accent this is; there are hundreds of them and I don't really know my Chorley from my Preston from my Wigan from my Bolton, or whatever. I would love to hear Jonty reading his own poetry aloud, perhaps whilst following along from the book.

for Susan O'Neill Roe
by Sylvia Plath
(from Emergency Kit)

What a thrill -
My thumb instead of an onion.
The top quite gone
Except for a sort of hinge

Of skin,
A flap like a hat,
Dead white [...]

How you jump -
Trepanned veteran,
Dirty girl,
Thumb stump.

The sudden explosion of physical emotion, so long sealed up in the flat lined mind of the middle-ground manic depressive; no highs or lows felt for so long, and suddenly a wave of self hate , introspection and dramatic over-reaction, brought out by the accidental chopping off of the tip of a thumb. Physically and emotionally blunt and brutal; beautiful, tragic, comic – the reason I will never get into poetry is the perfection of this Plath piece.

The Hanged Men Dance
by Arthur Rimbaud

Beelzebub jerks ropes about the necks
Of small black dolls who squirm against the sky;
With slaps, with whacks and cuffs and kicks
He makes them dance an antique roundelay.


Hurrah the jolly dancers, whose guts are gone.
About the narrow planks they jerk and prance.
Beelzebub roars the rasping fiddles' song.
Hop, they cannot tell the battle from the dance.

Quite simply gallows humour. It's as if Rimbaud – who apparently wrote all his poetry between the ages of 17 and 21, and then just sort of fucked about until he died at the age of 37 – just thought gallows humour! Lo, I shall make merry and laugh heartily at yonder dead fuckers swinging – look how they swing, with their still hearts and emptied bowels – it's as though the devil mocks them, and they in turn mock us, the living.

Jisei - Death Haiku
by Chogo
(In Japan it is traditional for poets, artists, writes, philosophers, etc to write a poem as they approach their own death.)

Hito koishi
hito mutsukashishi
aki no kure

I long for people -
then again I loathe them:
end of autumn

Amongst all the poems, verses and haiku contained in Japanese Death Poems this is, to me, the most honest and direct. It states a conflicted deep feeling of simultaneously holding a yearning for love and peace, clamour and quiet, company and solitude. Then it states end of autumn – death. No fuss; just life, then death. It is, within the confines of the genre, perfect. Many other poems in the book seem silly or trite; over reliant on cliched metaphor. True the reference to the end of autumn is a cliched metaphor, but it merely forms a sudden afterthought, like a falling axe. The focus of the poem is not on the metaphor for death, but on the reflection of life's conflict.

Unfortunately without becoming fluent in the nuances and traditions of Japanese calligraphy I will never fully be able to appreciate any of these poems. They are not just poems, they are paintings, and reading the translation (however well done) will always be more similar to reading a description of a painting than it will be to actually viewing the painting. (A well translated haiku should never try to fit into the seventeen syllable pattern; this works in Japanese but not in translation.)

I have not read any of the fifth poetry book I own, Poetical Works of Keats, so can't pick from that. I don't even know where it's come from. It is old, with no dust cover, and has a stamp inside saying 'Crewe and Alsager College Library' so I can only assume I bought it second hand, from the library or a local charity shop, when I was at university.

Anyway, what was I talking about... music or something. Oh yes, music. Now lets have some lyrics I love from ugly songs I love. But just a small amount, otherwise I would just end up copy-and-pasting almost everything from the albums I mentioned from the start. So let's tread lightly and begin here:

Beneath the Howling Stars
by Cradle of Filth

She danced so macabre
Men entranced divined from Her gait
That this angel stepped from a pedestal
Had won remission from fate
By alighting to darker spheres
Delighting in held sway
For She was not unlike the Goddess
To whom the wolves bayed

"Whilst envy glanced daggers
From court maidens, arboured
Who whispered in sects
Of suspicions abroad
That Elizabeth bewitched
See how even now the whore casts
Her spells upon the Black Count
Whom Her reddened lips hold fast"

Tongue unto tongue
Swept on tides without care
For the harpies who rallied
Their maledict glares
A halo of ravens tousled Her hair
Chandeliers a tiara
For passions ensnared

See, lovely isn't it. Shame about all the screaming, some people say, what's the point having all those beautiful words if all he does is rant and scream them. You can't hear a word he says. Yes, but that's how it's supposed to be. Either consume it live at the concert, or alone whilst reading the libretto.

But, lo, for our tale takes a nasty turn, for it is not a tale of parties and happy endings, for Cruelty and the Beast is a concept album about the mass murderer Countess Elizabeth Bathory. Tied in are themes of bloodlust, war, deicide, orgiastic ritual, and devil worship; phew, what a night!

The Twisted Nails of Faith
by Cradle of Filth

In pendants
(Natal trophies torn from bellies of desanctified nuns)
A demon, bewinged, bedight
In scum, prowled their circle seeking entry to run
An arctic tongue upon Her vulva
Where rubies smeared to alabaster thighs
Glittered like a compact in the purse of a whore
Receiving sole communion from the body of Christ

"If blood is what thou craves, foul fiend
I will yield this much to thee
If thou wouldst draw a veil for Me
O'er lengthening scars of age and grief"

As the Demon slavered foetid vows
And bore His prey away
In talons itching to perpetrate
The nausea of eternal rape
The Sorceress screaming in His grasp
Spat a final curse to stain
The Countess with the promise
That Her lord at war would be cruelly slain

And She would rot.
On the twisted nails of faith.

I almost succumbed to the urge to quote about five more stanzas from that song; they are just so good. Perhaps it's the fact that I first listened when I was about fifteen, and have continued to do so on a regular basis over all these passed years. Perhaps it's the tinny blast-beats and the Iron Maiden guitars that accompany them. Unlike poetry, which is supposed to contain the music within the words, lyrics stand proudly alongside their music, working together and, even if separated, containing each other.

This post has already gone on way too long, and before I start pulling all sorts of quotes from all over the place, let's just call it a day.

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