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2a. Slow Magic: “Guess Who?”

Looking round the Slow Magic exhibition, I have realised that what the painters talk about when they talk about ‘technique’ in painting, more equates to ‘style’ in poetry.  SO, I thought I would do a little exercise about STYLE and the personality of the poet.

In a recent workshop I did, the participants came up with this list of aspects affecting a poem’s style (that is, everything outside the content)…

>Techniques of Poetry
>Cultural References, gender, race, expressions of individuality
>Politic / A-politic

A poet’s style is very important, as it makes us form a picture of their personality in our heads, and in turn this can lead us to make quite subtle destinctions about the way they treat their subjects.

Here are five poems.  Please take a look at each one, and decide which three words you would use to describe their style.  Then take a look at the Guess Who board (attached) and tell me which character off the board did each poem!




(A) Insect

That hour-glass-backed,
heavy-headed will,

savage—dense to kill—

pulls back on backward-moving,
high legs still,

lowered through a deep, knees-reaching,
feathered down
green will,

carpeted as if with skill,

a focus-changing,

tracing, killing will.

(B) Chaplinesque

We make our meek adjustments,
Contented with such random consolations
As the wind deposits
In slithered and too ample pockets.

For we can still love the world, who find
A famished kitten on the step, and know
Recesses for it from the fury of the street,
Or warm torn elbow coverts.

We will sidestep, and to the final smirk
Dally the doom of that inevitable thumb
That slowly chafes its puckered index toward us,
Facing the dull squint with what innocence
And what surprise!

And yet these fine collapses are not lies
More than the pirouettes of any pliant cane;
Our obsequies are, in a way, no enterprise.
We can evade you, and all else but the heart:
What blame to us if the heart live on.

The game enforces smirks; but we have seen
The moon in lonely alleys make
A grail of laughter of an empty ash can,
And through all sound of gaiety and quest
Have heard a kitten in the wilderness.

(C) in Just-

in Just-
spring          when the world is mud-
luscious the little
lame balloonman

whistles          far          and wee

and eddieandbill come
running from marbles and
piracies and it’s

when the world is puddle-wonderful

the queer
old balloonman whistles
far          and             wee
and bettyandisbel come dancing

from hop-scotch and jump-rope and




balloonMan          whistles

(D) For the man with the erection lasting more than four hours

He’s supposed to call his doctor, but for now he’s the May King with his own maypole.
He’s hallelujah. He’s glory hole. The world has more women than he can shake a stick
at. The world is his brickbat, no conscience to prick at, all of us Germans he can ich
liebe dich at. He’s Dick and Jane. He’s Citizen Kane. He’s Bob Dole.
He’s Peter the Great. He’s a tsar. He’s a clown car with an extra car.
Funiculì, Funiculà. He’s an organ donor. He works pro boner. He’s folderol.
He’s fiddlesticks. He’s the light left on at Motel 6. He’s free-for-alls.
He’s Viagra Falls. He’s bangers and mash. He’s balderdash. He’s a wanker.
He’s got his own anchor. He’s whack-a-doodle. King Canoodle. He’s a pirate, Long John
Silver, walking his own plank. He has science to thank. He’s in like Flynn. He’s Gunga Din,
holding his breath, cock of the walk through the valley of the shadow of death. He’s Icarus,
hickory dickerous, the mouse run up the clock. He’s shock and awe. He’s Arkansas.
He’s the package, the deal, the Good Housekeeping Seal. He’s Johnson & Johnson.
He’s a god now, the talk of the town. He’s got no place to go but down..

(E) The Sting

At twelve I learnt about The Fall,?
had rough-cut daydreams based on original sin,?
nightmares about the swarm of thin-?
lipped, foul-mouthed, crab apple-?
masticating girls who’d chase me full?
throttle: me, slipping on wet leaves, a heroine?
in a black-and-white cliché; them, buzzing on nicotine?
and the sap of French kisses. I hated big school?
but even more, I hated the lurid shame?
of surrender, the yellow miniskirt?
my mother wore the day that that man?
drove my dad’s car to collect me. She called my name?
softly, more seductive than an advert.?
I heard the drone of the engine, turned and ran


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