It makes me wonder if you’ve ever read
About dead poets and the lives they led.
Dreamers for the most part, and child-like sad,
With a generous dash of the raving mad.
Should you be inspired to attempt the art,
To unburden your soul and expose your heart;
Take heed – that surely is a tolling bell,
And it’s odds-on chance that you’ll burn in Hell.
Instead of writing till you’re fit to burst,
Take time to cultivate your image first:
Think of Thomas Stearns or that Wystan Hugh,
And choose a pen-name slightly offbeat too.
Don’t set out to be rich, or Laureate,
Lest you’re seen as a scheming hypocrite;
Call for all poetasters to be baked in a Pye,
But don’t ape Marlowe, he was stabbed in the eye.
If people say, “Your metre is a let-down,”
Attempt free verse – play tennis with the net down.
Emulate the Bard, and out-verse your ‘betters’,
Or copy cummings – and don’t do big letters.
Metaphysicals, Romantics – Wow, ain’t it cosmic!
Now try supposing, let’s say, you became anosmic.
Though Housman had his blue remembered hills,
Poor Wordsworth never smelled those daffodils;
When you’re dreaming of love and Fanny Brawne,
And stand in tears amid the alien corn,
Remember Wilde, hard-labouring in clink,
And teenaged Chatterton, with an arsenic drink.
Consider Dryden, barefoot, in the final shakedown,
Skipping blithely through the trees in a mental breakdown;
Or John Clare and Cowper, who were both psychotic,
Whilst Coleridge’s muse was essentially narcotic.
Take Jesuit Hopkins, a man who burned his verses,
And Librarian Larkin, uttering gloom and curses.
Imagine Poe, in the gutter, a cousin-wife, thirteen,
And Ginsberg dropping tabs and gulping mescaline.
There’s Walter De La Mere, ‘is there anybody there-ing’,
And Sylvia Plath, who is long past caring.
Picture Dylan Thomas, permanently pissed,
Not exceptional; and Shelley was a bigamist.
But since you’re sure to go your own sweet way,
Carpe diem, the phrase I’ll have you say.
Byronic tendencies, you are obliged to show,
Act mad and bad, be dangerous to know.
If you still aspire as a famous poet,
Aim for wild abandon so people know it.
Be a mess, be a lover, be an angst-wracked mourner,
And perhaps you’ll end up in Poet’s Corner.