Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Self Doubt on Post Modernism

I went to a poet’s reading, the best we have they said,
Sat in the auditorium eager to be fed;
The lady right behind my ear kept laughing at the lines
I could not laugh, or cry or feel; I felt quite left behind.
I shut my eyes, self mesmerised, to sense the ebb and flow,
But all I heard was a Babel stream, not even a faint echo.
Fruitlessly I quested for meter, metaphor or simile,
Perhaps it’s metaphysical and far too deep for me;
A pair of words repeated, monotonic, lacking rhyme,
No crescendo, diminuendo or sense of keeping time.
The words they just concussed my head, deafening my brain,
I felt I lacked the intellect to grasp the main refrain,
Anxiety overwhelmed me, was this the poet’s aim?
I know that trees and rocks can speak, I listen every day,
And I understand the beauty of a poem as a play;
But surely actors interact within some form of scene
And words provide a symphony to match the mood and theme?
Perhaps I am philistine, can’t open up my heart
To understand such rambling without a sense of art.
Perhaps I should now break my vow, drink whisky, smoke a toke,
Perhaps then in some befuddled way I might figure out the joke.
I joined in all the clapping though I felt like such a fraud
Denying all my instincts, I was driven to applaud.
I went back to suburbia, climbed into the marital bed,
She said that I upset her with the poems in my head.
It was then I finally realised that I had no right to rage,
I too am locked forever in my pentametric cage.

Bryan D. Cook Ottawa, March 2012

Context for "Self Doubt on Post Modernism"

This poem was stimulated at Ottawa's Versefest 2012, which was the second such international festival of verse and a great success.....even to me!

Philistine (I have amalgamated the following from various references in Wikipedia)

The British poet Matthew Arnold (24 December 1822 – 15 April 1888) was, out of financial necessity an inspector of schools, and also a leading cultural critique of the Victorian age. Between 1867 and 1869 he wrote Culture and Anarchy, in which the term "Philistines “is famously used to characterise the Victorian middle class …. those “dogged, unenlightened opponents of the children of the light”! The Bible paints the Philistines as the main enemy of the Israelites prior to the rise of Assyria in the 8th century BC, with a state of almost perpetual war between the two peoples. In another context Arnold wrote, “the people who believe most that our greatness and welfare are proved by our being very rich... are just the very people whom we call the Philistines.” From his example, “Philistine” passed into the enlightened liberal's armament of cultural scorn. Hence it’s modern cultural meaning as a derogatory term to describe a particular attitude or set of values, often materialistic, perceived as despising or undervaluing art, beauty, spirituality, or intellectualism. In fact, well before Arnold popularised it in the English vocabulary, it had already been in common use in by German students to describe the long-suffering townspeople of university towns.

Matthew Arnold (1822–1888)

Caricature from Punch, 1881: "Admit that Homer sometimes nods, That poets do write trash, Our Bard has written "Balder Dead," And also Balder-dash"


  1. the video link for your poem is here: http://www.treereadingseries.ca/videos/open-mics/bryan-cook-13-mar-12