The Worst of Perth has recently alerted me to the fact that Bayswater Councillor Sally Palmer has of late been peddling some truly atrocious poetry on the subject of a concrete plant being constructed on Collier road.
I know nothing about Ms Palmer’s politics, and while I have not been aware of plans for a concrete plant on Collier road I can see why such a proposal seems like a bad idea. One thing I do know however is what makes for a half decent poem, and I can say with certainty that “Black Cockatoo Calling” is probably the worst bit of poetry foisted on the people of Bayswater since Gina Rinehart defiled Morley with her poorly composed plea for less government regulation on the activities of disadvantaged mining billionaires.
It is a basic rule of English poetry that you can’t rhyme a word with itself – it’s cheating. Yet Ms Palmer rhymes “lands” with “lands”, “accord” with “accord” and “earth” with “earth”. Another rule is that of meter and scansion – lines should follow a uniform pattern of syllable count and stress. While not as bad as Ms Rinehart in this respect Ms Palmer still breaks meter all over the place. A basic understanding of grammar is also expected – I don’t think the construction “to do contamination” would pass muster in any high school English class, let alone “to do bad contamination”.
The horror engendered by reading Ms Palmer’s poetic burp got me wondering – how is it that apparently intelligent people can spew up the kind of doggerel that would embarrass William McGonagall but then be proud enough to put it on display for all to see? After some thought I think I’ve figured it out…
We all wrote poems in primary school. And almost all of them were awful. Awful, terrible atrocious poetry. But because we were young and just learning how to write and compose, our teachers encouraged us. A poem like “Black Cockatoo Calling” would get any 10 year old a gold star and maybe a special certificate from the school principal, despite its many obvious faults. And there’s nothing wrong with that whatsoever.
The problem arises when the 10 year old internalises the message “I’m a good poet!” and goes on through high school, and maybe university, without ever writing another poem. They never have cause to write more poetry, and never get any feedback that would let them know that their poetic skills have failed to grow beyond the levels of that 10 year old, and are – in a grown adult – simply an embarrassment. Throw in a desire to express strongly held beliefs about mining regulations or concrete plants and the stage is set for a horrible, poorly composed screed to be vomited out into the world, generating untold suffering and trauma.
If I get the time I may rewrite Ms Palmer’s poem into something more acceptable. But then again I may not. I am rather busy at the moment.