Tuesday, November 21, 2006

"Bloody Men"

Firstly, let me apologise to any of our regular readers who might have felt disappointed by the absence of two weekly posts during the course of this month. We seek your understanding, as with the case of future leaves of absence. In truth, most of us have been busy lately, and it's tough juggling everything. I have been occupied myself and was tempted not to post this week, but seeing that there wasn't a post last week, and that some of my stuff aren't that urgent and can wait, here's a short post for this week. [Guys. please don't brand me a traitor.. i'm not trying to ingratiate myself with the ladies with this poem].

Bloody Men

Bloody men are like bloody buses -
You wait for about a year
And as soon as one approaches your stop
Two or three others appear.

You look at them flashing their indicators
Offering you a ride.
You're trying to read the destinations,
You haven't much time to decide.

If you make a mistake, there is no turning back.
Jump off, and you'll stand there and gaze
While the cars, the taxis and the lorries go by
And the minutes, the hours, the days.

by Wendy Cope

Having debated with others last week on the distinction of prose, poetry and prose-poetry, I thought it would be good to put up this very short and simple poem. Interestingly, a friend honoured me recently by asking me to make some comments on a very old poem he wrote long ago, and as I wrote my reply, certain things came to mind on the craft of what makes a poem.

Well, today's poem is straightfoward and a teenager would easily understand it. The poem is very much colloquial in tone, and seems very much like one of those 'b-tching' sessions (pardon the expression) between a couple of girlfriends about the terrible fate of dating "bloody men" in general. In fact, the first line of the poem seems almost common enough, perhaps even overheard before. It's like one of those witty aphorisms that we hear from time: "Bloody men are like bloody buses".

Nothing remarkable so far, and even as one reads on, some may feel that one might have written this poem oneself. That might be true, as why shouldn't we attempt to write poetry ourselves?

Looking closer at the poem, it is clear that as simple and as down-to-earth as this poem is, it takes some effort to sustain and develop the metaphor of men being like buses that never seem to appear when one is wating or looking for one. The poem then moves to the problem of having a couple of buses all turning up at the same time, just like how the dating scene is. With this nice turn of irony, it neatly plays with two of the common problems we face. The second stanza goes further of how it is difficult to decide the best bus to take, as with the people we would like to date, not knowing what to expect from them.

While we delight in the witticisms of this poem, we might have also unconsciously enjoyed the flow or rhythm of the lines. The poem is structured as a quartrain (4 lines per stanza) rhyming abcb, with a couplet (2 lines) like division of parts (at least that's what appears to me) that ties each stanza as a whole, being able to stand on its own. It is obvious then to see the control of language and form in crafting this poem.

Finally, the third stanza sees the poem come to a close. The first line is a common truism, and together with the second line, they are syntactically structured into two parts, that give them a similar rhythm pattern. This 'flows' on to the final two lines, which are also rhythmically similar, with the pauses between the commas. Reading this final stanza again, one will feel a kind of slowing down at the end, giving it a soft but genuine sadness, of waiting for the right guy to come by.

This poem by Wendy Cope is simple, but it goes gently from the usual frustrated complaint of women on men, to the witty 'talk', and finally to what may be said to be a personal, felt grief.

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Blogger bibliobibuli said...

i like wendy cope very much - funny, true and down to earth. rhyming poems and ones with such an insistent rhythm remind us of kids' rhymes. it's almost as if the form of the poem says, "don't take me seriously" but the content of the poem, you're right, talks about real pain and frustration.

love and finding a partner ain't easy. one's choices are never the right ones.

i had a wendy cope i was thinking of posting but was afraid you'd all think me not highbrow enough!

well done for posting even though you were so busy.

6:54 PM, November 22, 2006  
Blogger chong y l said...

dear dreamerI:

wendy cope gives Desi hope
her verses simple working like dope
can i asspire to her low-&-behold level then?
I am definitely not one of those blardy men!

11:16 AM, December 02, 2006  
Blogger kate said...

Wendy Cope so reminds me of Szymborska, even though the latter rarely takes up men/women issues. But when she does -- she's amazing. As in:

A Memory
from Moment (2002)

We were chatting
and suddenly stopped short.
A lovely girl stepped onto the terrace,
so lovely,
too lovely
for us to enjoy our trip.
Basia shot her husband a stricken look.
Krystyna took Zbyszek's hand reflexively.
I thought: I'll call you,
tell you, don't come just yet, they're predicting rain for days.

Only Agnieszka, a widow,
met the lovely girl with a smile.

(I'm unable to name the translator though, I think it might be Baranczak&Cavanagh squad.)

4:46 AM, September 21, 2008  
Blogger dreameridiot said...

Thanks, Kate. It's always nice to share poems. Szymborska has the lightest of touch in her poems. i think I recall reading a few intimate and personal ones, where she writes on her relationship with her husband. :)

10:28 PM, September 21, 2008  

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