Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Our Hunger for Tragedy

This week’s theme is ‘Tragic or Comedic’(note the choice of conjunction), which I’m taking to mean (given the lack of an ‘and’) that I’m allowed to write something that is either tragic or comedic – and that I most definitely don’t need to write something that is both. So, as the dark and depressing seems to flow more naturally from my fingertips than anything with humorous value, I’ve decided to opt for the tragic...

People love disaster, if it does not touch them too nearly – as we run to see a burning house or a motor crash – and also it gives occasion for passionate speech; it is a vehicle for the poetry. 1

The Four Stages of a Modern Tragedy

One half of the motorway is closed,
the other half has been brought to a crawl –
by our need to see past the smoke; swirling blue lights;
crumpled metal objects, like the devoured carcass of a wildebeest.

They watch, stretching their necks through turned down windows,
dropping their mouths in awe and disbelief: primal instinct taking hold
as phones are sent out into the night
to record the scene and preserve it in pixels.

Within minutes, the videos are uploaded to YouTube.
Facebook newsfeeds full of links tempt us, wave tragedy
beneath our noses like sweet, freshly-spun candyfloss – and we bite,
lick our lips and wipe the guilt from our mouths.

Millions of hits from a single crash, and somehow we forget –
lose ourselves in the blurred blue smoke.
Unable to count on our fingers: to add, calculate –
we forget that tragedy involves subtraction.

Thank you for reading,

1 Jeffers, “Poetry, Gongorism and a Thousand Years” from Twentieth-Century American Poetics: Poets on the Art of Poetry, ed. Gioia, Mason, Schoerke (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2004), p.88  


Ashley R Lister said...

Pithy and eloquent as always.


vicky ellis said...

Maybe it's the subtraction that fascinates? Although having watched 'One Born Every Minute' the addition is engrossing too :)

Loving the tragic candyfloss analogy. That stuff sticks to your teeth and wears them away leaving you a gummy, mashed potato eating voyeur.

Always a wonderful read. Thank you for writing x

Lara Clayton said...

I think the candyfloss analogy is where the strength is in this 'poem'. I'm not happy with the end, it's not saying what I want it to say - but it is slightly better than some of the previous versions I had. They were endings that made you want to stick two fingers down your throat... However, I ended up having to settle with this one; I was craving nicotine and the rewriting process wasn't helping.
Thank you both for your comments.

Lindsay said...

An incredibly insightful view of human nature. Rubbernecking, we've all done it, yet it's horrifying.