All entries for Wednesday 24 October 2007

October 24, 2007

Why I hate ballads

Wordsworth, quite simply, ruined ballads for me. Certainly in their traditional form. I literally cannot think of a poet I hate more. I am quite indebted to Shelley, truth be told, because after a year studying Wordsworth, I was ready to give up on the Romantics, and indeed all poetry altogether. It fit so well with the stuffy image we're inundated with from a young age, that Neolithic constraint that poetry is the world of the scholar and the expert, which is exactly the opposite of what he was trying to achieve. But it doesn't stop him from being deadly dull.

So when we were told to write a ballad for this week's assignment, I knew straight off the bat that I wanted to avoid Wordsworth and all his ken. So I needed an untraditional form that still addressed the fundamental essences of what makes a ballad (telling a story, caring about the characters). Then I thought "Why use a pre-existing form, when I can make my own"? Maybe the first week's assignment got into me a little too much, but I thought that I'd write a form to reflect the subject matter. Since we had to write about a pair of idiots questioning the world, showing wonder and rationalising things in bizarre ways, I'd go with a form to match. So we've got 4 line stanzas, each line generally increasing in length as a simple idea, initially broached, is expanded upon and rationalised and opened up to examination. So, here's my effort:

Time, Space and Gravity, Not Necessarily In That Order

“Why not walk on walls?” he said

“Why not step from one plane to another,

With the same ease that a fish can change course

Whiplashing against currents unseen but felt intimately…


“Step up and slide down,” she said

“Struggle with the same strong desires that

Every single thing, live or never so, has within them –

We stand this way up because that’s the way our bodies want to be.”


“To avoid confusion?” he said

“So that we don’t have to kiss sideways

Or fall down corridors, or walk up walls, or tumble through windows

The force of desire keeps this way up, and this way down?”


“As far as I understand,” she said

“Which is no great distance, being, as I am

As new to the world as you, when compared to many

Mountains and caves and places we shall never see, but can make with our minds”


“So we do make, then?” he said

“For I felt we just recalled, maybe,

Things from so long ago that we didn’t know we forgot that we knew them

But if we make, that makes sense, for I am sure I made time up in my head.”


“Yes, I feel that too,” she said

“Because we only ever have now,

So if I remember a yesterday, how do I know it’s not a tomorrow

Or that it ever really happened at all? All these lines and rules are not healthy.”


“Perhaps we made it all up,” he said

“Is it possible that fruit, and sleeping bags,

And stamps, and leather, and music, and anything we’re not feeling right now

Never was, is not, and never will be except for in our heads?”


“We are so clever, then,” she said

“To have made a world inside our heads.

Why, I am probably clever enough to have imagined you

And all your silly questions about why we can’t walk on walls.”


At this, he took offence, and left.

But afterwards, she often closed her eyes

Willed her body’s desires shut, and tried to step onto the wall.

When no-one was looking, of course.

October 2007

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