Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Diary matters


To Canterbury in an hour or so for a reading at the university, staying overnight, then to London on the morning train to record a spot on The Verb at 12:15, with the Hungarian Cultural Centre launch in the evening. Home very late to deferred teaching first thing in the morning. The next day the Norwich launch, thereby missing the actual broadcast of The Verb.

At Kent: Patricia Debney, prose-poet and short story writer, and the poet David Herd.

I am streaming, probably not with cold, but as a result of my allergy to whatever blasted itinerant irritant lurks in the house (it may of course be the cats...) in response to which I take a day-long antihystamine pill and go my merry way. C is picking up her pictures from the Palladio exhibition in London.

Couple of thoughts from a questionnaire I have just completed for an enquiry. Thinking semi-aloud, as ever:


Prose and poetry / Prose Poetry / Song Lyric and Poetry

Poetry is a specialised form of speech, some way to song, indeed could sometimes BE song, though by no means always. Generally speaking, poetry is more concerned with the state of affairs than with a story. Generally speaking, poetry thrives on ambiguity while prose does not. Poetry is generally short and semantically floating. Prose is long and, generally, fixed. Poetry is a lake. Fiction is a river. I could go on with half-ironic profundities like this for a long time. The point is they would, generally, be true...

Prose poetry can be very good indeed, but it’s a complex game that works by contrast, and by counter-intuitive means. The desire of the floating text [in poetry] to float becomes all the more strikingly clear when anchored to the expectations of prose (ie the rational forward flow of syntax). But the floating energy of that desire has no great stamina. 'Tis brief, my lord. Eventually the weight of prose expectation shackles it or makes it look simply fey...

Rock lyrics, like any lyrics can have substantial poetic qualities, but they will ultimately be judged on how they manage away from the music, away from all memory of it. There have always been great song lyricists and rock is no exception. There is a line of wit in English and American song writing that, in the twentieth century has led from music hall, through Irving Berlin and Cole Porter, to Noel Coward, to Ian Dury, to The Streets, to some rap artists. There is a line of lyricism that leads from German lieder, through Brecht / Weill, through French chansons, through Leonard Cohen, through Tom Waits. Then there are the all-rounders like Bob Dylan and John Lennon at best. There are also superbly atmospheric songs with great perfectly appropriate words that together generate a poetic sensation.

Transferring most poems (intended as poems) and turning them into lyrics is perhaps comparable to taking a book intended as a book and adapting it as a film. You lose some, you gain some. Normally the better the poem / book the worse the song / film. Though there are always exceptions. In song the music wins, in film the moving image wins. The best poetry generates its own music. Once set by a composer the meanings of the poem are modified and, to some degree, limited.

There is no SHOULD in any of this. You don’t know what happens till you try it. There are only general areas of forecast. If the weather forecast says it will probably rain in East Anglia it does not necessarily mean it will rain in Cromer. Chances are it might rain in Cromer too. But then, unless you go to Cromer, you won’t find out till you’re there. It might be the sunniest day of your life.


You want half-ironic profundities? But is there any profundity worth its name that is not half-ironic? Only half, mind. The rest is seriousness all the way.



10 comments:

James said...

More on David Herd here:
David Herd

George S said...

David Herd mark 1: Ruud van Nistlerooy meets disc jockey Alan Freeman.

The Pathé commentary helpfully informing the audience of that which is blazingly obvious.

The Band of the Royal Marines curving into a single column.

I watched the final on TV of course. I had seen United earlier that season at Craven Cottage (Johnny Haynes, Jim Langley...) with my dad, and, seeking reassurance, asked him if United would be relegated. He said no. They finished 19th.

Nowadays he asks me if Spurs will be relegated. I reassure him and say no. Probably mid-table.

Poet in Residence said...

100,000 at the game and the same few fans always on camera; a pair of 'hi di hi' holiday camp girls in orange blazers and a Man U. madman in braces (or suspenders if he's an American)

Reading the Signs said...

Yes, we (I) do want them. I probably wouldn't have got that they were half-ironic unless you'd said so. It would probably rain in Cromer; it did the two times I went there.

George S said...

The irony is for personal use, Reading the Signs. It is useful to have an an occasional 'Hark at him [meaning me] then!' note in there whenever I start sounding off about something.

But of course I mean the damn things else I wouldn't write them. Deadly earnest. I just think I look faintly comical when being deadly earnest. I suspect, or at least hope, that that is a trait called sanity.

Poet in Residence said...

Went to Cromer. Walked on HM Queen Mum's favourite beach. Weather sunny. Took in end of pier show. Full house. Mostly OAP's.
Several paint-peeled and boarded-up properties along narrow streets. A reek of stale urine, stale beer n' cold fish n' chips.
Usual seaside town bands of semi-drunks.
Otherwise all ok.

George S said...

Don't knock Cromer. It has a definite something: the end of the pier show for one and the Hotel De Paris for the other. The Hotel De Paris is the vast hulk overlooking the pier on your left as you gaze back towards the shore. I think any place called Hotel De Paris in Cromer is an outpost of the higher imagination.

And of course the crabs and the black shuck demon dogs.

Poet in Residence said...

Stayed in lovely B&B just round corner from Hotel de Paris. Fine views. Lovely days. Nice people.
Followed Queen Mum's footsteps. went up to Sandringham. Had a look at the famous chair used for the Christmas Message broadcasts. Postcards of Charles and Camilla dog-eared and bulging in the Sandringham racks. Diana? Sold out.

George S said...

Diana sold out some time ago. (Official certified anti-royalist joke, comes complete with mug and teddy bear).

Poet in Residence said...

Sharp! But don't lose your head George. Wills and Harry might be bloggers.

After Sandringham a lovely day in Norwich. Had a beer and a ride on a small cream and black open bus, we were the only two on it, plus the friendly driver/guide fellow.
Sun out. Light breeze.