Tuesday, 3 June 2014

I don't know how to be 'a poet'

This is one of the mysteries, to me, on how a person declares themselves to be 'X', whatever that 'X' may be. From various research findings, men are better at this than women - it may be something about learnt confidence and entitlement. Some things are more clear than others, as in having a degree in something, being employed to do something (teacher, sociologist, etc.)

But anyway, this is a piece I wrote the other evening. It is a wee thing changed from the version I sent to a friend then, but not much, so is still rather 'draft'. And though it's in part about the above, it's also much about those who have expressed their meanings and now are not heard, and the fear of 'death' disturbing me ('timor mortis conturbat me') is about their, my, our, silencing.

The friend I sent the first draft to assured me that some people do still remember Henryson, Dunbar and the others.... but do you? Who now does remember the Makars, if it is not your trade or practice to so remember them? (And for all you English friends, have you ever heard their names?)

Anyway, here it is -


I don’t know how a person is named ‘poet’
respected even, acknowledged in some sense,
as giving something which encapsulates
meaning, politics, humour  - poking fun
as social critique, of their own seen bent
creating something that then grips
imaginations, feelings, knowings, senses:
yet words promoted, told to us as gold.

So what separates poetry from myth?
(And so much myth is poetry.)

I don’t have a degree in poetry
(other things, yes, worked for, not in that)
so I continue, in my small way, weaving
words, wit, maybe wisdom of a kind
where I can, where it may be heeded,
to bring meaning, focus, assonance,
alliteration, where it matters -
or even rhymes -
to tease a hearer’s response with their own words…

(maybe it matters not, as who would read or speak this stuff?)

Yet in this place, the echoes fall
older hearings, voices silenced
time and death wait for us all -
by what (or whom) is poetry licenced?
or is that licence so constrained
that only they may speak who’re trained?

So now, I bring to mind the Makaris,
the shapers, sounding rhyme and words before,
who spoke to Scotland’s people, from their knowledge,
their hearts, their being, springing from the land,
within their words of weaving, crafting, making,
piecing honour, spinning webs of history
to lords or bishops, kings or commons, all.
I think on those who, hearing, gave devotion
I echo words respecting craft and grace…

But who speaks for them now? Who will recall,
Henryson, Lindsay or all else? When Dunbar wrote
he mourned the loss of many gone before.
Their words are not remembered: so for us,
words die in breathing, some deserved, some lost:

and as a Makar of this latter day,
timor mortis conturbat me.