Saturday, September 06, 2008

Words, Wide Night

The title is my favourite poem by Carol Ann Duffy, who is very much in the news at the moment.

She wrote a poem "Education for Leisure" about a sad, broken boy having murderous thoughts and heading out into the world with a knife "to play God".

This didn't go down well with a small number of teachers. They kicked up a stink and it has now been removed from the exam syllabus and books containing it are to be destroyed.

If I started a Google search, how long do you think it would take me to find a case of murder caused by good poetry ? Duffy's poem doesn't glorify, encourage or excuse violence. She reports a state of mind and the only rational response to it is pity for the deluded boy/girl. It wouldn't make you think "A knife rampage! What an excellent idea ..."

Duffy has had bad luck with tiny vocal minorities. She was considered for nomination as Poet Laureate but the story is that Tony Blair thought that a homosexual Laureate would upset Middle England.

Andrew Motion got the gig instead. Know any good poems by Andrew Motion ? Thought not. Neither do I.

Anyway, "Words, Wide Night" isn't at all controversial. It's all about how words don't do the job when you're trying to express love. In other words, love poetry is all very well and good, but it's not to be confused with the real thing.
Words, Wide Night - by Carol Ann Duffy

Somewhere on the other side of this wide night
and the distance between us, I am thinking of you.
The room is turning slowly away from the moon.

This is pleasurable. Or shall I cross that out and say
it is sad? In one of the tenses I singing
an impossible song of desire that you cannot hear.

La lala la. See? I close my eyes and imagine
the dark hills I would have to cross
to reach you. For I am in love with you and this

is what it is like or what it is like in words.

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