new internationalist 144 February 1985
ART Write your own poem
You are the poet
You are the poet. Poems are just words. So why fear them? You can be a poet too – and here’s how. Click here ['Living tombs'] and look at ‘Living Tombs’ the article about museums. No need to read it properly, if you don’t want to, just choose the words you like and arrange them into lines. The only rule is that the words must come form ‘Living Tombs’. It’s up to you to decide what is sense and what is nonsense. You can write anything you want. This is your poem and you are the poet.
In case you’re doubtful that it’s this easy to become a poet, we got Roger McGough, one of Britain’s best known professional poets, to do exactly the same thing. He was so enthusiastic that he did it twice – and explains how below. Do you prefer your poem or his?
Louis Pateur – his life and times
Louis Pasteur had his off-days too.
Huge numbers of people would line up
To watch him take a bath in Bloomindales.
He would hang around New York with Picasso.
Smoke cigarettes, and sleep with under-privileged students.
During the Christmas season however,
He discovered the power of the Gospels
And, as an act of homage to King Tut
Began to exercise daily, and made
A blockbuster pilgrimage to the Pantheon.
Then tragedy! During a snow storm
In Yale National Park, he was tortured
By an angry lion, and removed from life.
Of him, the Wright Brothers said: Hogwash’.
(Perhaps a true statement about life and art?)
The art museum
In the museum,
Art historians and critics pay homage to fame.
The rich spend and spend to impress.
Visitors gape at he sacred mundane.
Turner Turner Rembrandt Rembrandt
Cezanne Cezanne Picasso Picasso
Paint the same inspiration
Over and over, until the image
Is the artistic equivalent of a label
In the museum
The rich pay homage to the critics
Visitors gape to impress
Historians are sacred. Art
I arrived at the first poem (‘Louis Pasteur’) after speed-reading the article several times, until sense became secondary to language. At that point, certain key words began to dictate the ‘sense’ of the poem. Irreverent of course, it grew into an unlikely surreal biography of the great man. I decided at an early age to employ three stanzas of five lines in order to provide the frame and discipline in which to work.
The second poem (‘The Art Museum’) is an attempt to take a few of the points that Linda Cabe makes so clearly in her piece, and fuse then into a poetic miniature. Using the artists’ names to suggest an empty frame becomes a ‘concrete poem’ within the poem.