As we move out from Lent and into the joys of Easter I started to think about poetry. The immediate trigger was Wendy Cope’s new collection: Anecdotal Evidence (Faber & Faber). You will know her as a fine and witty poet with the gift of making us think. She asks, in her eight line introductory poem what the use of poetry may be. She answers: “It’s anecdotal evidence/About the human heart.”
I am not in Cope’s league but it inspired me to look at some of my short poems written over the years. So I thought I would indulge myself by writing about some of them this week.
We have all experienced, whether male or female, occasions when an incident hits us so hard emotionally that we find the tears rising in our eyes, so this poem reminds me of my late wife.
CRI DE COEUR
She had seen many pictures on that day;
They were all good, and certainly very costly.
Some had even made her catch her breath.
Then she turned a final corner –
Feet swollen, ankles aching –
To see four snow scenes painted by Monet.
She stood there and cried for beauty.
She had not meant to cry and was ashamed.
My next poem, British Surgeon Lebanon ‘87, also concerns a woman but this is a British surgeon who took huge personal risks attending to the damaged and wounded in Lebanon (1987). It struck me that we can do dangerous and courageous things simply because we were there at the crucial moment. It is a great tribute to human nature.
Do you do it for love? I asked.
No, she said.
Why do you do it? I asked.
It came to my hand, she said.
While she was working, I saw some very unpleasant scenes. And I tried to sum them up in 3 lines which described an incident I saw.
The bullet entered under her nose;
Her skull plates heaved
And brought up brain.
Many years ago we had a French lodger. She was so beautiful that she triggered in me what we might call impure thoughts. She had no interest in me other than friendship. In the end it became so unbearable that I had to ask my wife to move her on.. But it was not before I wrote a little rhyme.
Long-stemmed she rose
Her voice cut glass
She’s my mistress
I’m her class.
Some hopes! So let’s move to something more intellectual. I hope you know Wagner’s Ring.
In Wagner’s Ring
Power is king.
With the world in tatters,
But of course we must end with something religious. This one was called The Bible.
I doubt if King James wrote it,
But the one who did
Knew the force of short, brute words;
And did not, if there were no clear need,
I am sure that some of you use poetry as a way to express your anecdotal evidence about the human heart. If you do, or even if not, tell us whether you enjoy reading poems which seem to hit the button.