Sunday, July 21, 2013

Writing the Enjoyable

English Provincial Poetry

In a Sussex farmhouse before the war, simple ingredients in the rough
Were readily available: sunsets, owls, ferrets, woodland.
They required time and attention to process, yet were rewarding.
They are prized now by town dwellers who find them hard to obtain
And often only in processed or second-hand form.
A lot of nonsense is written about "Form".
Form is no more or less than Shape.
The thirties kitchen had its shapes cut out of tins
As moulds for trifles and junkets, themselves called moulds.
Have a few shapes and keep them clean and sharp.
Rhyme is not more needed than a two tone doorbell.
The reader is entitled to a Theme: e.g. loss, attraction
Nausea, mystical union with nature. It is little use
Mixing themes (nausea with mystical union). Do not strive
For originality. Never lose contact with your reader.
Once lost it is very hard, sometimes impossible, to regain.
Do not use the word "gyre". This can produce a severe reaction
In some readers. The same goes for "desolate". More importantly
Resist the temptation to introduce your poem
With a couple of lines from Dante. This will look
Like pampas grass in front of a 1950s terraced house.
Feeling: Standing in front of an old ruin (in Italy for example)
Can induce a poetic feeling in many English people.
Objective correlative: having decided theme and shape
Get hold of your objective correlative (see glossary p. 47).
This could be a sunset, often a wild bird (e.g. a hawk, perhaps lame)
Or some obsolescent piece of country apparatus, such as a spade,
A dibber (perhaps belonging to your old father)
Preferably with some nostalgic flavour.
Old carpentry tools can often be found in car boot sales.
By contrast also try up to date materials like old betting tickets
iPhones, deodorant, pizza packaging. With the right treatment
(Prolonged, whisking, montage) a "sophisticated" dish can surprise.
But a reliable effect is produced more easily from ruined artefacts,
And can rarely be beaten. An old Bakelite wireless or "crystal" set;
A ruined Hoover (perhaps with torn bag or ill-fitting plug).
This is because many readers being themselves damaged
Or feeling damaged, or wishing to feel damaged
Will identify more easily by means of the "pathetic fallacy"
(See Ch 10 footnote), though it is doubtful if this is really a fallacy.
Or they could be happy but still enjoy considering ruins in the same way
That we enjoy reading about murders and executions, landslides, floods,
Or people without enough to eat.

– Miles Burrows

Both the architectural Fantasy-Collage at top and the pragmatic Advice-Poem that follows made their way to me via the TLS (where they originally appeared, it should be said, on separate and unrelated pages).