{Sun 26 November 2006}   On deciding not to marry a priest
On deciding not to marry a priest

Let us, as much as now within us lies,
Cherish these moments, and the memories
Of others such, not letting Cupid’s cease
Cry knell to friendship. Though he dearly dies,

Let’s celebrate with piercéd shining eyes
The new enlargement of those mysteries
Of discourse: soul’s and flesh’s discoveries,
Added as laurels to each other’s prize.

Then, let us coolly choose the sacrifice
Of valued passion for very valiant peace
That rules with justice o’er our yielded lease
And flattens mountains to make valleys rise.

That bonds, beyond the fail or flawed surprise
Of Nature, which forth from Father’s Spirit flies.

Nic Paton says:

I’ve read it 4 times. But mummy, I still don’t understand. Not that it doesn’t mean anything, quite the contrary. Thars juicy gossip in that thar poem, there is. Oi can smell it.

While I await enlightenment, here is one question.

Why do you use classic devices so much? For example, piercéd and o’er? Why sonnets? You aren’t really a traditionalist from what I know. Or are you?

Nic Paton says:

OK so its a brace of questions.

Tia says:

Hi Nic, and thanks for paying so much attention to this poem (amazing what one will do to get at some “juicy gossip”, isn’t it?). I’ve chosen to answer your second question first and will get around to explaining the poem in the next instalment!

The answer to why I used classic devices in this particular sonnet is that it seemed appropriate to the register, style, content and context of the particular poem – to some extent, the material emerged from my subconscious already clothed in these devices. It seems strange to me that, given that I had published 11 poems when you wrote this comment (now 12), of which only two were sonnets, you thought that I “used classic devices so much” and that this might mean that I was a “traditionalist”! That would seem to suggest that in your opinion any sonnet is one too many! I am definitely a great admirer of the immense skill and craft evident in poems that have stood the test of time, but that doesn’t mean that I think the classic way is the only way. Many of my poems are quite simple in structure and in vocabulary. Why should the occasional exploration and use of traditional devices, amongst others, make one into a “traditionalist”?

In general, though, I do tend toward the view that poetry is an art form, and that true genius in art (as in other areas) is 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration! Although I firmly believe that everyone is potentially creative and that all art which expresses authentic emotion or perception is valid in given contexts, I also believe that to deserve the public name of artist, the artist has a responsibility to educate herself to be able to interact with all aspects of the artistic tradition and to hone skills and develop craft in order both to channel her talent and to increase its possible means of expression, in order to merit the attention of a discerning audience. This applies as much to poets as it does to musicians or visual artists.

Personally, I don’t very much enjoy most of the rough, unfinished confessional-type blurts that one encounters under the name of poetry, sometimes because I find them unsatisfying in their lack of depth, and sometimes because they insult me with poor grammar and spelling or with non-ironic clichés, all of which reflect a lack of care and attention on the part of the writer (especially in the age of automated spelling- and grammar-checkers). I understand that people for whom the latter register is normal or comfortable may feel both satisfied and mirrored by such poetry, but I don’t see why my own work should be required to conform to that – this would remove from it my own authenticity. Due to the complexity and intensity of my own emotions and thought processes (as perceived by me!), I seek vehicles that can express both the clarity of a central thought and the ambiguity, subtlety and nuance of the layers of meaning and association that always surround every human intention. The care demanded by deliberate structure (whether classic or modern, whether of rhythm or rhyme or syllable count or vocabulary…) provides one meditative way to create these vehicles.

I also think that the reading of poetry demands a different type of attention than does that of most types of prose. The person who expects to obtain satisfaction from a poem by applying the same skills she uses to browse the financial pages, devour a beach novel or a magazine, read a technical tome, obtain information via Google or enjoy a comic book is simply misinformed as to the nature of poetry. It is disrespectful both to the poet and to the genre to read poetry lazily or quickly, but much worse than that, such an approach simply robs the reader of the feast of emotional and intellectual possibilities that are both explicit and implicit in any well-crafted poem. There is also the question of poetic vocabulary (in the sense of more than word choice). If I want to understand a technical manual, I need to study to understand its terms and context. If I want to read Supervielle in the original, I must learn French. When I do, I am rewarded. Poetry as a whole has a vast vocabulary of style and form and classical and archetypal references, the understanding of which enormously enhances the reading experience. Sometimes, what I already know is enough to enable me to enjoy the poem. If it’s a good poem, then even when I don’t understand its narrative or its thrust immediately, something about it—its music, its images, its language—will fascinate me. But whichever skills I lack to comprehend it fully, I must learn. When I do, I am rewarded.

Tia says:

OK, here’s the next instalment: An explanation of what this poem means. In this file I’ve used a table to give a prose version alongside the original poem, with notes on thematic references in the right hand column. See Prose version and notes on “On deciding not to marry a priest” by Tia Azulay

Note that this poem refers to a relationship that ended many years ago so the persons involved have moved on in many ways… The reader should understand that the biblical references were appropriate to the person addressed in the poem and the lovers’ context at the time.

TiaTalk says:

[…] musings took me back to my discussion of the use of vocabulary in my poem “On deciding not to marry a priest“. In response to a frustrated question about its perceived difficulty, I defended my use of a […]

At last a fellow poet writing to a meter and so sublimely.

Tia says:

Thank you! :)

[…] On deciding not to marry a priest […]

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