Saturday, June 16, 2007

A turn for the verse

Okay, so this one has been a long time coming.

Many people believe, I know, that I spend all my time reading books, watching movies, attending the occasional concert, and, most importantly, blogging about all of the above (taking the occasional break to fantasize about Nakul and Sahadev in bed). This is not true. Given the inordinate amount of time I save by not having either a job or a love life (and being an insomniac), I also manage, every now and then, to scribble a poem or two.

For some very important reason that I can't seem to recall just now, I've always been a little wary of putting any of these poems up on my blog. Maybe it's because distance is something that's so much harder to achieve in poetry. Maybe it's what R.S. Thomas calls an "impulse to conceal your wounds / From her and from a bold public / Given to pry". Or maybe it's just that they're not particularly good poems, and it's much easier to sit on your high horse and criticize other people's poetry when you don't have to acknowledge that you can't do better yourself [1].

At any rate, I've decided it's silly not to toss in the occasional poem or two, specially since this blog represents pretty much the only opportunity to have them see the light of day, and ending up alone at 50 with 3,000 poems on your hard-drive is even sadder than being the kind of emotional fuckwit who puts poems on a blog.

So I'm likely to be posting poems every now and then from here on. As I said, they're ordinary-verging-on-bad poems; actually, they're what I think of as one-night stand poems - the kind of poems you get all excited and intense about when you're writing them (usually late at night) but find really hard to respect the next morning. It's almost certainly self-indulgent of me to post them, and you'll probably hate them and stop reading this blog and I'll have to lure you back with theories about what the infant Krishna really had on his lips when his mother thought he'd been eating butter, but what the hell, here goes:

These poems

These poems are not thin enough
to be beautiful:
they do not hold themselves proudly,
curve in the right places,
stay poised in a crisis;
do not conform
to some stereotype of what
a poem should sound like.

Too plain to be cared for
and too simple to be ugly
they are content to play
second fiddle, step aside
for beauty when she arrives.

In the bar, at night,
they are never the ones
standing on the table,
singing along at the top of their voice;
rather they are the ones
who sit patiently in a corner,
waiting to be noticed,
listening sympathetically
to a stranger
and putting a hand on his arm
just to show
they understand.

They will be there
if you need them, though.
You have only to reach for them
and they will open to you like a book;
will sit alert by your bed all night,
ready to protect or console.

They will allow you to be selfish,
will allow themselves to be used
as mother, sister, friend;

they will always be faithful
to the love you never gave them.

[1] Not that I think being a good critic and being a good writer / artist are necessarily connected, but still.


Anonymous said...

It is wierd - I freely admit I am not the best of critics - but this poem seemed autobiograpical. It felt like you were describing yourself - maybe because you started out with describing you had no love life and planned on being 50 and alone. I have been reading your blog for a really long time now and I today for some reason am struck with the fact that you are always on the offensive with noting that you are single and make self-deprecating comments about it. Me thinks it is time to change your lifestyle !

Anonymous said...

to get such lines "I'll have to lure you back with theories about what the infant Krishna really had on his lips when his mother thought he'd been eating butter,..." i agree to be lured back here again and again.

Falstaff said...

anon1: Damn! You mean you managed to see through my Veil of Incredibly Aggressive Attitude to the Deep-seated Insecurities behind? I TOLD that shop girl blue wasn't my color.

You're assuming btw, that the description is true and therefore the poem is autobiographical. They could both be made up, no?

anon2: Ah, good, good. Mayya mori main nahin maakhan khayo and that sort of thing.

Cheshire Cat said...

"and they will open to you like a book;"
"will allow themselves to be used
as mother, sister, friend;"

I guess brother-brother incest wasn't good enough :)

Why should you be any more wary of putting the poems up than the stories? They're all of a piece. What is form without voice? Form gives form to voice.

km said...

_begin sarcasm_

I like how this poem led to a Crash Course in Self-Improvement :))

_end sarcasm_

I come here just to read lines like "ending up alone at 50 with 3,000 poems on your hard-drive is even sadder than being the kind of emotional fuckwit who puts poems on a blog."

Anonymous said...

Its a good thing I stopped posting. Or people might have have accused me of all sorts of things. On the lines of emotional fuckwit etc., Phew...close call.

Anonymous said...

Such modesty!!!

Where is night Falstaff?

And you write too damn well to ever stop reading this blog.

Anonymous said...

i think the word is defensive(at the rate anon1)

not to let your poetry see light of day,that ain't done no?

oh well we feel pretty mean post the'salacious-pontification' comment- n which way shall the anons atone. feel lost among the anons,so many of us abound
Anon 3

Falstaff said...

cat: Good question - I'm not sure I know the answer.

I think part of it is that I've always taken poetry more seriously than prose (entirely as a matter of personal preference) so that while dabbling in prose seems acceptable, dabbling in poetry seems wrong somehow.

It's also, I suspect, that the stories I put up on this blog are usually fairly short compared to most prose writing out there (people like Keret aside). So that in a way they feel like a different form of writing - blog stories as it were - and therefore not directly comparable to, say, Chekhov or Carver. With poetry that difference doesn't exist - so it makes the inadequacy of what I'm writing more apparent.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the point is that these aren't poems written for the blog, they're poems written for myself that I'm now choosing to put up here - the one in this post, for instance, was originally written in 2002, though I've modified it a bit here. That's very different from a story that I've just typed straight into blogger and that was written keeping a blog audience in mind.

km: Yes, I'm rather proud of that line myself. I have to say though that the comparison was a close thing, and I'm not sure the results are robust to different specifications of sadness.

ph: Ya, lucky escape there. Though, of course, it would have been nice to have company in one's poetic misery.

confused: No modesty, just being honest. Night Falstaff is very big on being honest, especially when this involves being nasty or critical. Plus Night Falstaff has very exacting standards on poetry, and believes that anyone who claims to write it should be treated with contempt until he / she proves unworthy of it.

Anonymous said...

Fal: your prose IS poetry!
Keep posting more,
yet another anon.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

i think u r trying to make fun of ur readers with this supposed self-critique.
brilliance does create space for such arrogance. we will be lured back alright.
just for the record, i liked this poem as well

??! said...

As I said, they're ordinary-verging-on-bad poems

one man's beer, another man's piss.

poems usually end up being what people (readers) make of them. and others may appreciate stuff you hate. and also read into more than you intended (which would explain the first post here). stories?

Falstaff said...

yet another anon: Thanks

emotional fuckwit: "It takes one to know one, she smiles"

maya: Thanks

rs: No, no. Trust me, if I wanted to make fun of my readers I could do a much better job.

??!: Ya, I know. Which is part of my justification for posting these. Though it's good to have someone else make that argument instead of having to make it myself.

Anonymous said...

:) am ready to read the spoof on readers

Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...

Glad to read articles like this. Thanks to author!

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equivocal said...

Pessoa didn't quite make it to 50, but he did end up with 50,000 poems or whatever in his trunk...