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Friday, 16 January 2009

Simple Poems for a Simple Mind

I have a penchant for a certain type of mid 20th century poetry, usually easy to read, no dialects or pretentious words, and conveying an idea or picture by means of gentle suggestion and lightness of spirit with which I can empathise and feel at ease; hence my liking for the poetry of John Betjeman. With a few exceptions, I don’t usually enjoy what I call ‘angry’ poetry, aggressive in its often negative sentiments, leaving the reader depressed. This does not include the ‘War Poets’, such as Wilfred Owen, who reveal the horrors and sufferings of war, neither does it include ‘religious’ poetry exploring the sufferings of Christ and the spiritual trials of life, for this of itself, conveys a spirit of hope, love and forgiveness.

Here is a light-hearted poem, with little twist in the tail, entitled ‘CRAFTS’ written in 1977 by Joy Falkner who lived in South Molton, Devon. This poem was one of a collection published privately in booklet form, entitled - ‘Is anybody there?’


Alistair Keynes grows marrows and beans
For the Horticultural Show.
“Such a marvellous size! Did they win the first prize?”
Everyone wants to know.

Annie McCall’s pictures hang on the walls,
They are studies of woodland and sun.
Her friends come to tea, and unite to agree
They are wonderfully cleverly done!

Emily bakes miraculous cakes
And her syllabub’s more of a dream.
It’s natural enough they all rave at the stuff
As they tuck their way into the cream.

The dear Baroness is making a dress,
There on the dummy it stands –
“Oh isn’t it sweet! Those gores! And that pleat!
You are always so good with your hands”.

When they come here today I foolishly say
In creation’s afterglow,
“I’ve written some verse – it’s here in my purse”,
But nobody wants to know.

“So clever,” they say, and then look away,
“Why must she embarrass us so –
It’ll be something odd about Nature or God”.
And everyone gets up to go.

Joy Falkner 1977

Many who read this next poem, will be familiar with the various ‘Agony Aunts’ in both national and local press, whose role is to offer to readers, advice and solutions to the myriad problems covering almost every aspect of life. Most of these ‘Agony Aunts’ are women, and with the general decline of religious influence and Christian morality, have become the worldly equivalent of ‘confessors’ and ‘spiritual advisers’, whose advice may or may not be morally sound. They exercise very considerable influence on their readers, and a few become virtual national icons. One such person was Marjorie Proops, a hugely influential figure, some would say for good - others would disagree, who worked on the Daily Mirror for 42 years until her death in 1996.

The second poem of Joy Falkner written in 1978, comes from the same collection, and is called ‘The Tree of Knowledge’. The layout and print format in the original booklet was such that the whole assumed the shape of a tree. Regrettably, in spite of much endeavour, I am unable to reproduce this, as the layout on this page insists on reverting to type - sorry about the pun!


Almighty God
Maker of Heaven and Earth
called His servant Moses to the mountain
and gave to him the tablets of the Law
so everybody knew
to do

Philosophers in ancient days
each spent his lifetime searching for the way
the path, the truth and understanding
and passed his wisdom to the people
and everybody knew
to do
Jesus taught a way of love
that revolutionised the world
the Church preserved the Word and preached it
with greater or with less fidelity
but everybody knew
to do
then scientists arrived and arrogant
demolished God
philosophers took off into abstraction
the church maintained precarious authority
over few and fewer men
now everyone provides his own criterion
anything goes
who? who? who?
will tell us what to do?
But of course!

Joy Falkner 1978

I must say that my taste in poetry is simple, as you can see from the poems above. This is not to detract in any way from the merit of this 'type' of poetry, for simplicity is not given to every work or to every poet. One day, who knows, I might try to write some poetry myself!
In this unlikely event, I promise not to inflict it on you.

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