Poems of Identity
This section could also be called Poems of the Self. Being an interior sort of person – some would say an introvert - I’ve devoted a lot of attention in poetry to the exploration of myself. This is never an easy thing to do. In fact, this kind of poetry is often quite intense, for a great deal of conflicting emotion is likely to emerge. Two examples of that are in other sections of this website: Midlife Crisis and The Soul’s Complaint. Some of that intensity is also evident in The Shape of Our Perfection, though here the feeling is muted to a degree by philosophical detachment.
The whole subject of identity is one of many dimensions, for we humans are complex creatures, and when I review my work in this area I find that philosophy is present almost as much as feeling – philosophy being one of my main preoccupations in life. Who are we, what is happening to us, what should happen to us, what might we become? Keen readers may notice that my poetry is sometimes loaded with question marks, for all of these issues of identity are a constant puzzle, and indeed a constant challenge.
Thankfully, there is humour too, or at least a realisation of the lighter side of life. Balloon is a fun poem, as airy in tone (I hope) as the actual experience of riding in a balloon. Aspiration is also a fun poem, and an example of play in poetry, trying to make the visual shape of the work an additional component in the overall expression.
As time goes on, moving from the existential angst of the twentieth century to the who-knows-what of the twenty-first, there is a danger that the poet’s own identity will bulk too large; in other words, that poetry will become too private. I’m never afraid of writing about myself, but not, I hope, to the point of being irrelevant to other people, or simply obscure. Self-obsession and obscurity are not, in my view, virtues in poetry.
There. Up there
In the bright air,
The thin hot air.
Lifting like champagne,
There is no care
Sunrise lasts forever.
The sky’s bright butterfly
Earth must be.
One must always be
Dreams are free.
So would I be.
I want to be
A rose unfolding,
Like a pond rippling
My sweetness enveloping,
My satiny lusciousness drowning
The senses and enfolding everything.
But if perchance you don’t like that
And my aspiration thus falls flat,
There’s always my underside:
I have fierce thorns too
If beauty’s denied,
If it’s no good
THE SHAPE OF OUR PERFECTION
Birth is a desperate act, clutching for an unknown.
Each waking moment is another birth,
Searching for our self and anchorage within
The supposed territory of our allotted zone.
We work, we play, we curse, we pray,
We think, we dream, we plan, we scheme,
We stretch, we strain, we lose, we gain …
These things we do to find, then fit
The shape of our perfection.
Bound in the thought that there’s some ideal
Of ripeness, where we’re complete.
What that state might be is as veiled from sight
As the sanctuary within a temple;
For what’s the rule that can gauge potential
And who can say what’s totally right?
Pride and vanity may say “I’ve arrived,”
Such is the power of delusion.
Truth is, the search goes on: we fit no shape, and many.
The perfect shape is an illusion.