In his poem, “In Memory of W. B Yeats” the poet, W. H. Auden writes “For poetry makes nothing happen”. Auden is, I believe broadly correct. It is social and economic factors, for example widespread starvation which led to the French Revolution of 1789, rather than the writings of philosophers and poets. One can not, however dismiss the role writers play in shaping history. George Orwell was regarded as being a threat to the old Soviet Union (the Communist Party banned his writings along with other critics of Communism). Authors such as Orwell and Kafka did not bring down the Berlin Wall. They did, however help to expose it’s flaws and influenced those intellectuals brave enough to criticise the authoritarian governments under which they lived.
Irrespective of whether poetry (and writing in general) “makes anything happen” I, personally feel compelled to express myself in verse. In my collection of poetry and prose, “Dalliance” I explore the full range of human emotions, from profound sadness through to humour. The collection derives it’s title from the first poem which reads as follows:
“In this world where nothing really exists, I kiss your cold, dead
lips. Meaningless dalliance in this land of the dead, no words spoken,
there is nothing
to be said. Emotions stifled, frozen in ice, held in death’s stone grip”.
You might expect me, as the poet to offer an explanation as to the meaning of “Dalliance”. Once a poem is out there in the big bad world it is, of course open to each and every reader to put their own interpretation of the poem forward. For me “Dalliance” is about the death of love and it’s replacement by “meaningless dalliance” (a search for bodily pleasures divorced from romantic love) which, is ultimately empty, (hence “meaningless dalliance in this land of the dead”).
What the poet thinks of his own work and how others interpret it is, as I imply above not always the same. Take, for example my poem, “Autumn Rain”,
A few sad fireworks fizzle and die.
Me, sitting alone on my sofa. Rain, is it you who are lonely, or I?”
In the above poem the bleak autumnal weather kindled in me feelings of melancholy. The falling of the rain reminded me of human tears while the distant fizzing of fireworks brought to mind the transitory nature of existence. Interestingly a reader of “Autumn Rain” commented to the effect that it was me who was putting my feelings of melancholy onto the rain thereby indicating his belief that I was, in fact under the impression that the rain was weeping. In point of fact I know that the rain is a product of nature and it is we humans who find in natural events such as the falling of the rain emotional triggers. It remains a cause of fascination to me that a reader interpreted “Autumn Rain” literally. Although the reader’s interpretation differs from that of my own his perspective is equally valid for, as I mentioned earlier once a poem is out in the big bad world it is a matter for each reader to put his or her own interpretation on it. Writers own their own intellectual creations. we do not, however own how others interpret our work.
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