Good afternoon, dear readers!
I swither between thinking the internet a very good thing and a very bad thing, and my reason for adopting either position is in fact the same in both cases: anyone can say anything. And while you might think this is a neat little segue into a discussion of Ryan Giggs, in fact it isn’t. It’s a segue into Yahoo Answers.
On Yahoo Answers you can ask, or answer, any question. I have started doing this in the last week or so, and it ought to come as no surprise to those who know me that I’ve been looking mostly at the ‘Poetry’ section. There I’ve been able to help with the technical and formal questions (what is trochaic tetrameter? How are sonnets constructed?), which I find very rewarding. Something, however, that makes me grit my teeth and move on are (for example) the 14-year-old Emo kids romanticising suicide.
The best poetry advice I was ever given was offered to me by Donald Cairnduff, the head of English at my school, who, when I was starting to write poetry myself, offered 4 words of criticism that proved massively useful and ought to be dispensed to teenagers as a matter of national policy. The 4 words were “Angst is never interesting.“
Other 4-word credos that might prove equally useful to the Yahoo Answers crowd of poetic teens are You aren’t Sylvia Plath and Pay attention to rhythm. If we expand beyond 4 words, we can include You aren’t as disillusioned as you think you are, You don’t know as much as you think you do about this, and Punctuation is really, really important.
However, I said I was going to make the internet just a little bit worse, and I intend to do that by subjecting you all to one of my poems. It was published in October in Causeway/Cabhsair, published by the University of Aberdeen. It’s a sonnet (if you want to get really technical, it’s a Shakespearean sonnet according to rhyme but with modern metrical flexibility – so there) called ‘Sunnyside’, which was the name of the farm my grandfather grew up on in Comber, Northern Ireland.
The carthorses are clop-shuffling in the yard
In their trap and tackle, trace and trim,
All muddied at the feathers from the field ploughed
And furrowed, turned by God Save The King.
Behind them, hunched over with potatoes
For the sowing, by seventy years
Of memories to come, my grandfather follows
The horses in their buckle, brass and gear;
Enacting his own plantation of Ulster
In uneasy years between bigger wars
Than that which sets grown men to mutter –
In the church halls and on the threshing floors –
Of the Free State and the simple truth
That troubles come of troubled youth.