Recently I heard someone speculate whether or not there is any such thing as a “happy” poem that is actually any good.
My gut reaction is that yes, there are plenty. Maybe.
One of the other regulars at the poetry night I attend was recently quite apologetic that he had not brought anything to read that was more cheerful, and joked that perhaps the collective noun for poets should be a “Depression of Poets”.(I have since learned that officially it is not, and of the various alternatives my favourite by far is an “Obscurity of Poets”). One poetry magazine’s submission guidelines end with the bald statement “Something upbeat would be welcome”. I suppose if you are an editor having to plough through reams of the harrowing every issue deadline, something a bit jolly might be a bit of a relief.
I keep meaning to write a poem that begins;
For I have considered my cat, Rosie
…which you may recognise as an homage to Jubilate Agno by Christopher Smart. He was either insane or ahead of his time when he wrote it. I tend to the latter view. His own cat was called Jeoffry (sic). I am not sure whether I am more impressed by the poem, or that his cat was called Jeff. My cat is a rescue centre moggie and came with a name already, but if I ever had a cat “from scratch” I would likely call them Jeff, in much the same way that if I ever have a dog I will call them Colin.
My ex-wife had a goldfish called Clive, so when my son was given a new goldfish at a birthday party it felt natural to call him Derek (the fish, not my son) in tribute to Peter Cook. This later expanded to “Lucky Derek”after a serious altercation between him and the aforementioned cat, Rosie, on the kitchen floor. I understand that Derek is still alive and well and may well outlive us all (properly cared for they can live an absurdly long time), even if he is a bit scarred and traumatised.
If I ever get round to writing Jubilate Rosie it will be uncompromisingly joyful, I assure you.
I digress. While reading Vahni Capildeo I got a bit sidetracked (see yesterday’s post) but was on the lookout for a “happy” poem to share for the benefit of my doubting reader. Not the best chosen hunting ground, perhaps, given her preference for writing dense prose poetry of alienation, but there you go. However, even there I found something that is not glum and that I was taken by. “Handfast” is an old term for betrothal.
She is away.
The feathers in my eye spoke outwards.
She is the accident that happens.
The sun bursts hazel on my shoulders.
She is the point of any sky.
Come here, here, here:
if it’s a tree you’d sulk in, I am pine;
if earth, I’m risen terracotta;
if it’s all to air you’d turn, turn to me.
You are flying inside me.
Seventy times her weight,
I stand fast.
My hand is blunt and steady.
She is fierce and sure:
lands, scores, punctures the gloveskin.
And why I asked
for spirals stitched where she might perch:
fjord blue, holm green, scarlet, sand,
like her bloodline, Iceland to Arabia:
because her hooded world’s my hand –