Monthly Archives: March 2012

The Hidden Curses Of Being Tall

I have a confession to make: I am a tall man.

Not that tall — I am almost invariably the second tallest person in a random selection of thirty people — but certainly not short.

While there are upsides to being tall, there are also an awful lot of downsides to balance this out. I have to Lean conspicuously to one side to carry heavy shopping bags to stop my back from snapping in half, for instance.

Short people are rarely convinced of the terrible privations that come from being quite tall, so I have taken the liberty of compiling a definitive list of the weaknesses that come with being a tall person. Enjoy, or failing that, read the words, or failing that, see how rapidly you can lick your knees (you have to lick alternate knees or it’s cheating. Note that this is another sport tall people are bad at).

  • Tall people are always asked to reach the highest shelves, even if we’re really tired and don’t like you very much.
  • Tall people sway violently in strong winds.
  • Shorter people can see up the noses of tall people.
  • Shorter people end up with their faces crushed against the armpits, belly, arse or crotch on busy underground trains. This might seem like it’s a curse of being short, but for one thing tall people don’t want a short person in their crotch (or at least, not without some sort of spoken arrangement beforehand), and for another thing, it makes us feel like just by being tall we are imposing on the world.
  • The elderly are terrified of us.
40 foot tall wicker man.
  • When we lift up young babies above our heads to play aeroplanes, they are instead cut into small pieces by electric fans.
  • There is more of us to punch.
  • We have a higher centre of gravity.
  • Because our seats are further back in our cars, we cannot see out of our windows as easily, and thus we must edge forwards at busy crossroads until we are already causing a dangerous obstruction, and frustrated motorists make very mean gestures at us.
  • Headrushes.
  • When we suddenly need to be sick into a toilet bowl, say, on a convivial night out during the wee hours of the morning, we are faced with a choice of aiming from a distance and spattering ourselves with vomit, or rushing down to meet the bowl and risk an inebriated miscalculation that could leave us with ceramic stuck in our faces. Not that this ever happened to me.
  • The word “gangly”. Ditto “lanky”. Even the worst insults levelled at the short have some degree of squat, energetic dignity to them. There is no dignity for a gangly man.
  • Seriously, even the phrase “gangly man” is ridiculous.
  • We are naturally disadvantaged when it comes to potholing.
  • Elbows. Elbows everywhere.
  • Same for knees.
  • Dancing is impossible. There is too much going on, too far from the brain, to make any sense of. A tall person’s body is like a puppet, only instead of strings there are a series of tubes that intermittently blast angry weasels into the puppet’s limbs.
  • We are unable to wear hats. A (tall) friend of a friend described tall people in hats as fitting two Dickensian archetypes: the chimney sweep and the undertaker. Nothing else.

Alright, it might not be that bad being tall. If you want to see more pointless complaining, try reading my post on getting through crowds, or trying to.

This one time, I totally stayed up all night, and stayed up all night, and stayed up all night, and that is all for a long time.

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Thor In The City Of The Giants

When I was a child, I had a book of Norse myths and legends. It was absolutely my favourite thing in the world for about two months out of every year, after which I would get tired as kids do and leave it somewhere dusty. This cycle only ended when I got to the age of fourteen and everything suddenly became incredibly tiring and pointless.

The point — which I am getting to, I promise — is that there was one story from that collection that I enjoyed more than any story I’ve ever read, before or since. I’m not sure why.

Maybe it was because it illustrated the great feats people can achieve when they’re not told how hard they are. Maybe because it was the first story I ever read that dared to take a figure who was the avatar of power and strength, and make him seem vulnerable, almost afraid.

This story, the story of Thor in the city of giants, resonates with me to this day. I love it, and have retold it here as much in my own words, from my own flawed memory, as possible.

I hope someone else reads it and takes as much from it as I did.

If the Norse god Thor had been in your class at school, he would’ve been the scarily intense and fairly thick teenager who lifted free weights all day under the mistaken impression that this would make him attractive to whoever he was interested in. He would also be the kid who genuinely thought that it was impressive that he punched walls when he was angry, and who got into altercations with the police when everyone else was trying to have a nice night out.

Loki, meanwhile, would have been the vaguely goth-y teenager who made provocatively edgy arguments in philosophy class and sneered at everyone, while thinking that they were much smarter than they were.

Neither was particularly pleasant, and of course each disliked the other an enormous amount.

Thor, being a rather competitive god by nature, was perpetually looking for a challenge. Loki was always looking for an opportunity to see Thor fall flat on his face. So, of course, after what passed for banter in the age of beards and the celebratory mass imbibing of rotting bee-spit, they both went to the land of the Jötunn.

On the way there, Thor and Loki rested in a peasant’s hut. The peasant had no food to offer the two gods, but did have a couple of really big goats. Probably the peasant lived on their milk, it’s not recorded.

What is recorded is that Thor slew the two goats, ate most of them (kindly inviting the peasant’s family to join him in eating the stew that was their livelihood), and then forbade the hungry peasant family from sucking the marrow from the bones of the goats. He did not explain why, but then he was the mighty god of thunder, and probably rarely had to explain himself to anyone.

Their teenage son Thialfi ate some of the marrow from one of the smaller bones, as should have been expected.

The result of this was that, the next night, when Thor re-animated the goats by magic, one of the goats — belonging to the peasants in the first place, you might remember — had a slight limp. Thor was furious.

Thor was in a pretty much constant state of mild to moderate fury, but the nerve of this peasant boy in slightly damaging some of the property which belonged to him anyway, and which he had not been told was particularly important, made Thor so angry that the peasant was reduced to begging for his life.

Thor eventually relented, and by relented I mean he kidnapped both the peasant’s children, Thialfi and Roskva.

Once the two gods and two terrified peasant children entered the land of the Jötunn, it was night, and they were forced to seek refuge in a cave, spending the night in a side chamber a little way in. During the night their sleep was disturbed by constant earthquakes and thunder, with the result that Thor woke up feeling cranky.

On leaving the cave, Thor saw that the loud noises had actually been the snoring of the giant Skrymir, who was resting peacefully nearby. Naturally, he put on his belt of strength and iron gloves, and attempted to cave the thing’s skull in — however, Skrymir awoke before he could commit murder as his first act of diplomacy in a foreign land, and politely asked him what on earth four tiny people had been doing sleeping in his glove.

This strikes me as a fairly reasonable question. The four are supposed to be quite shocked at the size of the glove which doubled as a cave, and much is made of this, but I think it would be much more of a shock to discover that there were tiny people living inside your clothes. I have only felt that there were tiny people living in my clothes a couple of times, and each time I was more than a little unhappy about the situation.

Skrymir — lest we forget, Thor’s intended murder victim — seems quite amiable, and noticing that they’re going the same way as him, offers them a lift. I imagine there was much awkward “Oh, this hammer? Why, do you know, I barely noticed that I was wielding the thing!” before this point, but the skalds don’t seem to have sung about all of the social faux-pas of their most warlike gods. Probably a good survival tactic.

As night fell a second time, Skrymir let his knapsack full of food fall to the ground, and fell asleep.

Naturally, Thor tried to steal some food from the knapsack, but couldn’t. In petulant frustration, he drove his hammer into Skrymir’s head.

Skrymir, who probably was just being a sarky bastard, simply rolled over and asked “What happened? Did a leaf fall on me?”

Thor went back to trying to undo the knots on the knapsack, and still he couldn’t do it. He got even more hungry and cranky, and drove his hammer into Skrymir’s head with more force.

Skrymir rolled over and asked “Was that an acorn?” before promptly falling back asleep.

Thor continued with his struggle a little while longer, before, exasperated and confused and tired and probably needing to be burped, Thor drove his hammer into the skull of Skrymir with all his godly might, resulting in a most satisfying squidgy fleshy sort of sound.

This time, Skrymir woke up, and asked “Did a bird drop a twig on me? Gah, never mind, it’s morning. You’d better get going or we’ll never get to the Jötunn citadel of Utgard. The Utgardians aren’t weak and feeble specimens like me, though. You’d best show them some respect!”

History does not record what the sound of a deity crapping his pants is.

The four of them continued on their way, though, and eventually reached the gates of Utgard, finding them locked and barred. Thor, not having spotted the theme of his being constantly humiliated and made to look small, attempted to pry the gates open with his considerable brute strength, but failed, and the four had to try to squeeze through to the courtyard of Utgard.

As they entered the hall of the Jötunn, the creatures stared at them with contempt. The chief questioned Thor’s manliness and size, and the fact that Thor did not respond with immediate brute rage shows just how genuinely terrified for his very life Thor was.

The four were allowed to stay, but only if they entertained their hosts with feats of strength and skill.

They began with an eating contest. Loki, who was never full even when he ate all day and all night, was pitted against a giant named Logi. A huge number of dishes were placed in between the two competitors, and Loki warned the giant that he was extra hungry that day, because he had not eaten anything since the previous morning.

The giant and the god started at opposite ends of the tables, and ate towards the centre as fast as they could. When they met, the giants found that they had met in the exact centre, and were ready to declare an honourable tie — until they noticed that Loki had only eaten the meat from the bones, while Logi the giant had eaten the meat, the bones, the dish, and a good section of the table underneath it.

So Loki lost the first challenge.

Next, Thialfi, being small and fast, was set against the giant Hugi. Even as Thialfi warmed up, he was so fast that you could hardly see him. However, once the race started, the giant showed that he was just as fast — but he took enormous steps while Thialfi’s steps were only small. Hugi turned around at the end of the race and met Thialfi as he returned, finding that Thialfi had only made it halfway down the track.

So Thialfi lost the second challenge.

Finally, Thor was challenged to a drinking contest. Thor was thirsty, tired and needed a drink, so he agreed to the challenge. The giant chief laid out the terms of the challenge — any giant of worth could drain the drinking horn in one go. All but the most feeble giants could drain it in two draughts. Only the weakest and most pathetic runts would take three draughts to empty the horn.

The drinking horn was only a little larger than the horns the gods drank from, and Thor was a thirsty drunkard, so he accepted the challenge.

With the first draught, he drank as much as he could, until his lungs were bursting from his chest, but the drinking horn hardly looked any emptier.

With the second draught, again he drank until he almost passed out for want of air, but the level of mead in the horn was no lower.

With his final draught he pulled further and deeper from the horn than he had ever thought possible — and still, when he looked back at his work, the horn looked hardly any emptier.

The Chief of Utgarde laughed, and said “Such a feeble god! I recommend that you give up now, to save yourself from any further embarrassment.”

Thor was defiant, and said “I will attempt any feat you choose to put before me.”

The Chief looked thoughtful, then said “Alright — I have a task suitable for someone like you. Only a game, really, that our very youngest play. See that grey cat over there?”

Thor looked and saw that there was a large cat, probably twice the size of a wildcat, curled up by the fire.

“If you can lift that cat completely from the floor, I will consider that a feat of strength.”

Thor snorted, and went confidently to lift the cat — but the cat clung tightly to the floor without even opening its eyes, and Thor only managed to lift a single paw from the floor.

The Chief came over, helpless with laughter, saying “Stop, stop, stop! You have done more than enough to discredit the name of mighty Thor for one evening. Don’t worry about this — it is kind of a big cat, after all.”

Thor was furious(er than usual) at this. He demanded that, since he was so weak, he should be allowed to fight the very mightiest of the Jötunn. The Chief looked serious, and explained that there would be great shame for any Jötunn to fight with someone who could barely lift a cat — but that he would allow him to fight his old nurse, Elli.

Elli was a very old woman, whose bones creaked as she moved. Although she made her way towards Thor determinedly, her steps were slow and looked painful to make, and her clothing gave off a strong dank odour, as though she were already in the grave.

Thor being Thor, he entered into the battle with all his might, attempting to crush the old woman into submission.

She did not relent though. In fact, Elli did not even flinch in the face of Thor’s assault. Slowly, she began to push back, and Thor found himself, shocked, being wrestled into submission.

Even the Chief looked embarrassed on Thor’s behalf at this show of weakness, and as soon as Thor was forced onto one knee, he came forwards and stopped proceedings. “Stop!” he said, “The fight is finished. Thor and his companions have done their best, and will be allowed safe passage through Utgarde.”

Thor was ashamed, and wondered how he could ever hold his head up among the gods again.

However, it was revealed to him that not all had been as it seemed.

The Jötunn Skrymir was none other than the Chief of Utgarde himself, and had been deceiving him with his magic.

Where the three blows of Thor’s hammer had landed — not on Skrymir himself, but just next to him — three huge valleys had formed, each deeper than the last.

Loki’s opponent in the eating competition had been Fire itself, and had eaten through everything in its path, but still was challenged by Loki’s impressive hunger.

Thialfi had raced against the swiftness of Thought itself, and proved himself to be a third of the speed.

When he had drunk from the horn, it was magically tied to the sea, and though Thor did not empty it, he reduced it and created the tides that continue to this day.

Finally, when Thor lifted the cat’s paw, all of Utgarde trembled in fear. It was not really a cat, but the Midgard Serpent Jormungandr, who circles the entire world, and lifting its paw was a mighty feat.

Most impressive of all was the old woman, who was Time. In the end, everyone falls to Time — but Thor was merely forced onto one knee.

Thor was angry at this, because he had no other emotions, and attempted to smash the Jötunn, having learned literally nothing from the whole story, and the Jötunn and Utgarde disappeared from view.

Loki probably said something smart-ass and then they all had ginger beer and ice cream floats that weren’t as good as they remembered them being when they were children, because ice cream floats are a little pointless if we’re honest.

Despite the title of this post, I have used Jötunn instead of giant throughout. This is for a couple of reasons.

Jötunn is often translated as giant, but the English understanding of “giant” doesn’t really cover what most of them were. They were often huge, but some were only around the same size as the gods, while others were wolves or multi-headed foot babies. I imagine most of them as being like things from the stunningly atmospheric computer game Shadow of the Colossus.

The point I’m making is that these things aren’t just big people. They are bizarre, powerful, magical creatures of many different sizes. Thor and Loki going to the land of the Jötunn is like a brave knight in English tales going into the land of the fair folk, only the fair folk are all enormous and some of them are giant snakes.

It’s a scary place, is the gist of my point (if I have one).

It also means that the “giants” Thor faces actually could be Jötunn, in the sense that they are natural spirits, rather than natural forces disguised as giants, which gives the story quite a profound edge, in my opinion.

I do apologise for mangling the grammar of the word, though, which I am sure I have done throughout the story. Find some weird legends over here.

Yes hello why are there bees.

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Excellent news from the MA in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University.

The Arc Anthology looks like it’s going to be very exciting, with poetry from published poets James Davey, Daisy Behagg, Lucy Sixsmith and Hazel Hammond, and a consistently high calibre of fiction-writing as well, including many of my favourite bloggers among their number.

While Vs. Whilst

Technically, both while and whilst fulfil the same functions.

Americans, though, happen to use “whilst” a good deal less frequently than the Brits.

There, half of the people who found this article by Google have now gone away, leaving me free to wallow non-stop in my own self-important nonsense about this non-distinction.

The difference, as my lecturer would say, lies in euphony, or how the words sound. This is not to say, however, that how words sound doesn’t have an effect on their meaning, but we’ll get to that in a bit.

In my opinion, using “whilst” at any time means you’ll risk sounding like an ill-informed pedant, due to its archaic overtones and the precise ‘clipping’ effect (not a technical term) produced by the ‘st’ at the end. As a deliberate choice made over the more common “while”, “whilst” can make you look as though you think the distinction is important, and then what would the fellers down at the grammar club think of you?

Very little, that’s what.

Very little indeed.

Since I actually am an ill-informed pedant, it is vital that I avoid this trap. There are a few rules I use in an attempt to avoid sounding like a fusty librarian while using “whilst”, and I have listed them here on this blog here right there no down there below this text stop reading this bit it’s down there IT’S DOWN THERE

I’m sorry for shouting, but you just weren’t looking. Stop snivelling.

Option 1 — Exclusively Use Whilst Or While

Ignoring the option to never use “Whilst” at all, because that’s a waste of a perfectly good sort-of word, sticking exclusively to “Whilst” is a good way to indicate that you’re aware that the terms are interchangeable, and can be dismissed as a tic, especially in more formal writing. It doesn’t sound informal, exactly — “whilst” never will — but it does mean that your writing retains two important qualities:

  • Consistency.
  • Not sounding like a fourteen-year-old trying to impress their English teacher. See also: juxtaposition.

The disadvantages of this option are that, obviously, you have to remember which word you were using in every single thing you ever write, and, less immediately obviously, the option defeats what is surely the main purpose of “whilst”; sounding different.

Option 2 — Using Whilst For Emphasis

“Whilst” takes longer to properly pronounce than “while” does, while its precisely clipped ending makes it sound more accurate. This can be used to your advantage when delivering spoken words to an audience, emphasising the most important sentences by making you speak more slowly.

In my opinion, it makes for a formiddable opener to a sentence. While the honourable gentleman… could go either way. Whilst the honourable gentleman…, by contrast,  is slower, more deliberate, and acts to grab the attention before moving on to the main point.

It also seems to sound more sure of itself. The perceived arrogance of pedants plays in the word’s favour, marking out the speaker as someone who has chosen their words and thoughts with care — all that is left is for their words and thoughts to live up to the hype. Which they won’t, because they used the word “whilst”. In theory, though.

The drawback of this is that it will sound pretentious if what you have to say is stupid and trite; then again, almost anything will sound pretentious if what you have to say is stupid and trite, making the point moot.

Option 3 — Not Using “Whilst” In Front Of Consonants

Yes, this clashes with the example above, which uses whilst the. However, I believe this is generally quite a good rule to observe.

The above example was deliberately exploiting, or attempting to exploit at least, whilst’s longer sound, for the sake of rhetorical (is that the right word?) effect. In the middle of a sentence, putting “whilst” in front of a consonant just doesn’t make as much sense. It slows the sentence down, causes trips and stumbles, and breaks the flow.

Compare they sang whilst creatures danced and they sang while creatures danced. It seems to me that there is a clear delay in the first phrase/clause/whatever it is, which is just not present in the second. In my opinion, it sounds much worse.

The very worst example of this, which I see quite a lot, is whilst still. I can see how the phrase could be used for effect, as it effectively brings the sentence to a whispering halt before allowing it to start up again, but I think in general, it’s not only clunky, it’s redundant.

Option 4 — Do Whatever The Hell You Want

The final option is also the hardest, if you do it right. If you’re just using “whilst” and “while” with no regard for how they sound, that’s not quite what I mean by this option. What I mean is that the alternatives exist for a reason. Consider why the alternatives exist, and consider which alternative is better suited for the rhetorical effect you want to achieve.

Are you labouring the point, or fast approaching your conclusion? I believe that the choice of while vs. whilst can make all the difference.

So, what did I get wrong? As always, I’m interested to hear.

Wafts and strays and deodands and wrecks.

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Jedward And Gormenghast: A Re-Imagining

Gormless British pop duo Jedward have always unsettled me, in a way that no other ‘celebrities’ ever have. Too unsettled even to confront the fact of their existence at first, I have slowly overcome my terror.

I recently realised exactly why they inspire such fear in me. After literally minutes of research, I discovered a great deal of evidence that they were not even real people, but had in fact escaped from the pages of an original draft of the gothic masterpiece Gormenghast, consequently causing havoc and mayhem in the real world. As they get older, watch for the following signs of their bizarre origins:

  • Unusual pets.
  • Decadent, self-destructive tastes: perhaps an over-fondness for food, wine or more exotic fare.
  • Increasingly rampant and bizarre hair.
  • Somehow becoming notable, important people without anyone quite knowing why or how.
  • Incompetent scheming and/or plotting.

Here is a copy of an extract from the original draft I managed to lay my hands on, with Jedward restored to their rightful place as Steerpike’s main adversaries, using only their bizarrely naive (trying to avoid the word “stupid” here) approach to life as a weapon. It is the scene in which Steerpike, having gained entry to Fuschia’s room and having pretended to be unconscious, is ‘woken’ with filthy water, and confronted by Fuschia. As you can see, the presence of Jedward decisively changes the course of the novel.

Fuschia squatted back on her heels in surprise as he sat bolt upright and glared at her. She could not hear what he muttered through his teeth. His dignity had been impaired, or perhaps not so much his dignity as his vanity. Passions he most certainly had, but he was more wily than passionate, and so even at this moment, with the sudden wrath and shock within him, he yet held himself in check and his brain overpowered his anger, and he smiled hideously through the putrid scum. He got to his feet painfully.

His hands were the dull sepia-red of dry blood for he had been bruised and cut in his long hours of climbing. His clothes were torn; his hair disheveled and matted with dust and twigs and filth from his climb in the ivy. Jedward stood, staring vacantly about them, fretting and pulling at their too-tight and time-worn suits. One of Jedward remarked “You could get a disease, or something, if you did that.” The other Jedward nodded wisely, “Mother,” he asked, “can I go horseriding?” They laughed their hollow laugh together, eyes wide and empty.

Standing as straight as he could, Steerpike inclined himself slightly towards Fuschia, who had risen at the same time.

‘The Lady Fuschia Groan,’ said Steerpike, as he bowed.

Considering the now-empty dark-blue vase, which had contained the putrid water, the first Jedward said “Probably the gravity’s pushing down on all the plumbing, and that’s why there’s no water up here.” The second Jedward nudged the vase inquisitively with his foot, squeaking and recoiling when it rolled up a slab, then back down towards him. Steerpike did his best to ignore them.

Fuschia stared at him and clenched her hands at her sides. She stood stiffly, her toes were turned slightly inwards towards each other, and she leaned a little forwards as her eyes took in the bedraggled creature in front of her. Jedward, oblivious, said “Let’s see my beautiful legs,” hunching over himself in a series of grotesquely arch contortions as he tested the very limits of his suit’s fabric; the other Jedward leaned in and watched with uncomprehending fascination, like an owl regarding a vole. Fuschia could tell that the intruder was not much bigger than she was, but much more clever; she could see that at once.

“I feel so sick Edward, do you feel sick?” said the Jedward who, by process of elimination, must have been John. Edward stared in fascination at Steerpike and Fuschia, and declared “They both look like women. One of them is definitely a man, but we don’t know which one.” Fuschia did her best to ignore them.

Now that Steerpike had recovered, Fuschia’s mind was filled with horror at the idea of this alien at large in her room. She had grown accustomed to Jedward wandering in whenever the fancy took them, although she still hadn’t worked out how exactly they were getting in, but their mindless stares and disturbingly blank expressions stood in stark contrast to this youth, with his insolent and cunning animal eyes. Steerpike’s eyes shared a single-minded sort of character, a remorseless ambition, though towards what goal or goals they strived she could not tell.

Suddenly, before she had known what she was doing, before she had decided to speak, before she knew of what to speak —

“We’re like caged heterosexual tigers!” one of the Jedwards shouted. As the level gazes of Steerpike and Fuschia turned to rest on him, his face fell. “Well, we are,” he muttered, suddenly downcast.

“Go away,” said Fuschia, “go away from my room.” Steerpike mutely obliged, baffled and filled with an inexplicable joy, leaving the Jedwards with Fuschia to innocently frolic, preen and chatter to themselves, as their kind had done for the Groans’ entertainment for generations.

This post, a Jedward/Gormenghast crossover fic, was brought to you by a desire to further reverse the positive effects of last Wednesday’s disconcertingly popular post on Google alternatives, which I accidentally released at probably the most perfect time possible. If there is a perfect time for a Jedward/Gormenghast crossover fic, I do not want to be any part of it. I honestly have no bloody idea why I wrote this post, and if you enjoyed it, you worry me.

Jedward remind me of Sonic the Hedgehog for some reason. This is some music. It’s not even metal, for once.

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Not Sure What To Make Of This…

Disqus screen telling me to log in in order to reach the sign out screen.

Log in to sign out.

I don’t know

Why Don’t I Write More About Poetry?

Why don’t I write more about poetry?

It’s a fair question.

It’s right up there in the blog description, it’s something I spent a year of my life studying, and it’s something that takes up a good amount of my free time.

So why don’t I write about it?

Firstly, poetry is intensely personal.

I don’t mean this in the “poetry is all subjective” sense. Recently, I find that I don’t agree that poetry is purely subjective, unless one is to take the most reductionist approach possible.

I simply mean that talking about poetry to a large anonymous audience is intimidating.

Poetry is often intense and involving in a way that prose rarely is, at least not consistently. This isn’t due to a necessary or inherent part of the writing of poetry — there’s a lot of crap poetry and a lot of moving, intense prose. It’s due to the attention we can bring to bear on poetry as a reader, it’s bound up in the cultural rituals of how we approach poetry from the other side.

Because of this, to talk about a poem that I loved or hated to a large, vague audience is (a) embarrassing, and (b) incomprehensible to a large section of the audience. Again, this is not to say that the poem itself is therefore subjective, only that emotional responses to poetry are subjective — which brings me neatly to my second point.

(The majority of contemporary) Intellectual approaches to and dissections of poetry (in the media) are dull.

There seems to be a split between the simplistic and the irritatingly pretentious, with precious little middle ground for sober analysis. Everyone seems to want to be either Larkin or Lacan. The discussion and dissection of the construction and intended effects of poetry has been relegated to the classroom — if I even think about using the phrase “the poet’s use of metaphor”, I feel as though I am a naive A-level student rather than a proper commentator.

There are exceptions. I love PN Review for its insightful and usually very open-minded commentary on poetry — but the people writing for PN Review are at the top of their game. I could not rival them for analysis, and so I will not try.

Finally, the poetry world in Britain at the moment, at least the type that appears in respectable journals and wins the poet recognition and a sort-of career, is incredibly factional, cliquish, and politically-motivated.

My blog might not reach many people, but the mere thought of my latest internal rant about poet X or poet Y reaching the blog…and Twitter…and poet X or Y…and the editor of a prestigious journal, however unlikely, gives me chills. It could quite easily stop any chance of my getting the respect needed to become a published poet before my efforts really began.

So, that’s why.

I do hope to write a little more about it, but if I get the time and inclination, I’d rather write it than about it, anyway.

This post about my own blog and poetry has been explicitly designed to counteract the effects of my last accidentally popular post. I wish to return to my normal 20 views a day now, please.


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