After blogging recently about presents, I’ve now got two unexpected ones, and they’re both very welcome. One is a poem accepted (more on this later, but thanks to Rob for the heads-up). The other present is a lovely book from a friend. It’s Carlyle’s Birthday-Book “Compiled with the permission of Mr Thomas Carlyle” and dating from, I’d guess, the 1870s (T.C. died in 1881). It’s a diary/ appointments book, and opposite each day’s entry is a quote from Carlyle. A couple of years ago I had the pleasure of playing the Great Man in a reading of the letters between him and Jane Welsh , so it’s a particularly appropriate present, and I look forward to reading the entries day by day. My favourite quotation about the Carlyles is by Samuel Butler. He said, “It was very good of God to let Carlyle and Mrs Carlyle marry one another and so make only two people miserable instead of four.”
The acceptance came with some stimulating and sensible comments from the Kindly Editor, which have me returning to something I’ve been pondering lately, viz. and to wit: my changing style of writing. O tempora, O styli, as the Man of Letters might have said.
Back in the 1990s I wrote many poems featuring wordplay, multiple layers of meaning, turning verbs into nouns and vice versa, and using an extended scientific vocabulary which took no prisoners. I don’t think I was being obtuse – I just like to use precisely accurate terms for things, and if these terms are scientific ones, then so be it. However, in an otherwise good review, one reviewer called some of my work ‘flashy’, and the barb stuck. After some intense self-questioning, I deliberately reined back, toned down, aiming for more simplicity, greater clarity.
That’s essential, I think, for the Japanese forms in which I often write, but I was beginning to wonder if I’d swung too far towards directness (maybe even plain-ness?) in my other poetry. Sometimes there isn’t enough poetic bling in them to hold my interest, let alone that of the Good People who buy and/or read poetry. But times change, the style evolves, pendulums swing back (pendula?). Some of my newer poems, particularly the nature poems (sensu lato), are definitely ‘flashier’ than they would have been a couple of years ago. And why not? Writing poetry should be fun too. That was definitely the case with the accepted poem, and I look forward to getting feedback on it. And it’s nice to find an editor that gives an opportunity to improve a poem. I do this for Open Mouse submissions that I feel can be improved.
The other night I received an anonymous comment from a wazzock with itchy keyboard fingers and no more than 8 brain cells. Among his (I’m assuming it’s a he) incomprehensible remarks was a demand that I say what State I was in. I was going to say ‘State of Confusion’ but I think that would have been wasted. Poltroon.