Wednesday, June 20, 2007
The Tragic Story Of Commodore Frank,
Who Set Out To Save His Government
But Finished By Breaking His Country
Working on that I had a hazy memory of some guy's book of somewhat parodic cautionary verses. It turns out I was thinking of Hilaire Belloc's Cautionary Tales for Children, a book which I clearly know, judging by the kind of picture I forced myself to make for it, with the original Basil Blackwood illustrations.
Combined with other evidence this week's effort suggest I favour the dactyl and the anapest over the iamb (despite the way I had to look up what dactyls and anapests are called). I think Hairy Maclary has something to answer for.
Mind you, I still expect to one day write a column in free verse, sans capitals, and attribute it to a huge determined bug on my keyboard. Come to think of it, I would likely not have come up with the 'sins of Commissioner' line in my latest effort if it weren't for Archy, vers libre poet reincarnated, for sins of omission and commission, into the body of a cockroach.
But as it happens I think the impulse to make this one a poem at all came from another book entirely.
There's an antiques place down a side alley in Masterton where, at the long weekend, I picked up (as well as an orginal black-and-red Chinese propoganda poster) a copy of Bad King Wenceslas, a small selection of newspaper light verse by Tremayne M Curnow from about 1920–45. I got to reading it at the weekend.
Careful readers will wonder if X.Y. (Tremayne) is any relation to Whim Wham (Allen), and rightly, the former being father to the latter. While Tremayne's work doesn't seem so satirical or so poetically inspired there are a number of elements they share – a occasional curmdgeonly streak, for instance, and the Tendency to capitalise any Noun that comes to Hand.
There is a certain fun to writing light verse, not least beacause rather than agonising about fitting fine phrases into the rhytmn you can just use words like 'corruptishness' to fill out the line. Or write 'Aust, NZ and EU' to read 'Ost, Enz and Ooo' - a trick I think I picked up from Tremayne. And in this case having twelve syllables in a line does give you a lot of maneuvering room.
All in all it's clear that if I meet any of my influences I should by them a drink.