Lament of the Despairing Poetry Editor

I’m fed up with poems.
They arrive by the ode-load, the tanka-ful.

Big long ones screaming:
Look at me! Look at me!
Pretending not to be like Allen Ginsberg’s
and failing.

Small short ones:
haiku with the wrong number of syllables
if there is such a thing
as the wrong number of syllables in a haiku –
which there isn’t.

Respectable, middle-class, middle-sized ones:
unrhymed sonnets, dodgy villanelles,
Wildean ballads, Dantean hells,
verse so free it practically gives itself away
and floats like fluff from the back of that bookcase
you moved for the first time in years.

Verse so pleading
it tugs at your heart strings,
ingratiates its way into your mind.

Verse so confessional
it makes Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton
seem buttoned up.

Verse so clever
Wallace Stevens would put his poetic hat on the rack
and call it a day.

Verse so filthy
even Fiona Pitt-Kethley
would blush.

Verse so full of ennui
Charles Baudelaire suddenly sounds cheerful.

Verse so alcohol-soaked, nicotine-stained, drug-addled
you see Charles Bukowski in a brand-new light –
beaming like John Betjeman or Patience Strong.

I’m fed up with poems.
They make my brain hurt.
In fact they’ve screwed up my brain,
liquefied it, boiled it – it’s now
a tin of alphabet soup, a can of ambrosia.
It’s changed from a slick and oiled
intellectual machine
(surgically stripping the bones of philosophy
and weighing up art and poetry
like Tom Paulin on Friday Night Review) 
into a primordial stew of indecision,
unbalanced as Prague’s astronomical clock,
swinging like the tail of Schrödinger’s cat,
yet certain as Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle!

I’m fed up with poems.
How come a poem I read yesterday
and hated, today I like?
Dammit, I just mailed the author
and told him to stick his poem
back up his over-productive arse –
and now I love the bloody thing!
It’s a work of genius, surely?
Stimulating, seminal,
the best thing I’ve read
since First Party at Ken Kesey’s with Hell’s Angels!

I’m fed up with poems.
In future, for pleasure,
I’ll read the Daily Mail,
Pam Ayres, Jeffrey Archer
Or even the Argos catalogue.

Why do people think
they can write a poem anyway?
And why has it got to be
a cornucopia of clichés,
a myriad of mixed metaphors,
a Pandora’s box of unprintable puns,
derivative doggerel and double entendres?

And why do they think their emotions,
spilt like guts on the page,
are even remotely interesting 
to me going through my own
mid-life crisis: divorce, depression,
breakdown, suicidal impulses,
the demise of various family pets?
I don’t feel the need to write about it.

I’m fed up with poems.
They arrive by the e-truck:
dozens of ditties
and scores of sestinas,
one hundred heptameters,
thousands of threnodies,
millions of In Memoriams;
every email
stuffed to the binaries
with tropes and metaphors
so incredible, 
so over-the-top,
so outrageous 
that the racing cheetah
or dive-bombing peregrine
of the software
can hardly keep up 
with all that excessive verbiage
and flowery vagueness.

I’m fed up with poems.
Why should poets get away with it?
I mean, you can write
what you like these days, can’t you?
No rules, no laws, no prescription,
no mathematical precision,
no critical evaluation,
no beginning, middle or end,
no god, no voluptuous muse.
You can write whatever you choose. 
You just pour it all out, don’t you,
whatever`s clogging your arteries,
poisoning your blood?

I’m fed up with poems.
How do poets get away with it,
cluttering up cyberspace
with their bleeding hearts and wounded souls?

I’m fed up with poems.
Though, bugger me, I won’t be beaten.
This time I’ll show them.

I think I’ll write one of my own.


Walking the Poem

I took my poem for a midnight walk,

thinking I might find out its meaning,

what it was about, how it might talk.

I took my poem for a midnight walk:

the sky above a pin cushion of stars,

the moon a melon slice, the silver birches

leaning into obscurity, half tangible,

half immaterial; and as I paused to take

my bearings, my poem ran ahead

and lost itself among the shadowed gardens

and dark alleyways. To tell the truth

I felt relieved to be without the pull

and tug of its straining leash. I felt

light-headed, fancy-free, rid of a burden.

I took my poem for a midnight walk;

but it wanted a life of its own and fled

into a night of stars blinking like diamonds

around the moon’s shut eyelid, and the trees

sighing into a midnight wind,

unwitnessed, undescribed. I took

my poem for a midnight walk; it fled;

I got my own life back; and was content

that I could live life now a little bit

without the painful struggle to express it.


Robert Wilkinson (aka The Solitary Walker), editor of The Passionate Transitory, is a graduate in German and Philosophy from Durham University. He also gained a postgraduate diploma in Librarianship from the Polytechnic of North London. After working for many years in public libraries and publishing houses, his current aim in life is to walk for as long and as far as possible.