Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Poems of the Day - 10

Simon Armitage has two poems, both titled Sympathy, at Poetry Daily today. Both reflect on the limitations of the justice system and, in northern vernacular, suggest ways in which guilty parties might be brought to account for their crimes. Simon Armitage is unpopular in some quarters, mainly because he has been commercially successful, but I like a fair bit of his material. I’m not really into these poems though, despite the presence of a few great details – the “burnt-out Vauxhall Nova/ for a garden shed, one dead cooker on t’lawn” and “outrunning a dark belt of summer rain/ in his soft-top Merc with the roof rolled down.” The idea of getting people to face up to the reality of their crimes is good, but the narratives in these poems, while they had their twists, didn’t make for particularly striking poetry. 2½/6

Aelgifu of Northampton Falls for The Leader of the Pack, 1016 is Micki Myers’s offering at No Tell Motel. The real Aelgifu was King Canute’s wife. Here she’s recast as a sixties chick who falls for the Leader of the Pack from the Shangi-Las song. It’s a great idea of course. Not sure if Micki Myers really pulls it off, especially at the close where the tears blurring the name on the slate seems rather unlikely, and I couldn’t see how they could turn Cnut into Canute in any case. This poem didn’t grip me or make me laugh and the images it used seemed fairly ordinary, other than the “F in Norwegian” line, which I liked. 2/6

5 comments:

Colin Will said...

Yes, I couldn't figure out the Cnut -> Canute thing either. You expect tears to erase a letter rather than to add one. But maybe I read poetry too literally. Historically, His real name was Knut Sveinsson, with the 'k' silent, but in any case he was Danish, so the Norwegian reference is either careless or a red hareng.

Rob said...

Or Norwegian as a foreign language?!

Matt Merritt said...

I didn't really understand the image either, for the reasons Colin pointed out. The language thing is interesting though - I think at that time both Danes and Norwegians (and Cnut was ruling both) would have been speaking Old Norse, so I suppose that makes sense. Modern Norwegian and Danish are a pretty long way from ON, because of lots of German influence, but I think modern Icelandic is still very close to it.

Micki said...

Not careless or a red herring: Cnut got rid of Aelgifu by sending her to rule Norway with their son in 1030. It was a disaster, known there as "Aelgifu's time." Cnut was changed to the phonetic Canute when publishing his name kept making people look twice, thinking it was rude.

Appreciate your comments

Rob said...

Micki, thanks for the information.