Larkin hated poems about poetry but I can’t seem to get away from them. I think that’s probably because I get really immersed in the process (drafting, writing, reading out loud etc) and I am infinitely curious about the way other people do it. Anyway, what follows was kick-started by a Geoffrey Hill essay on John Ransom Crowe. What I hope I’ve done is put together a slightly tongue-in-cheek riposte to those who take poetry too seriously.
Nights in the pub
Man walks into a bar,
(to no-one in particular)
“I’m looking for the monad”.
The two bar staff exchange glances
and shuffle their sweating feet.
The older one says:
“We haven’t had a monad in here
since a week last Tuesday”.
The man says: (to them)
“You two don’t even know what a monad is”.
At which the younger one gets all indignant,
pours himself a drink and leans across the bar:
“The monad is Eliot’s still and moving centre,
the compression of feeling, the true object of all poetry.”
He’s strangely impressed and orders a drink- double malt with ice.
Night after night he drags himself down there
to the bar on top of the sea,
night after night he drinks himself drunk,
notebook by his side
as the waves drench the rocks.
Then, one fateful night,
they greet him and say:
“The air’s thick with it tonight-
can’t you smell it?”
And he could, the air was warmer
and carried the scent of burning orchards.
All he had to do was wait.
Then, at ten past ten, it all started to begin.
The plaintive cries,
the women in their thirties,
the long, long sighs,
the silent sobbing inside,
the older men,
the glazed euphoria.
10 or 12 all at once,
he sat fixed to the bar
he took notes
(as you would),
capturing every last angle that he could.
By 11 it was all over
and he went home,
The next morning with coffee and a smoke
he opened his notes only to find
that he couldn’t read a fucking word.
All squiggles and blotches
as if the truth demon had erased
the revelation in the night.
He tried to make things out,
he really did,
but the only words that were left were: