Yes, but is it Poetry?

I own just two poetry books; an anthology of poems from the First World War, and ‘Small Dreams of a Scorpion’ by Spike Milligan. Beyond these two volumes, I can count on my fingers – and not trouble my thumbs – the poems that have made a lasting impression on me.

I don’t get poetry. Part of the problem is that I have little or no sense of what constitutes a good poem. I read prize-winning poems and fail even to understand what makes them poems, let alone what makes them amongst the best of their genre.

I had to write some poetry a while ago as an exercise. Resistance was futile. I didn’t enjoy the process; I felt self-conscious and foolish. But did the end results have any poetic merit? Or were they a pile of meaningless, indulgent toss?

I had not the faintest idea then; nor do I have now.

So I thought I might put my three so-called poems into the public domain, to see if anybody could help me form an opinion about them:

The Front Room

Clock ticking on the wall
Pendulum swinging, left to right
Tick… tock… tick… tock…
Time trickling away, in a timeless room.

Always aired, flawless and pristine
Just in case
Ready for special guests
– when will they come?
Curtains drawn
– can’t let the sun spoil the rug.
Three stiff high-backed armchairs, carefully posed
Starched antimacassars defending delicate fabric
From Brylcremed heads
– which never assault them.
A neat arrangement of favoured furniture
Around a stone-cold grate
Scuttle, loaded with coals
Held in reserve, ready for action
– never needed.
Upright piano, standing to attention
Rigid, musty
Polished to a high gloss
Slightly out of tune, if it were ever played
– it never is.
Small, round tea-table
Shrouded in a pretty cloth, hand-embroidered
– never admired.
In the cabinet, best silverware buffed and gleaming
Teapot, milk jug, sugar bowl and tongs
Waiting for their call to service
– it never comes.

Clock ticking on the wall
Pendulum swinging, left to right
Tick… tock… tick… tock…
Life slipping away, in a lifeless room.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Hartz Mountains in a Thunderstorm

Three miles along a six mile path
No gain in turning back
No conversation
A vacuum where love once lived
Only the crunch-crunch crunch-crunch
Of rubber soles on gravel
Two pairs, no longer in step

Towering firs, centuries old
Block out all but the meekest
Chequerboard squares of light
Once sky-blue, then pebble-grey
Now the hues of flint and slate
Smothering the darkening path

The too-warm still air
Suffocates unspoken thoughts
And shared regrets
Weighing heavier and more humid
With each crunch-crunch crunch-crunch

A breeze stirs the branches to life
Gentle breaths at first
Then restless – gasping
Pressing through pine and redwood
Moving the unmovable
Nature’s towering monuments

In the distance
The caw of crows seeking sanctuary
Further still a roll and a rumble fills the air
Then another – closer
The trees awaken
As whispering breeze billows to gusty wind
Snatching at feeble branches
Tearing and tugging
Twigs and needles resist
Then surrender
Then fall

The first huge plop of rain lands on the gravel path
Then another – then hundreds – thousands more
The wind whips swollen droplets
Into needle-sharp stripes
Lashing at our bare arms
Punishing our silence
Still we walk
Crunch-crunch crunch-crunch

Sodden, soaked, drenched
Wretched and wringing wet
A crackling flash of light directly above
Finally draws us together

I am held
For the first time in for ever
My protector

~ ~ ~ ~ ~


How little can you do?
How much can you not do?

I did not answer my emails
I did not update my calendar
I did not edit my draft

Energy evaporated
Motivation melted away

Every task
Will still be there

I wrote this

Is it a poem?

Who says?

(c) Julie Lawford 2011

4 thoughts on “Yes, but is it Poetry?

  1. Try another poetry book, one that says something like “America’s Best Loved Poems”. There are two types of poetry – ones with rhythm and rhyme and others that are prose. Which ones do people memorize? Which ones do people love? I have some of the former on my blog, from some of the great poets, and that’s the type I try to write.

    1. Hi Dennis, Thank you. Thank you for finding my not-so-poetic strop and taking the time to comment. Your own blog could well open my eyes and I’m going to spend some time with it today – I’m glad of the introduction.

  2. Prize winning poems are generally the scariest and most obtuse! And I rather suspect the phrase “neither rhyme nor reason” was developed just for them… I’m with you on the scarcity of poems that make an impact – though I might include my toes as well. A good one is gold dust, but it’s not gold dust my house is thick with.

    By the way, I liked Procrastination!

  3. What’s been interesting is to find out with this post, just how many people there are, searching for inspirational poetry and people who write it. It makes me wish I better understood the art of writing poetry.

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