East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

Poetry Month

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Turns out April is the Poetry Month. It must be the spring.
As a direct consequence of this, I received a list of 25 publishers that accept poetry this month, and I find myself thinking… hmmm, 50 bucks per page!
Yes, my poetic spirit sits very close to my wallet, these days.

But it’s not proper to be so cynic.
I never wrote poetry. This might be a good opportunity to try.
After all, wasn’t that the gist of the excellent guide to poetry by Stephen Fry I read a while back?
So, why not giving a try?

The last time I attempted something poetic was – ouch, in 1986.
During my final high school exam, I was asked to translate in Italian Keat’s Ode on a Grecian Urn. And being young and (let’s admit it) a smartass, I translated it in rhyme. Today I wouldn’t be able to do it anymore.
We did read a lot of verses back then for school, me and my friends were big on Dante Alighieri, and we were in the habit of improvising loose endecasyllables, usually ribald verses in mock-Medieval Italian.
My Grecian Urn stunt was a disaster. The examiner was extremely incensed by this show of smugness, and proceeded to discount my “wordplay” and tell me I’d never be any good at English in my life.
Pity the bastard’s dead, or I’d send him copies of all my works in English.

Not an auspicious beginning, and an inglorious end.

There are further problems with poetry, as far as I am concerned.
I belong to the generation that was forced to learn by heart lengthy chunks of poetry. With a modicum of effort and with the right incentives I can still recite by heart a few cantos of Dante’s Inferno, and Ugo Foscolo’s Sepulchers. And others.
Often learning by heart poetry was used as a punishment.

And then, I have to admit I had a few schoolmates that wrote poetry, and I always found them incredibly full of themselves. Maybe because it is such an unusual pursuit compared to – say – writing prose, the ones that do act as if they were somehow special.
I was writing regularly for fanzines and small magazines in the ’90s, when a guy I knew in university published (via a vanity press) a small booklet of saccharine verses, and pointed out to me I should try my hand at writing, because I’d be surprised how uplifting it was.
I pointed out my work, and it was dismissed with a sigh and “Ah, prose.”

But we should never let bad experiences turn us off a potential paying market. I have been reading a lot of poetry in the last decade or so, and I have met some wonderful verse-smiths.
April is still young, and I might try my hand at writing a few verses, for the sake of variety. After all, if it was all right for Robert E. Howard, it’s all right for me.
I’ll keep you posted.

Author: Davide Mana

Paleontologist. By day, researcher, teacher and ecological statistics guru. By night, pulp fantasy author-publisher, translator and blogger. In the spare time, Orientalist Anonymous, guerilla cook.

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