Friday, March 7, 2008

"Light" Verse

I write a lot of light, ridiculous verse. "Unredeeming" verse, to some or many. I do so for four main reasons:

1) I have fun doing it. If writing verse (or even "serious" poetry)is a drag, an excruciating labour, an obligation, then why bother? The remuneration sucks, any "fame" is fleeting (and usually overblown in the poet's mind), and the work is overwhelmingly likely to be forgotten in short order, if it finds an audience at all.. Creative mischievousness, however, is its own reward, and is time well spent.

2) Any audience that happens to come in contact with it may get a chuckle, jolt, or satisfying received transmission of wit.

3) It keeps one's creative flexibility, interest, and focus at the ready when a more substantive mood or idea is born.

4) In regards to (2) above, most so-called "serious" poetry is boring, pretentious, and inept. The reader is justifiably chloroformed, faintly annoyed, and/or confused about what is on offer, and indeed, is concerned about why the effort was made in the first place. Light verse is traded with the purpose of entertaining, but it also serves (at times) a more subtle purpose and effect of deflating the preponderance of self-important banalities from every seeming corner of our poetic landscape, as well as insinuating (O necessary snake!) a needed satiric bite into the wooden appleflesh on our collective sleeping boughs (mine included).

Noone's immune from the drowse, since the forces of creative inertia are a social frozen tsunami. Light verse, satirical prose, critical thought and expression, are (if good) valuable counterpoints to the dreck compounding in our pages like the credit derivative swaps which infect everyone in international ways we can't detect or completely separate ourselves from.

And at its best, "light" verse can transcend its seeming limitations of scope, and can become more "serious" than many other efforts which outline the author's grand "sensitivities".

Robert Bly derided light verse, and I wasn't surprised to read that about him: his poetry is unremittingly solemn (and unmusical, but that's another matter).

Ralph Gustafson said that "there are those who believe that light verse is not serious. That notion is not to be entertained" (close to the direct quote).

Here's something from me that has no pretension of being sold as a keeper, or admitted to a century anthology. All the same, I enjoyed writing it some time ago:


Crossstitched, my eyelids, to a hospital pillow.
The clothes outside are faint eggshell blue. They billow
While the humid matron pumps horse-meds down my throat
With a two-by-four back-up and a rubber goat.

Help me, dreamLove! Defrost my poems and bite my lips.
Float here; sing a lullabye while I let one rip.
Flip cartwheels. Install butter in my dressing gown.
I think one of the nurses saw my backside and frowned.

Ahoy! I'll abet the rumours with furious glee--
See the straightjacket wall strings covered with cat pee?
That's my work, I composed it for you, matchless Love,
Though your eyes cross, twitch when espying my wet glove.
Ahh! Another old fart, the minister of the ward
Has come creeping 'round my sickroom with a pen sword.
He's trying to convert me to the other side
Where poems are big and my head voices don‘t chide.

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