Monday, 16 March 2015

Poets Laureate (Again)

Tennyson, one time poet laureate, is no longer fashionable. ‘Tastes have changed’, they say. Whose tastes exactly? Yours, mine? Those of some arbiters of taste who officiously presume to instruct us in such matters? Our present poet laureate is Carol Ann Duffy. Here is one of her poems:



Not a red rose or a satin heart.


I give you an onion.

It is a moon wrapped in brown paper.

It promises light

like the careful undressing of love.



It will blind you with tears

like a lover.

It will make your reflection

a wobbling photo of grief.


I am trying to be truthful.


Not a cute card or a kissogram.


I give you an onion.

Its fierce kiss will stay on your lips,

possessive and faithful

as we are,

for as long as we are.


Take it.

Its platinum loops shrink to a wedding ring,

if you like.


Its scent will cling to your fingers,

cling to your knife.



I should say at once that actually I think that’s sort of small-magazine-acceptably good; certainly far better than other poems of hers I have read.

Now here’s a short extract (once popular as a song lyric) from a very long poem (you can guess just how long by the line numbers, and this is just a bit of part one) by Tennyson:


COME into the garden, Maud,
  For the black bat, night, has flown,
Come into the garden, Maud,
  I am here at the gate alone;
And the woodbine spices are wafted abroad,
  And the musk of the roses blown.

For a breeze of morning moves,
  And the planet of Love is on high,
Beginning to faint in the light that she loves
  On a bed of daffodil sky,
To faint in the light of the sun she loves,
  To faint in his light, and to die.


I won’t even bother to ask which of those two is more to your taste. What I do ask is ‘which of those looks, to even an amateur critic’s eye, to have needed more work, more transformation of mere personal feeling, in the effort to make what is known as a “work of art”?’

(Answers by e-mail please, to )



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