Some modern verses I read
in fear and dread. They start
enticingly, at times;
pleasant rhythms, even rhymes.
The lines pellucid, meanings clear;
I suppress my mounting fear.
I await the non-sense,
into which they descend,
or the sublime heights
to which they ascend.
Then I reach it: a point
where all I think I knew
is suddenly, chaotically,
No matter how hard
I focus, how eagerly
I attend; I am, inevitably,
lost at the end.
The meaning flies away,
leaves me for dead;
from my obtuse head.
I’ve written before in this blog about how I find some modern poetry to be wilfully obscure. I know that poetry is not supposed to be transparent and as easy to read as a nursery rhyme, but some poets seem to me to be deliberately enigmatic and elusive. Poets like T.S. Eliot and Elizabeth Bishop tantalise me by hinting at clarity and meaning, and then pull the rug away from under my feet. Other poets – Wallace Stevens, Ezra Pound, Geoffrey Hill and (my particular bête noir) John Ashbery, for example – are completely opaque from start to finish.
CATHEDRAL SQUARE; DAY AFTER “BREXIT”
The nation is divided,
but sitting here, in Cathedral Square,
jubilation is in the air.
Union Jacks held on high,
emblematic against the clear blue sky.
A stubble-faced, hardened drinker,
beer can in hand, rushes up to a man,
slaps him on the back. “Cheers, mate!
We got our effing country back!”
As one of those who lost this fight,
I am bemused; the nature of our plight
is not grasped here. Fuelled by beer,
by blinkered enmity, by fear
of invading cultures,
different colours, different races,
a frenzy of ignorance escalates.
An alien presence in this jostling square,
I am adrift, in a sea of sun-reddened faces.
I turn away, impatient to leave,
to look for a quieter place, to grieve.
The day after the fateful European Referendum of June 23’rd, I happened to be at Cathedral Square, in the centre of Peterborough, around lunchtime. Nothing unusual in that; I live in Peterborough, and walk through the square most days. As the day was fine and sunny, I quite fancied sitting on one of the benches there for a while, and taking in the sights. I soon realized that the unexpected result of the referendum had created ripples of excitement, running through the people around the square. The above poem is a fairly straightforward account of what I saw there, and my reactions to the events.