"David" sculpture by MichelangeloSonnets on the Arts Today, by Peter Hartley The Society January 5, 2019 Art, Beauty, Culture, Ekphrastic, Poetry 38 Comments Poetry Today If elevated thought had ever beenThe least criterion of excellenceIn poetry, why should it then be seenToday as simply of no consequence?If rhyme was good enough for Shakespeare’s timeAnd rhythm beats in Keats and Chaucer, BlakeAnd Dryden why then, why is rhyme a crimeAnd rhythm a mistake for heaven’s sake? Free verse, a curse at worst, its masteryA hash of slapdash balderdash and bull,Such tripe the tritest poetasteryDisposed in random rows is just as dull.Who knows why those to metric rhyme averseCompose such awful prose and call it verse. Michelangelo’s David No-one can ever see the man behindThese opaque eyes that never shed his tearsOr feel the fears that simmered in his mind.No longer does he hear the jeers and cheersFrom that unequal combat with the foe.He sees nothing, nor could he. Through those eyesOf stone not even MichelangeloCould let him see his own Italic skies. There’s something enigmatic we perceiveIn statuary, shorn of intellect,Tongue-tied, unable to explain, receive,Convey their thoughts to us, or interjectWhen we are wrong. Free-standing some may be,They all stand free, remote from you and me. A Fire Extinguisher Though technical accomplishment held swayFor centuries, some artists of todayWill doubtless scorn such talent as passé.Once art stood on its merits and would sayMy worth resides in what you see in me,Not what your facile pseudo-intellectExtrapolates from what you think you see,Confected with the guff we all expect. Collectors, artists, critics must have allConspired in symbiosis to inspireTate Modern’s latest coup: upon the wallIts finest purchase yet, a smart new fireExtinguisher. Just think of all that hypeIt garnered, hanging there among the tripe. A Picture of a Horse While at a gallery one day appearsA little mob of children, come to seeSome Pollock drips, a few of Rothko’s smears,And several of Picasso’s ears set freeTo roam about the same side of his face.Their teacher showed a painting of a horse.“And that’s supposed to be a horse, in caseYou can’t read what the label says of course,” She said, and then a little boy piped “SoWhy isn’t it a horse?” and she was atA loss. It looked more like a portmanteau,A set of bagpipes or a stovepipe hat,But gave one the impression of a horse.Why wasn’t it a picture of a horse? The Arnolfini Portrait For some van Eyck might warrant scant acclaimToday, laboriously painting what he madeUs see in outline, colour, light and shade:Whose tableaux frozen on oak panels frameThe most minutely detailed scenes and claimEnraptured awe. In mastery displayedSix hundred years ago his brush conveyedWhat he saw now, for still we see the same. Should Emin view his art might she dismissIt all as lesser work than hers becauseShe’s better known than van Eyck ever was?And can she see the oddity in this?Perhaps her confidence in private sinks,We’re left to wonder what she really thinks. Peter Hartley is a retired painting restorer. He was born in Liverpool and lives in Manchester, UK. Views expressed by individual poets and writers on this website and by commenters do not represent the views of the entire Society. The comments section on regular posts is meant to be a place for civil and fruitful discussion. Pseudonyms are discouraged. The individual poet or writer featured in a post has the ability to remove any or all comments by emailing submissions@ classicalpoets.org with the details and under the subject title “Remove Comment.” Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window) Related 38 Responses Satyanarayana January 5, 2019 Excellent sonnets. Perfect. Reply Peter Hartley January 6, 2019 Thank you for your very kind response to my maiden entry. Very encouraging! Reply Steven Shaffer January 5, 2019 Very nice — I’m a sucker for a good couplet: “Who knows why those to metric rhyme averse Compose such awful prose and call it verse.” Reply Peter Hartley January 6, 2019 Many thanks for your very kind remarks. I bet you like Alexander Pope then! Reply Steven Shaffer January 25, 2019 (I’ve been on a secret mission for the past 20 days 🙂 ) Hi Peter — Yes, I’m a huge fan of Pope. Looking forward to your next submissions! Peter Hartley January 26, 2019 Steven – Do you know he was only 4’6” short? I hope nobody blew the gaff while you were with MI6. C.B. Anderson January 5, 2019 Very nice, indeed! And very well constructed. What a fine thing it is to poke fun at deconstructionism in such an orderly, logophilic manner. Reply Peter Hartley January 6, 2019 Thank you for the generous remark, and you can’t poke enough fun at deconstructionism can you? Reply James A. Tweedie January 5, 2019 I wish I had written these poems. But I’m glad I didn’t, because I suspect they wouldn’t have turned out half as good as these. Well said! and well done! Reply Peter Hartley January 6, 2019 I wish you had too. I might have learned something. Many thanks for your generous remark from an almost total beginner. My last poems were in my school magazine nearly eight hundred years ago. Reply Michael Dashiell January 5, 2019 In addressing the poem Poetry Today, you express it exactly as I view it, but with a lucidity I can’t attain. Brilliant! Reply Peter Hartley January 6, 2019 I bet they would! But thank you very much for such a generous remark to a complete tyro in the field. Reply Peter Hartley January 6, 2019 Sorry, that was a reply to someone else, but many thanks for your kind remarks which I hope will encourage me to do better. Janice Canerdy January 5, 2019 “Poetry Today”–AMEN, brother!! Reply Peter Hartley January 6, 2019 Soli Deo Gloria Reply Gerald Weeks January 6, 2019 You areceived welcome And well-spoken ( it rhymes ) Actually John Donne ! Amen ! James Sale January 6, 2019 Love it – great to see another Brit taking a swipe at post-modernist poetry, and art too along the way. Witty, funny and a nice sense of form, not to mention something to say! I particularly like: “… Just think of all that hype/ It garnered, hanging there among the tripe.” Great rhyme. For those Americans who don’t know, the Tate Modern is a peculiar British disgrace where the ‘great’ intellectuals and artists of our time all pretend they are viewing art when they might just as well be down a supermarket. Reply Peter Hartley January 6, 2019 Many thanks for your extremely kind remarks to a complete tyro in the field. My last poems were written for my school magazine nearly eight hundred years ago and were full of doths and o’ers. Reply Gerald Weeks January 6, 2019 Wonferful ! Bravoh, Peter ! Reply Peter Hartley January 7, 2019 Thank you Gerald, for the kind remark. Reply David Watt January 7, 2019 A fine collection of sonnets. The personification of “Michelangelo’s David” is a striking way to breathe life into an otherwise static subject. Reply Peter Hartley January 7, 2019 And what progress we have made in 3D art over the past 500 years to go from David to Emin’s unmade bed. ‘I’m not even going to dignify it with capital initials. Reply David watt January 7, 2019 Hello Peter, my intention was to say that your personification worked particularly well. I would be the first to acknowledge Michelangelo’s David as a masterpiece, and vastly superior to so called ‘modern art’. Of course David is not static as a work of art, and our reaction to this work is not static either. A better choice of words would have been to say that your sonnet adds further life to our appreciation of a masterpiece carved in stone. peter hartley January 8, 2019 David, Thank you for that nice distinction, and kind of you to say that my little poem might extend appreciation for Michelangelo’s work. I didn’t put it in any of those little poems but it’s mind-boggling to think, isn’t it, that through pursuing sensation and celebrity as ends in themselves quite a few artists today, not just T E (though of a similar calibre) will be better known currently than the greatest geniuses and polymaths of the Renaissance. I wonder though if they will be quite as well known a hundred years hence. Probably, but not for being artists. Sally Cook January 7, 2019 As poet and painter, I am so happy to see someone else railing against insanity. I look forward to more of thus. Thank you. Reply Peter Hartley January 7, 2019 Dear Sally, I remember being extremely surprised a couple of years ago when the famous bed came on the market and was sold for £2.5m. I don’t think I would have been prepared to offer that much even if it had been professionally cleaned. Thank you for your comment. I’m new to sonneteering and such remarks I find very encouraging. Reply J. Simon Harris January 9, 2019 You have a great gift for the sonnet form. Each of these is extremely well constructed, and the flow is very natural. The only thing I didn’t quite like was the inversion of the syntax in the penultimate line of “Poetry Today”, but otherwise your work is impeccable (and I see you have at least one admirer of that line, so you must take my criticism with a grain of salt). Your points about modern art ring true, of course. I remember going to the MOMA in New York when I was younger, and seeing a lot of wall space dedicated to three huge “paintings” that were essentially blank: one literally a blank canvas, one a canvas painted black, and one entitled “Monochromatic Blue,” which it was. Meanwhile, outside, a street artist was selling incredible work for 20 bucks a piece. So there you go. It’s not that that type of art has absolutely nothing to offer; rather, what it has to offer is vastly disproportionate to the professional acclaim it receives. I can almost understand how it caught on when it was novel and original, but at this point it is derivative as well as mundane. It isn’t difficult to see why art and poetry aren’t popular among the public anymore. Your sonnets, however, are wonderful. I’m glad you decided to drop the “doths and o’ers” of your school days. And I look forward to seeing more of your work. Reply Peter Hartley January 9, 2019 I have been overwhelmed by the generosity and thoughtfulness of the responses I’ve received over those little poems and this one the kindest of all. I restored paintings for 25 years, working largely on objects from C16th to C19th, and was fortunate enough virtually to escape having to work on art from this century and the last. I can imagine anyone seeing Duchamp’s stunning objet trouvé in 1917 might well have thought things couldn’t possibly get any worse. How wrong would they have been! There must be a word for the nadir of a nadir (hypobathos?) to describe works of art (or music or poetry) seemingly designed to put the viewer into the deepest of deep depressions. Surely one of the touchstones of art should be BEAUTY, whether in subject matter or execution (e.g. Rembrandt’s Anatomy Lesson of Dr Tulp – beautifully executed although I wouldn’t hang it in my dining room). But why am I preaching to the converted? I’ll go and fetch my sandwich boards. Reply Monty January 10, 2019 I’m in total agreement, Pete, with what all the other commenters have rightly said; these are all high-class pieces. Not only do they all contain poetic-discipline throughout (apart from the rhymes in lines 10 and 11 of Arnolfini, which I felt deserved a bit more thought; even if it took many days more to find a stronger rhyme); but, for me, the word “refreshing” pervades all four pieces: refreshing subject-matters.. refreshing wit.. refreshing sarcasm.. and, most refreshingly, something to REALLY say (as opposed to the wearisome “The way the sun reflects upon the lake” type of stuff). I feel that I must also mention the effortless ‘flow’ of each piece; poems can’t flow that fluidly unless they’re masterfully written. You’re a pure and utter natural-talent, Pete; and I’ll keep half of one eye out for any pieces you post in the future. A (potentially) personal question: In reply to one commenter above, you stated that it was the first poems you’d written since school “eight-hundred years ago”. I immediately dismissed it as a misprint, and thought no more of it . . until noticing that you’d said the same thing in reply to another commenter. At which point, I concluded that the insertion of “eight-hundred years” must’ve been intentional; and was just a jokey exaggeration on how long ago it seems since school . . is that right? Or are you really a ghost who was indeed educated that long ago. You’re not obliged to answer that question; and if you DO want to answer it, you’ve got the right to consult a solicitor before doing so. Reply Peter Hartley January 10, 2019 Just to get important matters out of the way first, I think I should plead your Fifth Amendment regarding my true age. If indeed it IS a crime to have reached one’s sesquicentenary 34 years ago I’m not giving anything away. Also, not being used to these computer-things I hadn’t realised at first that my comments would be read by any other than the named correspondent, hence the tautologous nature of my remarks: but what can you expect from someone born during the reign of William IV with a face like a Mesozoic coprolite? I take your point about the weak rhyme in Arnolfini. I suppose that rhyming ‘because’ with ‘was’ is only what you would expect from a Liverpudlian who was very badly brought up and for whom the two words do indeed rhyme. The first time I went to the States (to walk up Mount Whitney) I turned up at the bus station in LA, and asked for a ticket to Lone Pine only to be accused, in a horrified voice, of coming from Liverpool. I agree with you, and it IS something I will need to watch out for. And, incidentally, many many thanks for the extremely kind remarks which I shall preserve as bulwarks to counter the offensive and downright unpleasant remarks I’m far more accustomed to. Reply Monty January 14, 2019 Being one who’s intimately familiar with the scouse accent (many scally friends over the years; and the mother of my daughter was a scouser), I know what you’re saying about the words ‘was’ and ‘because’; they do rhyme in your accent. But I deem that to be insufficient mitigation in your defence: and I find you guilty as charged with Undue Care and Attention over two end-rhymes. The ‘offensive’ and ‘unpleasant’ remarks to which you’ve become, as you say, ‘more accustomed’: are you referring to remarks made on the SCP pages.. or other sites? Reply Peter Hartley January 14, 2019 Not on SCP pages nor on any other site hitherto, and indeed this is possibly only my third conviction for a capital offence. Reply Monty January 18, 2019 Hardly a ‘capital’ offence, Pete; that’s why it was only dealt with by the Magistrates Court (as opposed to the Crown Court) . . and that’s why your sentence was comparatively light: 180-hours community-work at Endrime House in Skelmersdale. My curiosity has demanded that I ask . . if the aforementioned ‘unfavourable remarks’ didn’t come from this or any other site: where DID they come from . . family, friends? And were they directed at other poems you’ve written; or the above poem (surely not)? Christina January 21, 2019 Monty, as an erstwhile Liverpool scousewife, I take issue with you on the subject of Peter Hartley’s end rhymes, and deplore the gross miscarriage of justice that has him currently labouring in Skem’s notorious Endrime House. I suspect that, in his misery and self-deprecation, the whimsicality inherent in his scouse humour has tended towards the nuttier end of its synonymical spectrum. I hope that his immediate release will restore his equilibrium. If one scrolls down to ‘pronunciation’ in English in the definition of ‘because’ by Oxford Dictionaries, one will find ‘because’ is pronounced: /bɪˈkɒz/. In a further search in the same source one will find that ‘was’ is pronounced: /wɒz/. QED. Reply Monty January 25, 2019 To my knowledge, Chris’, the word ‘erstwhile’ is usually used to mean ‘former’ or ‘previous’, but I’ve occasionally heard it used to mean ‘esteemed’ or ‘respected’; could you kindly clarify which one applies to your self-description? And while we’re at it: could you also confirm that the (quality) term ‘scousewife’ is geographically correct; and not to be confused with ‘wooly-back wife’? Regarding Pete’s situation: I’m afraid there’s no prospect of an immediate, or even early, release. The reasons for this are: a/ I estimate that he’s already completed 130 hours of the 180: so an Appeal is not feasible due to the short time factor remaining. b/ The judge, when sentencing, took into account the mitigating circumstances of the ‘inherent whimsicality’ in Pete’s native humour, and recognised that this unavoidably contributed towards the commiting of the offence; but he concurred with the case outlined by the prosecution that, although ‘was’ and ’cause’ may rhyme in Pete’s native accent (and maybe in other accents also): they don’t rhyme on the page! Hence the charge of Undue Care and Attention regarding Pete’s careless expectancy for others to assume the same rhyme. c/ The judge also took into account the statement made by one of the defence-witnesses that the two words in question are listed by an esteemed tome as being a perfect rhyme; but assumed that it was in error, after the prosecution produced a speech-expert to emphasise that the syllabic sounds of ‘woz’ and ‘cauze’ may rhyme in some accents.. but could never be strictly considered as a full-rhyme in a poetry sense. d/ Because of the ‘mitigating circumstances’ involving Pete’s case, the judge personally recommended that the sentence be served at Endrime House because – as he outlined in court – although that establishment has a reputation for being notoriously strict and uncompromising, it’s historically known to administer some innovative rehabilitory programmes for minor offenders. The judge was also aware of the favourable location of the establishment, having previously noted that Skelmersdale was recently listed in a survey conducted by bollox.com as being one of the most desirable places to live in the UK. So there you are, Chris. I assure you that I’m not unsympathetic to Pete’s plight, and I sincerely hope that he’s eventually able to put this whole matter behind him . . and that he continues to write poetry to the same high standard as the five pieces above (the 5th of which is nothing short of a masterpiece). p.s. I’m not aware of the ‘visiting’ procedure at Endrime House, but I assume that Pete’s since received – or will receive – a visit(s) from yourself or others. If that’s the case, could you let it be known to Pete that I personally and anticipatively await -with relish – any future pieces he submits to SCP? Reply Peter Hartley January 29, 2019 I’ve just this minute been released after 180 hours’ sheer hell! Have you the remotest idea what that place is like? Bastinadoed on both feet 24.7! Bludgeoned about the coccygeal symphysis with a giant servo-assisted Latvian poleaxe!! You wouldn’t have wished it on your worst enemy!!! I remember that controversial fietzsche my tietzsche wrote about Friedrich Nietzsche’s apocopated female sight-rhymes. Was he kicked in the oubliette for maladroit handling? No he was not. Was he banged up in Endrime House for 180 hours for breaching the peace? No he was not. Was he electrocuted? Yes I believe he was. I rest my case. Monty February 4, 2019 For what it’s worth, Pete: I should tell you that I’m genuinely glad that your ordeal’s finally over; and, as tough as it obviously was, I fervently hope that, in the long run, it transpires that you gained some sort of positive influence from the rehabilitative programme at Endrime House. I trust that they gave you a train-warrant upon release to get back to Lime St? And it’s to be hoped that, from Lime St, you went straight home for a good scran; and didn’t sneak round to the Nearime Arms on Mount Pleasant for a bevvy. Don’t be going back to your old ways. So, all that remains for me to say is . . I look forward anticipatively to any future pieces you send to SCP: not only because I rate your writing highly; but also because it may yield some clues as to the success, or otherwise, of your rehabilitation. p.s. My curiosity demands that I ask: Given the bodily position one would be in whilst being administered blows to the coccyx . . how did you know that the pole-axe was Latvian? Reply Peter Hartley February 5, 2019 I was presented with the poleaxe at an awards ceremony on my release. My initial suspicions were aroused when I read “Not to be removed from Council Chambers, Riga Town Hall” on the label, later confirmed when I found “property of the Chief Halberdier” engraved on the haft. 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