Short ≠ Simple: of sound-bites, aphorisms, and poetry

I just picked up the piece by Suzi Feay in The Independent titled “The next chapter: Who’ll be the bestsellers of tomorrow?” from Chris Meade‘s Twitter feed. Freay asks “why hasn’t poetry, with its punchiness and concision, benefited from our cultural impatience and shortening attention span?” What an odd question. Granted it may just be a punchy opening itself as Feay goes on to recommend Adam Foulds’ verse novel The Broken Word, Toby Barlow’s Sharp Teeth, and Gillian K Ferguson’s Poetry of the Human Genome, none of which I’ve read (yet). Back to the question. Poetry may be concise and punchy but it certainly isn’t something straightforward, something to be digested easily.

Take this one from P J Kavanagh’s Something About which Kate and I have been enjoying as the source of our bedtime poem:


Slow as Grass

I’m growing patience as the cut grass grows
Blunt headed, stubborn, in a warm November,
Blunt where cut to last all winter but it grows
On, blunt headed. I am not yet patient as the grass,
Waiting the melt of mist that soaked it flat
Splashed by the feet of cattle into suns,
Hoof high. As the sun climbs the day dries.

Now elephant cloud teams drag behind them grey
Tarpaulin, evening. Riding it come children
Last seen trailing (like dressing gown chords) their dreams.
At dusk I hurl a ball with them, still waiting,
Pretending a day complete which is only ending,
Growing to patience as they will have to grow
Or mimic what seems day’s business, but day
Is never busy, is as slow as grass.


Short? Yes. Concise? Yes. Suitable for our cultural impatience and shortening attention span? No.


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