National Poetry Day and not a single offer of work.
The answer’s obvious, said a small voice inside him. Your poetry is under-appreciated by a literary establishment failing or unwilling to grasp the complexities of your verse. An even smaller internal voice was heard to whisper, “no, it’s because your poetry is crap.”
He threw back the bed covers and turned on the radio. The weatherman was describing in iambic pentameter an imminent occluded front. He walked to the front door and picked up the letters and the copy of his serious and worthy newspaper. There was poetry on page one from a poet he knew as a right bastard. He turned on the television. A poet was being interviewed in a school. Another bastard.
“Selling out to the establishment!” he bellowed to no-one in particular, banging his spoon into his rice crispies.
He went to his desk and checked over his latest work-in-progress titled Why I Want to Kill Myself.
It was, he argued, a searing indictment of a corrupt society and how it isolated its more Bohemian elements (i.e., him). On the TV, Jeremy Clarkson was shown driving a supercharged car at 180 mile round a race track while reciting a haiku. The challenge was to complete a half mile stretch before finishing. It was a close run thing.
A plug for a later programme was about a famous poet writing a sonnet on Kim Kardashian’s naked bottom.
He leafed through his letters. Three informed him he of his failure to win recent poetry competitions on which he had spent more than £100 in entry fees. He had included a special personal note to each celebrity judge unaware these celebs only saw the final dozen sifted poems. His poems had been thrown out at an earlier stage along with 10,000 others including those from several old ladies who had raided their piggy banks to fund the sending in of their sweet rhyming couplets about their cat.
On his walls were hundreds of printed rejection notes from editors. These were couched in such terms as, ‘Thank you for your submission but I’m afraid your poetry does not quite fit with our present requirements’. Some magazines never replied at all.
“A conspiracy!” he bellowed at the toaster. He realised he hated all poetry. Except his own.
He sat down in the threadbare easy chair from the charity shop. Out the window he could see glum looking commuters flocking towards the Metro Station en route to work.
“Mindless slaves!” he shouted. “Free yourselves from your chains!” He looked in the fridge. Only one piece of mouldy cheese.
He looked again at his poem in progress, Surely some editor would recognise its genius?
Except all editors were bastards.
He listened to the radio again. An Oxbridge poet who had recently been given an Arts Council grant to visit a council house was reading aloud the villanelle which had resulted from the visit.
“Bastard,” he said. All day he was confronted by poetry. It was all rubbish. Unlike his own. Probably he would need to be dead before his true value was appreciated. This small thought comforted him slightly as he set to on the next stanza of his new poem. A charge went through him as he wrote, a charge unknown to those unblessed by the Gods of Creativity. He pitied those other people’s meaningless treadmill lives, their petty obsessions, their soap operas, their Summer holidays, their mortgages, their savings accounts.
“They are imprisoned!” he shouted and went looking for a cheap tea bag in the cupboard. There was none.
Soon National Poetry Day would be over. He would see it out as best as he could. He picked up the small pamphlet of his poems published some years ago by Mangy Crocodile Press, a tiny publisher long since closed. The collection was titled Black Ink. One day it would be discovered and given its true worth. He had sold four copies, two to himself.
On the TV, several minor celebrities were competing to see who could eat fastest famous poems on top of iced cakes.
He wouldn’t go out today. He would be reclusive. He would deny himself to the world.
Let them wait. Anyway, sometimes too much reality was unbearable.
Peter Mortimer - Editor, IRON Press