Monday, July 26, 2010

No Money In Poetry

Today I drove to Sligo and back in the pissing rain. Well let’s say my beloved did the driving and I sat in the passenger seat passing bitchy remarks about other drivers and the state of any poor innocent who happened to be walking along the pavement.
I had been invited to Sligo to read a poem of mine which was ‘highly commended’ in the iYeats poetry competition. In other words, a poem that didn't win. The invite had been called ‘an award ceremony’, however, we runner ups only got a cup of tea and a dry aul’ biscuit.
I’m used to the pomp that goes with poetry by now. I reckoned that if the ceremony was on at 12.30, it would be enough to skip the wine, crackers and speeches and get there about 1pm for the start. I made it at a quarter to one, only to find that it was half way through and I’d missed my slot. Gracefully, they did let me come up and read, and the whole thing was over by 1pm, say a quarter past if you count the cuppa.
There were a few poets hanging around, laden down with bags of poetry books, saying ‘I’m very reserved about pulling out my book at readings, but I do have a copy or two in my bag at €12.50 thank you very much and will I sign it?’ I’m not sure though, if poets will ever have a huge market in flogging poetry books to other poets for the simple reason that most poets are broke. As Robert Graves said:  There's no money in poetry, but then there's no poetry in money, either. 
He’s right about the no money for sure. I’ll tell you why that is. The petrol money to Sligo was about €30, lunch out was about the same and I had to stop on the way back for a large box of Solpadeine painkillers and whatever you’re having yourself. That’s nearly half of my deserted wives’ pension blown in one day, and not a bit of inspiration out of the whole event.
I decided that maybe I just don’t fit into the literature circles. I’m no good at name dropping or mentioning other competitions that I also didn’t win, and when someone suggested I send my manuscript to what I consider to be the Supermacs of Irish poetry publishing, I just said that ‘yeah, I must’, instead of saying how much more damn exciting I find it to write about things that fire my passion than to collect gold stars from learned people who judge said writing.
In many ways, writing poetry is a curse. I wish my inspiration would come in the form of best selling chick lit novels, or that my passion could be channelled into inventing something like the Dyson vacuum cleaner instead of sitting up nights mulling over words. I should really stop giving out, but, as Yeats himself once said:
The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.
So for what it’s worth, here’s the non-winning poem:

View From a Ditch

Here. Look at my face on a faded photo.
Cast a glance and roll your eyes up. Say you’re
Sick of these streets pasted with posters,
Boasting young lads winking at passers-by
With their Missing Person dead eyes.
Say it’s not your job to find me alive.

Believe me. These streets breed premature ghosts.
Pull in knife fighting kids on gear. Paint
The town blue with sirens, still you can hide:
Glue sniffing with the belly-topped hep-c beauties.
There I felt warm: shared needles and ice cream,
Said ‘I love you’ and the sun split filthy skies.

Look. In this ditch water flows without a tap.
Since State Care, the longest home I’ve had.
Hawk stoops for its’ prey. Bird murders worm.
The rain on my dead cheek makes me my mother’s son.
A shot - a fox lies victim of a bad deal.
And I am quiet now. I know these rules too well.

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