I’ve competed in a few poetry slams back in London, usually zonked on more than one bottle of wine: it just works better that way. The point of a slam isn’t to create great poetry, it’s just to get energy out, keep the meter flowing smoothly while someone else is doing the same thing three metres away with a different audience, concentration and delivery above the sweat. I’m okay at it, and entertaining even when I’m not.
But I don’t usually WRITE poetry, and I need to write some tonight, after some ideas scribbled at lunchtime glinted potential. Yes, I NEED to do it; the particular reasons driving this activity are important. But on the page – where it’ll last for some time, not the shouted seconds of verbal delivery – putting the words together is a Hard Problem.
The main trouble to anyone schooled in the UK when writing poetry: not sounding like a bloody Victorian.
I mean, the urge to write in the kind of English you see in Yeats and Keats is overwhelming. See a swan and want to write about it? You are ABSOLUTELY GUARANTEED to see the following UTTER SHIT splatter across the paper like a burst pustule:
“Lo! Sweet Monarch of the riverbank… wherefore art thou goest this morn?”
What the FUCK?!!! This is 2007, fool wannabe! If it’s indeed a swan, then in 2007 the swan is a bad mo’fo that hangs in the riverbank ‘hood trippin’ mean or something; “Monarchs” haven’t had a look-in to that metaphor since about 1854. Yet this voice – the voice of ‘serious’ poetry you learned as a teenager – still rings in your ears when you’re trying to put decent iambic pentameter together.
What’s worse, after several hours of putting my subconscious onto it I’ve actually got a decent subject and some cool assonance, and I’ve filled several pages of testpaper. (Poems should always be handwritten.)
Hope I’m not in for yet another 2am night at my desk, particularly with about a dozen assignments due. I can’t take much more of this.