|Plaque on a railway bridge - The Monsal Trail, Derbyshire|
After all these years, I have finally come to admit that I have an addiction. Yes folks, I’m Mr Pudding and I am… I am a poemoholic. Been writing poems since I was six years old and I’m still writing them now as I approach sixty. Okay, I don’t write poems every day but the addiction is always lurking in the background – like a skeleton in the secret cupboard of my mind. They surface from time to time and I’m sorry, okay? Sorry that some of them have forced their way into this humble, everyday Yorkshire blog. I just can’t help myself – I’m an addict.
I realise that some regular visitors to this blog are almost anti-poetry and if they had a poet living next door they’d probably laugh and point at him/her as he/she walked by. It would be more embarrassing than living next door to a pervert like Jimmy Savile. Your house value would surely plunge.
On a few occasions, comments on my poems have revealed this antipathy towards poetry with some correspondents suggesting I should lighten up or as Neil from “The Young Ones” might have muttered, “Heavy man!” But we poemoholics will protest that one of the main purposes of poetry is to peel away the skin of human life and go for the jugular, to root around in the attic until you find what has been hidden. The oft-times superficial and jolly poetry of Edward Lear or Pam Ayres should not be dismissed – it has its place - but to me that’s not real poetry, it’s more wordplay… entertainment. Real poetry should connect with the reader and make you think and the words it employs should sometimes sing to you like music. I’m not saying I always reach that goal but like other poemoholics, I try.
As an English teacher, I frequently encountered youngsters who automatically moaned when poetry was on the day’s menu: “I hate poetry” etc.. I would often point out that they liked songs which are simply poems set to music and when loved ones die we will invariably fall back on poetry – at the funeral service or in newspaper announcements. Poetry is in nursery rhymes and football chants, advertising copy and greetings cards and it’s in the rhythm of everyday conversation – the language we choose, our turns of phrase, how we try to describe our experiences.
I turn the clock back over fifty years. I’m up in my bedroom writing a rhyming poem about an imagined hero who presses on through the mountains, crosses gushing rivers, slays dragons and battles through snowstorms to reach his goal… There, it’s done. Excited, I thunder downstairs. My family are about to settle down for their Sunday tea and I’m seven or eight years old and I say, “Listen! Listen! I’ve been writing a poem!” They go quiet and they listen as, pleased as punch, I recite the juvenile poem to my loved ones. I finish, close the little blue exercise book and wait for their reaction. They burst out laughing – it’s infectious. My mother has tears of laughter in her eyes and I redden with a mixture of puzzlement and anger before storming back upstairs where I stay, refusing to come back down for my tea. I bet Walt Whitman never got that reaction – nor Alexander Pope nor e.e.cummings. But as you know, it didn’t put me off. I’m still a poemoholic and I’ll most likely die one:-
Here lie the bones of Yorkshire Pud
Who often erred
But tried to be good
Afflicted by the poetry disease
He could never find a life of ease
|Long Dale, Derbyshire - the inscription reads|
"The road up and the road down are one and the same"