Patrick Dennis


An Argument With A British Poet


Poetry is memorable speech, you say?
Yes, I heard a young man in Dublin when I was there
cursing and swearing on a street corner.
I shall never forget it.
Like the master of dispassionate intensity he was
how he beat down on the swear words
with the stress on sprung rhythm in a shipwreck.

I myself am Irish, a bit. Red Irish. Celt
for rages and hard drink.
Memorable for action as for speech:
real buggers to swear and fight.

OK, forget the Irish, forget swearing
cursing and all low speech,
good only in bad categories of low boys
up to no good. Sorry I brought it up.

But still I've got you, I win.
You mistake a smile for joy
a sword for the death thrust
the quill for Shakespeare
and the palette for the painting.

Poet, you must see a symbol for what it is.
Speech, however memorable, is just a symbol
that, more or less, chances a happy match
in the voids where the meanings are.

Oh, but come, let's shake hands and make peace.
We are both wrong probably. Or right.
No, don't pull me apart.
Instead let's define and argue something easy.
Wave-particle duality? Yep, piece of cake.

Submitted: Monday, February 17, 2014
Edited: Monday, February 17, 2014

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Poet's Notes about The Poem

It was WH Auden, I think, who defined poetry as memorable speech.

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