poetry (very meta, sorry)

I had one of those difficult, complicated dreams about software and online communities last night, qv Jeremy with food poisoning in Dublin: “I am a database.” People were exchanging their poems on IM, and other people were deriding said poems, goading me until I pointed out that however bad they were, they were better than Southey. Salome popped up and argued that I’d never given nineteenth century poetry its proper due, and that as with music (I like everything up to Bach, then virtually nothing until Stravinsky) my taste in poetry skips straight from Jonson and Donne to Yeats and Eliot.

As I woke I thought of countless counterexamples: Coleridge for Kubla Khan and The Rime, Wordsworth for that deathless bit from the Prelude (“Not in entire forgetfulness…”), everything Emily Bronte ever wrote, Tennyson for certain bits of In Memoriam and for the lovely, lovely Crossing the Bar, and I suppose for dreary old Mariana in her moated grange, certainly whenever I’m waiting for a bus; most of Browning and Meredith, all of Hopkins, plus Emerson, Whitman and Dickinson across the pond.

Not sure why I singled out Southey for dream-disapprobation, either. Not really familiar with any of his work, to the extent that I hadn’t even realized Lewis Carroll was parodying him with “You are old, Father William”. Maybe I had him confused with Shelley, who I’ve never really seen the point of at all.

I gave up writing poetry when I was 22, on the excellent grounds that I was very, very bad at it indeed, qv my lines on the death of Sugar Dog. For ten years I was never even tempted to try again, short fiction, irritable journalism and IP-based sarcastic asides apparently fulfilling my expressive needs. I am embarrassed to admit that since Christmas 2002 I’ve occasionally felt moved to write a poem, because the way I feel about Claire burns me like a Type G star five feet away in the direction that can’t be pointed to. But so far I have, you will be glad to hear, refrained.

Instead of writing poetry I have used other peoples’ poems as a way of recording the things I am not willing or able to talk about. In which spirit I offer this, from the great and unjustly neglected Judith Wright, who is so little Googleable that I am reproducing this piece from memory and doubtless gutting it in the process.

Silence is harder, Una said
If I could be quiet I might come true
Like the blue cup over the sink
Which is not dead
But waiting for something to fill it.

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