Tag Archives: ernest dowson

The Dissolute Poet

I have awoken
Following a night
Of dissolute fruit.
And spoken
Words most polite
Enquiring whether she
Prefers coffee,
Or tea.

She has put on her party shoe,
And I have thought
On is, and ought,
And on what some lonely men do.
We have said goodbye. And I
Have been left with Dowson’s poetry,
And the thought of is, and ought,
And what a man should be.

The Mad, Sad Dance

The below is dedicated to the poet Ernest Christopher Dowson, who sought solace in the arms of the world’s oldest profession, and died young, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ernest_Dowson.

Can the kiss, paid for
From a whore
Be sweet?
Can the feet
Of a girl
That whirl
In a sad
Mad dance
Of pseudo romance
Forever seeking the main chance,
Bring real joy
To the man who refuses to leave
The boy
Behind?

I grieve
For the man who refuses to leave
The boy behind.
Yet, if he where strong
In his mind
He would abandon the long
Hours
Spent
In gathering flowers
He will never possess,
Repent,
And seek the caress
Of a true lover,
Or the consolation of poetry.

Terse Is By No Means Worse

Disclaimer: many of my own poems could be construed as falling into the category of short verse. It could therefore be argued, with some justification, that I have an axe to grind here.

Sometimes, on reading a long poem, I feel that had it been shorter its words would have exerted a greater impact on me as a reader. Yet, as pointed out in this article on Magma Poetry, it is rare for short poems to win poetry competitions, https://magmapoetry.com/writing-short-poems/.

In my opinion, Ernest Dowson’s “Vitae summa brevis spem nos vetat incohare longam” is one of the finest examples in English of a short poem, which conveys a powerful message in only a few lines of verse:

“They are not long, the weeping and the laughter,
Love and desire and hate;
I think they have no portion in us after
We pass the gate.

They are not long, the days of wine and roses,
Out of a misty dream
Our path emerges for a while, then closes
Within a dream”.

In only 8 lines, Dowson powerfully expresses sentiments that other poets have expended whole ink wells in expressing.

As pointed out in the above mentioned article, there is a view (albeit subconscious in many instances of its manifestation), that for a poem to be great it must be long. In point of fact great skill is frequently required to convey a message in only a few lines of verse and terse is by no means invariably worse.

Of course there are many great long poems, for example “Kubla Khan”. It is not, therefore a case of substituting the prejudice that “short is inferior while long is superior” for “short best conveys while long oft overstays”. There are great short (and long) poems but greater recognition should be accorded to the former than is often the case.

As always I would be interested in the views of my readers.

Learning Poetry By Rote

An amusing article concerning the merits of learning poetry by rote, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-2260419/Ill-vote-learning-poetry-rote.html. (The author is not in favour of said practice). As one of the commenters states, in the comments following on from the piece, much of the poetry I can recall is that from which I derived pleasure, for example Dowson’s “They Are Not Long The Weeping And The Laughter” and Beloc’s “On An Election”.

As someone or other once wrote:
There was a young Man called Moat
Who learned a poem by rote.
It was somewhat long
And concerned a thong
Or perhaps it was a goat!

The Poet And The Prostitute

You
Didn’t know what to do
But did it with such panache
For cash.

O my sweet
Girls must eat
While poets spend their time
In rhyme.

The above was prompted by my reading of Ernest Christopher Dowson’s “Cynara”, http://www.bartleby.com/336/687.html. Dowson belonged to the school of decadent poets and in “Cynara” he contrasts his unrequited love for a young woman with his (present) relationship with a prostitute. “Cynara” is a fine poem and Dowson deserves to be better known than he is.

What happens when a poet lets his pen run aimlessly away?

What happens when a poet lets his pen
Run aimlessly away,
In the mid afternoon?
Soon
Maybe
He will write of a tree
Or some such thing.
Perchance he will talk of cabbages and kings.
But no, that would be to steal Mr Carroll’s words,
A thing not heard
Of amongst honest men,
Who dip their pen
In blood red ink
And think
Of original ideas.
Perchance they speak of wasted years
And tears that fall
And how all love turns to gall.
But there is, I fear
Nothing original here,
So I shall compose a verse about wenches and beer.
Yet women and wine (both truly divine)
Have been done to death by versifiers.
I must seek for different fires
To warm the hearts
Of those who lose themselves in the poetic arts.
But there are none,
For sages long since gone
Have said and done,
And had their fun
With words
That fly
Or die
Never to be heard
Again,
Accept perhaps in the rhymer’s drunken brain
Where he recollects a line
He once considered rather fine.

The Personal In Poetry

Recently I asked an acquaintance whether, in her opinion my poetry “is to personal?” She responded that poetry is, by it’s very nature personal and that my writing does not, in any case fall into the category of overly personal poetry.

The above conversation started me pondering on what a poet’s work says about the writer. The first point which must be made is that the mere fact of writing about a topic does not imply that the poet has any involvement in it. For example he may write about boxing or stamp collecting without ever having participated in either activity. One must be careful therefore not to draw erroneous conclusions that A must be somehow involved in Z merely owing to A expending much ink on Z. Having entered the above caveat, it is undoubtedly true that much poetry is personal and by immersing ourselves in the poet’s work we gain an enhanced understanding of both the poet and his poetry.

In his poem, “Aubade” Philip Larkin describes waking at 4 am, looking around his room and thinking about death, from which none of us can escape, try as we might to hide from the fact of our own mortality. Larkin’s poem is intensely personal, “I work all day and get half-drunk at night …”. Larkin describes religion as a “moth eaten brocade” and his lack of religious conviction adds to his fear of death. Larkin’s fear of the grim reaper is intensely personal and the brilliance of Aubade lies in the manner in which the poet communicates his dread of “unresting death”. (For an interesting article on the poem please see http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/columnists/anwilson/3554550/Philip-Larkins-almost-perfect-poem.html).

Ernest Dowson’s Cynara is another profoundly personal poem. In it the poet describes his encounter with a prostitute,

“All night upon mine heart I felt her warm heart beat,

Night-long within mine arms in love and sleep she lay;

Surely the kisses of her bought red mouth were sweet;

But I was desolate and sick of an old passion,

When I awoke and found the dawn was grey:

I have been faithful to thee, Cynara! in my fashion”.

Dowson’s hedonistic lifestyle, “I called for madder music and stronger wine” is an attempt to escape from the memory of Cynara, the poet’s unrequited love interest. Despite Dowson’s attempts to blot out the recollection of Cynara she remains ever present, a kind of Banquo’s ghost at the poet’s parties. Dowson’s life was cut short (he died at the age of only 30). Yet he left behind the wonderfully moving and personal Cynara.

In conclusion it can be seen that poetry can (and frequently) does reveal much about the poet. Indeed it is virtually (perhaps entirely) impossible to write poetry without revealing something of oneself. However, as pointed out earlier in this post we should not conclude that writing about a subject necessarily implies that the writer is somehow a participant in the matter being described.

Interview With Author K Morris

Conversation with Kevin Morris about ‘Dalliance’

 

Thank you to Annis for taking the time to interview me. A version of this article appeared on my employer’s website.

 

 

Where did your latest collection of poems and other pieces in ‘Dalliance’ come from? What is your inspiration for writing?

I write poems that I publish on my blog. Then I collect and publish them in book form. I’ve published several collections of self-published short stories. ‘Dalliance’ is a collection of poems, vignettes and short stories about the ‘grittier’ side of life. I get inspiration from internet news reports. The inspiration for the poems comes from imagined conversations in my head which have been going on since I was a child – and from nature.

Poets tend to have better senses than the rest of us but your sense of touch and sound is very sharp. I loved your lines about the ‘eternal’ wind : ‘Eternal force blowing forever on ancient peoples and now on me. You care not for civilisation; your gusts of laughter shake the bending trees. You blew before these buildings came. When all is gone, you will remain’.

I also liked lines about the touch of acorns ‘I have always had an affinity with these great trees. I love the smooth feel of the outer shell of the acorn and how it contrasts with the softer seed within’. What is the background to these lines?

I have always been close to nature. I collected acorns with my grandfather. I loved the natural world from the time that I started stocking the nature table at school. I live overlooking a semi-rural park in south London. Bird song has always been special to me, particularly the song of the thrush. I love Hardy’s poem “The Darkling Thrush” as well as Blake, Ernest Dowson, A E Housman and Charles Causley. In my sitting room I hear the animal noises and calls – and I feel the wind on my face.

How do you feel about the shape of a poem, on the page? Often that matters to those with sight, when they see a poem for the first time.

I think there is no ultimate ‘rule’ for the shape of a poem. I believe it is the feeling and meaning of a poem that really counts.

You surprised me a bit by appreciating beauty, say, in women. Does beauty mean a lot when one has sight impairment?

I meant beauty in the essence of a person. The smell of, say, a flower can be beautiful, also the smell of certain trees.

You work in the environmental field fighting climate change. Is that connected to your love of nature?

I would probably say ‘yes’ – writing is part of my feeling for nature.

You have quite a dark view of the modern world and also write about loneliness. You get inside hard issues, such as someone finding out whether they are HIV positive.

I am quite a serious, introspective person even though I have a lot of friends and thoroughly enjoy the pub and humour. I guess I write poems when I am on my own, meditating. I think the world is quite a dark place judging by reports on the internet. Personally, I am fortunate to have a loving family. I have been well treated in the workplace.

You get good 4 and 5 star reviews for your writing, e.g. on Amazon. What do you plan to do next?

I publish new poems on my blog and I read my own and other poetry on You Tube. I would like to do an ‘open mike session’ at The Poetry Society in Betterton Street. However, these take place during the afternoon on workdays, so it is quite difficult to go.

Further information:

  • Kevin’s poetry blog newauthoronline.com
  • The Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) have published ‘Dalliance: A Collection Of Poetry And Prose’ in braille.
  • ‘Dalliance: A Collection Of Poetry And Prose” by Kevin Morris can be found on Amazon at http://www.amazon.co.uk/Dalliance-collection-poetry-prose-Morris-.
  • ‘Dalliance’ is also available as an e-book, also with text to speech enabled allowing visually impaired people to read it.

Links

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Dalliance-collection-poetry-prose-Morris-ebook/dp/B00QQVJC7E

http://poetrysociety.org.uk/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ernest_Dowson

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A._E._Housman

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Causley

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=67lcMKnJHPI

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Love And Wine By K Morris

The below poem was inspired by Ernest Dowson’s “Cynara”, (http://www.theguardian.com/books/booksblog/2011/mar/14/non-sum-qualis-cynarae-dowson). I am a huge Dowson admirer. He does, in my view deserve far greater recognition than is generally accorded to him.

 

Love And Wine By K Morris

 

The night is fine.

The women divine.

The wine is sweet.

Lovers embrace beneath the sheets.

The morning’s cold.

Good time girls count their gold.

Man contemplates his soul.