By John Whitworth
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Don’t worry, Tim. Goats do OK. Goats always know a way back. Try a different one. 4 Write a poem allowing yourself only one vowel (I would not recommend ‘u’ unless you want to drive yourself mad). This is called a univocalic poem. Here’s the start of an ‘o’ poem: Down, down to London (or Oxford) Town Dogs go bow-wow Hogs root, motors toot, Boots go, to, fro… Ostrogoths . . Bottoms . . Bosoms . . Blossoms . . orthodox monks . . 5 Gavin Ewart claims to have invented the daisychain – each word begins with the last letter of the preceding word, as 25 a01Poetry 24/2/06 1:18 pm Page 26 Modernism, Postmodernism and All That in this example by David Crystal: ‘The escaping gangster ran next to old deserted docks’.
One way in which novelists allow the poetic side of their natures to escape is in the invention of names for their characters. These can be straight jokes, as when Trollope calls a doctor Fillgrave or Fielding calls a schoolmaster Thwackum. But it becomes poetry when Dickens calls his schoolmaster Squeers (squint + squash + queer + bleary + a lot of other words hovering on the fringes of your consciousness), or PG Wodehouse calls his unflappable gentleman’s gentleman Jeeves (perhaps James – butlers and such were frequently called James – + sleek + sleeves).
Of course there is a celebrated simile ‘as idle as a painted ship upon a painted ocean’ in the previous stanza of Coleridge’s poem; and of course Othello is a dab-hand if not at metaphor, then at least at simile: … one whose hand, Like the base Indian, threw a pearl away Richer than all his tribe … Truly, you can scarcely open your mouth without falling into metaphor. In fact, you cannot have human language at all without metaphor – we are all poets from the cradle, which is a metaphor, though a thoroughly dead one.
Writing Poetry by John Whitworth