This was a poem written in response to a task set by my writing group to write a poem about the well-known Latin expression Carpe Diem which means “seize the day”. Many of the group wrote quite serious poems or short essays on this topic as they felt that seizing the day was most appropriate for older folk, who might feel that times have flowed past and left them, and there was nothing much more to do with their lives.
However, I decided to write a poem, the first poem I have ever written, partly as a task of finding out what poetry is all about, and probing its mechanisms of metaphors and rhythms.
To be a poet, one must, I believed, read a lot of poetry. I had not read much. But, one of the poets I had enjoyed reading (apart from T.S.Eliot) was W.H.Auden. Auden was writing in the late 1930s and generally had a mischievous tone to his works. One of his poems begins: “Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone/ Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone…”, and I loved this modernity. So different from Wordsworth or Shelley with their poems about Daffodils in the English Lake District or ‘Wild West Winds’ making the heart bleed.
I opened my Oxford Book of English Verse and it fell open at a poem by Christopher Marlowe, writing about the same time as William Shakespeare, entitle “The Passionate Shepherd and His Love”. This well-known poem begins
“Come live with mee, and be my love,
And we will all the pleasures prove…”
so here was a beginning! As I was writing essays at the time, why not call on the shepherd’s mistress to give me a hand?
The next lines in my poem:
Let us all the pleasures prove,
Of pen and ink, Plasto and Tippex,
and keyboard taps, deletes, backspaces.
was generated by looking around my computer desk. Among the mess and bric-a-brac was an old German eraser enclosed in a green rectangular cardboard tube with the bold words “Pelikan PLASTO” printed on it. This eraser was at least 20 years old. It took me back to the days of correcting typing errors on my little HERMES Baby typewriter using tiny sheets of Tippex, which, when placed in the machine would white-out typing errors. Then I moved on in the next line to the present day, with the ubiquitous computer keyboard, keystrokes, Delete key, and BackSpace key.
The next stanza began by reverting to the poem by Marlowe referring to his ‘beds of Roses’. As I was now an enthusiast of digital photography I thought I would complement words with photographic images, but I would be careful to make these supplementary photographs not too daring. No nudity. They would merely add a little visual stimulus, a little pizzazz, to the poetical text.
For the next line, I think I know where the word ‘handy’ may have come from. I am a great lover of the witty poems of Ogden Nash and have always enjoyed listening to his words read by Noel Coward accompanying the music of Saint Saëns on The Carnival of the Animals,(CBS Stereo vinyl) such as, “Elephants are useful friends/Equipped with handles at both ends/,” and “In the world of mules/there are no rules.” Another of my favourites by Ogden Nash are the lines
and that may be where my choice of ‘dandy’ for RedBubble came from.
I was very pleased with my last stanza:
Carpe diem my dear
Excuse my old Latin
But ‘seize the day’ is the latest hot pattern
Boy meets girl, and vice-versa
It’s in today’s Age, and the Times spread on Sunday
With photos of hotshots, slim models with traction.
So if these pleasures thee may move
Let’s seize the day, and have some action
for Carpe Diem was an echo of the beginning, a repeat of the title of the writing task, and that weekend’s Melbourne Age had an article on the subject! The newspaper of course, like so many modern ones with weekend spreads, had the usual collection of erotic pictures of guys and gals, so why not mention their high heels, that give them so much traction these days?