Rant by Helena Nelson

I found this poem reading the latest issue of The RialtoThe Rialto graciously contacted the author and both consented to allowing me to share Rant with you.  Seeing the professionalism of poetry in the U.K. makes me wish I lived there.

I hope you enjoy it as much as my husband and I did!


Down with poetry! It’s all over the place,
clogging up the drains, pretending
to be special. It’s printed on demand,
when there is no demand. Bookshops
don’t want it but still it gets printed. There are
poems in broadsheets and pamphlets
and hardbacks and paperbacks
and postcards and posters—
all of them rubbish! Bag it and bin it!
Who can understand it? Half of it
doesn’t make sense, the other half
doesn’t want to. Nobody knows how to read it. Oh
they pretend they do, but they haven’t a clue.
Apart from at funerals, what is the point of it?
It doesn’t even rhyme, or it rhymes,
which is worse. There are magazines
with pages full of nothing but poems.

And other magazines with pages of poems
and more pages of reviews of poems
and more pages of interviews with poets
and articles about poets and letters from poets
about poems and poets. They are all mad.
Delusion, delusion—
the confusion of profusion. Give me
a small piece of perfect prose
any day of the week. Down with
bluff and puff and blurb and bluster!
Down with accolades and encomiums!
Down with performance and festivals!
Down with clamour and slammers
and ‘Best Of ‘ anthologies! Down with ‘débuts’
and prizes and longlists and shortlists!
Down with Winning Poems! Down with podcasts
and laurels and laureates and academies!
Down with young poets and old poets
and permanently middle-aged poets,
and poets who think their poems will sell!
Down with chopping sentences
into stanzas, especially couplets! Down with poets
who marry, or cohabit and breed—
down with their seed! Get them off the radio
and into a job. Down with payments for poets
to teach poets to write poetry! (Why
encourage them?) Down with poetry retreats
and poetry degrees and MAs and PhDs
and Writing CVs! Down with nominations!
Down with mentors and workshops

and bards and bulletin boards!
Down with networking, fretworking, please-be-my-pet working!
Down with i-Pads and i-Phones and Blackberries
and e-zines and webinars and Kindle!
Down with what they haven’t even thought of yet
but will be the Next New Thing! 
Down with book fairs and residencies!
Down with List Poems and Found Poems
and Prose Poems and Concrete Poems
and National Poetry Day! Down with line breaks
and Renga! Down with PoWriMo
and Haiku and Acrostics and poems with 14 lines
that say they are Sonnets! Down with the Muse!
Bring back twenty years between collections.
Bring back TB. And garrets. And bedlam. And capital
letters at the start of every line.
And meaningful punctuation. And flogging
for blogging. Bring back quill pens and blotting paper
and astronomically expensive ink. Bring back scansion
and writing half the time in Latin

on tombstones. Bring back dead poets.
Bring back parchment. Bring back embarrassment.
And, for persistent po-fenders and recidivists,
villanelle and sestina producers,
poetry promoters, poetry patrons, poetry peddlers,
poetry printers and poetry publishers—
bring back writer’s block!

Helena Nelson
Rant first appeared in the Spring 2012 issue of The Rialto, a wonderful poetry journal out of the U.K.

Helena Nelson runs HappenStance Press, which mainly (but not exclusively) publishes poetry pamphlets. She sometimes also writes poems. Her last collection was Plot and Counter-Plot, [] Shoestring Press, 2010.


John Whitworth said...

That's the stuff, Helena. Go, go baby!

Anonymous said...

God love Helena. And while I'm here, Mr Whitworth - congratulations on your BRILLIANT poem in the Spectator three/four weeks ago. The first poem i'd read in years that I read again, four times no less. I loved it, more power to your pen, sir! James W Wood