I recently bought two small poetry collections. The first was Rod Riesco’s ‘Familiar Machines’ (pub Wilderswood 2002) which comprises some thirteen poems by Rod, many of which were previously published in magazines. I’m catching up with various anthologies by local poets. Rod is the secretary of my local Bank Street Writers in Bolton and an accomplished poet. Not one bad poem here. An anthology which will get plenty of re-reads from me.
I wish I could say the same about the other anthology I picked up ‘X Verse and Other Poems’ by Brian Appleton. (I’m pretty sure this is not the Birmingham Brian Appleton, rock historian and musicologist.) A poorly produced, photocopied A4 chapbook of 19 poems, none of which have anything to do with the anthology’s title, ‘X Verse’ is a collection of formal, rhyming poems. Some are appealing in a gently witty way but most suffer from forced rhymes, excessive end-stopping and that grating odd line where the metre goes out the window in an otherwise formal poem. If you’re going to write this kind of poetry, you really need to get to grips with rhythm, scansion and metre. Too many lines don’t work here. Just a couple of forced examples:
Misadventures left behind
Mock the peripheral mind
or from ‘The Fairy Bridge’
The time, the place are right; here do I stay
But my sweet, if only you had said the day.
This sort of writing gives me toothache. It’s not just Brian Appleton, who at least gets it right most of the time: too many performance poets wreck their rhyming verse with lines that don’t scan (and I don’t mean when it’s deliberate for some humorous or ironic effect.) All it needs is for the writer to feel the bounce. Maybe these writers can’t dance or ride a bike or swim? There may be some sort of coordination or balance problem with those who ain’t got rhythm. Who knows?