Sunday, 6 January 2013

Talking To The Taxman About Poetry

Two different tasks.  Talking to the "taxman" is something i'll probably be doing in the neighbouring future regarding the mess that is our current tax situation.  In fact there are of course plenty of women who work at HMRC, and in fact some of our friends work there, which helps because it makes it harder for me to demonise them, or in fact impossible, although i suppose i could always demonise a different stratum.  I won't though.  In fact, i won't even talk about it any more.

That leaves us with "about poetry", which is what this is:

I am of course both afraid of poetry and married to a poet.

I would describe myself as afraid of poetry rather than having a phobia of poetry.  Phobias are irrational fears which have a cause but not a subjectively coherent reason.  I have a subjectively coherent reason for being frightened of poetry.

Humans differ from other species in that we use language.  While i see our discovery of language as a lucky accident rather than a genetic adaptation, language use is nevertheless the most important thing about our species and constitutes our being.  More sophisticated language use makes you more human and the better you express yourself, the "better" you are, not morally speaking, but in the sense that you are the epitome of humanity.  In aesthetic terms, a human being is a more human being.

Literature of a high quality is better than trash culture.  Poetry is a more nuanced, subtle, original and creative use of language than prose, at least at its best.  The appreciation or creation of good poetry is the highest act to which one can aspire.  Therefore, the pinnacle of humanity is the ability to write, read, recite and appreciate poetry.

Since i cannot grasp poetry, that actually does make me an inferior human being in that sense - it makes me less than human, subhuman so to speak.  For that reason, reading or listening to poetry is a huge risk to my self-esteem, and it's not possible for me to appreciate it because the fear of poetry crowds out any residual capacity i might have to understand it.  Therefore i am afraid of poetry.

From now on i'm not going to bother saying that the bit underneath is the description.

Anyway:  Ben Jonson and W H Auden, inter alia.  Ben Jonson is by some measures (there i go being quantitative about an entirely qualitative matter) as good as Shakespeare, and in fact i think according to some, actually is Shakespeare.  Casting my mind back before the two years during which the ordure collided with the propeller in the mid-'80s, i used to be a contender in the lit stakes.  I was planning to do a degree in Eng Lit and - well, you've read it all before.

Ben Jonson wrote this:

Hymn To Diana

Queen and huntress, chaste and fair,
Now the sun is laid to sleep,
Seated in thy silver chair,
State in wonted manner keep:
Hesperus entreats thy light,
Goddess excellently bright.

Earth, let not thy envious shade
Dare itself to interpose;
Cynthia's shining orb was made
Heaven to clear when day did close:
Bless us then with wished sight,
Goddess excellently bright.

Lay thy bow of pearl apart,
And thy crystal-shining quiver;
Give unto the flying hart
Space to breathe, how short soever:
Thou that mak'st a day of night -
Goddess excellently bright.

I've probably mentioned this before, but my ten-year old self would heartily recommend it and i bow to his superior judgement.

There's a load of weird framing underneath this now.

Regarding W H Auden, he was probably the last poet with whom i came in contact whom i appreciated unselfconsciously.  I'm pretty sure his stuff is still copyright though.  One poem in particular stands out nowadays of course, but this was a decade before 'Four Weldings And A Funnel', so at the time it wasn't particularly remarkable except for the fact that it seemed to be about a gay bereavement.  Ignoring that then, what have we got?  Well, there's this:

And this:

The second, of course, mentions sarcoma, and now i have to tread carefully, so i'll just mention that i'm currently reading 'Not In Our Stars' by John Green and leave it at that.