It was there when I got on the train. And, despite the logo on the bottom saying 'Melbourne on the move', with whizzy little arrows all around it, it was there when I looked up and got off the train. Yes, bad train poetry is back this winter. These three-line poems that Connex are putting up on their walls are the sort of three-line poems that make you look up, read them, and then say to yourself, 'Hmmm. I've just read a three-line poem.' They are not, as a rule, significant - although they often try to be.
You might, if you wanted, detect a certain change in the poems this year. Previously, they had specialised in vague-but-pretty natural images, like mist or vapour. Popular cliches in the poems - they don't really rise to the level of themes, or metaphors, or ideas - now include nature, as well as generic inner-city references, and sport.
I jotted this one down last night:
why do you choose
the black wire?
And there you go - a natural image in the first line, closely followed by a generic inner-city reference. All that's missing are the sporting references, found in other poems:
Cup Day -
why am I no longer
That's a sporting reference, a Melbourne tradition, and an implied reference to nature (ie, the horse). I don't suppose I need to go on.
Lazy grammar is typical of the poems. They almost never start with a capital letter, and indeed, seem to be chopped out of longer, more meaningful (albeit just as banal) sentences. There is very little discernible rhythm or metre: they typically mimic the 'short-long-short' three-line structure of the haiku, though display even less formal rigour than that poetic genre, which is often learned in the seventh grade. They don't rhyme, and alliteration, symbol, metaphor, and so on, if they occur in these poems, are often incidental - if not accidental.
I find it difficult to say why I despise these poems so much. When I contemplate them, I get the vague impression that they lumber through the English language, picking up random words that were good, useful, and meaningful, and suck the life out of them. I'm not sure whether I'm wrong about that, actually: one of the traditional functions claimed for poetry is that it adds new meanings to language, or revitalises old meanings. That's a hard thing to claim for these poems, since they eschew almost any rigorous technique, and seem to exist simply to chronicle the banal, the inoffensive, and the everyday. T S Eliot once made a claim about boredom being an essential part of modern life; but then, to Eliot and other modernists, boredom and meaningless were one of their satirical modes. The banal, the ordinary, and the everyday was contrasted with the bizarre, the strange, and the surreal.
In these poems, that contrast doesn't exist anymore. All you get is the ordinary in wild and extravagant contrast with the everyday. I seriously doubt that anyone cares.
Tim, your links stink, you fink!
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