Archive for the 'poetry' Category

Obscurity rules?

I was reading some modern poetry the other day. At least, that’s what it called itself. Frankly, to me it was unintelligible. A jumble of words – some of them misused – without any apparent structure and making no kind of sense.  I tried speaking it aloud, to see if the sheer sound of it would strike sparks. Nothing happened

In this particular instance, I made a comment. I didn’t say the piece was rubbish (though that may have been what I thought); I just said that I didn’t understand it. The author’s response was that he didn’t give a damn whether I understood it or not .

This is what irks me about so much modern art. Surely the purpose of art, in any medium, is to communicate?  Art isn’t created in a vacuum. Nor should it, in my opinion, be created purely for the gratification of the artist.  If it fails to communicate – to arouse some emotion in the viewer or reader or listener, or to provide some new insight into human experience – then surely something is wrong. And I think it is deplorable for the artist to be indifferent to that failure.

Yes, of course some people are too thick, too unimaginative, too insensitive to respond in the way the artist would wish. But if a majority find his work incomprehensible, should he not worry? Should he not wonder if he is saying what he is trying to say in the right way?

I am not for a moment suggesting that everything should be ‘dumbed down’, to be accessible to the lowest common denominator. But obscurity for its own sake leads, in my view, to incomprehensibility being seen as a virtue; to rubbish being sold for thousands simply because rich men want to pose as connoisseurs.

There is modern poetry, modern art, that is mind-blowing, life-enhancing; but beware the man who doesn’t care whether he connects or not.


First verse

Here’s a little bit of nonsense that I wrote over forty years ago – but I think it is still relevant:

The Fashionable Rebel
The worst of the social diseases today,
Which the public in general condones, is
That ultimate symbol of moral decay –
The race to keep up with the Joneses.
Initiative’s dead, Eccentricity too;
Conformity’s Lord of the Revels.
High-seeking Ambition is limited to
These uniform Jonesian levels.

But I have burst open these bonds without fear –
To do as I please I am free now!
And the joke of it is that the Joneses, I hear,
Are trying to keep up with me now . . .