The Artless Bodger’s Attempt at an Art Poétique

A regular offering of mine on the nature of “good” poetry. It’s actually my first piece of writing from 47 years ago when I contemplated trying to write poetry.

I shall measure out my life
with spoonfuls of borrowed ideas
and with a pretence of knowing
about this and that and poetry.
Just tell me the ingredients of a good poem
and I shall have a go at writing one.
And tell me the right form and shape
so that it looks right on the page,
and I will knock it about a bit 
so that the lines end at the right place.
Meanwhile, once more creeps on me the urge
to write and churn it out like this: 

      The jolly verse that off my tongue doth trip
      Maketh all the girls’  hearts to dance and skip…  

But who has powers these days to sit and rhyme?
Sitting and rhyming we lay waste our time.
Or perhaps I’ll try another tack: 

      On woeful jazz-days like this
      I stand and stare and cannot piss… 

Write like this and they’ll throw it back.
‘Ere, why don’t I try a little nonsense spoof?

      It’s late, the cats are howling on the roof,
      My husband will not be home tonight…

No, this won’t do, the subject’s too trite!
What if I hold a short idea between my teeth
like elastic and pull?

      Yes but, how far? How far?    
      Far enough’s too frightening,
      Far far too frightening,
      Far far too Pascalian, much too far to
      It’s a long way to when will I ever …

Write like this and the answer’s never!
Well, at least I’m on my guard against self-deceit,
ever since a man did accost me in the street,
and he did insult me with no uncertain greet
ing, and ready, I, to go on my
thought how oft doth wisdom cry
out int strasse, a nasty sod he called me und
so me geschtoppt und listund:

he said “Write no tripe in cryptic lang
uage and eschew
                          lousy lines
                                         that just
together in sepulchral sound
sjust knocked around.”



© Nemo 2023
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And look where it got you, great stuff of legend, sjust knocked around,…aint we all kid, aint we all. Enjoyed this Nemo, more please.


A nice didactic jaunt which in self-reference illustrates the dos and don’ts of writing a decent poem. As a poet, we’re often confronted with the ‘I stand and stare and cannot piss…’ because we…well, we simply don’t have a pot to piss in. You’ve obviously found a pot to piss in, and this delightful romp is the result. I had a little trouble with the awkward line ‘and he did insult me with no uncertain greet’ but perhaps it’s just another illustration of ‘Write like this and they’ll throw it back.’ Overall, a fun read and poetics lesson well served.

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