Ode on the Mammoth Cheese
Weighing over seven thousand pounds

We have seen the Queen of cheese,
Laying quietly at your ease,
Gently fanned by evening breeze —
Thy fair form no flies dare seize.

All gaily dressed soon you’ll go
To the great Provincial Show,
To be admired by many a beau
In the city of Toronto.

Cows numerous as a swarm of bees —
Or as the leaves upon the trees —
It did require to make thee please,
And stand unrivalled Queen of Cheese.

May you not receive a scar as
We have heard that Mr. Harris
Intends to send you off as far as
The great World’s show at Paris.

Of the youth — beware of these —
For some of them might rudely squeeze
And bite your cheek; then songs or glees
We could not sing o’ Queen of Cheese.

We’rt thou suspended from baloon,
You’d cast a shade, even at noon;
Folks would think it was the moon
About to fall and crush them soon.

James McIntyre

Two weeks ago, Helen McKinlay posted a subtle, surprising and interesting poem by Judy Brown called ‘The Cheese Room’. In her editorial notes, however, she mentioned James McIntyre, ‘Canada’s worst poet’, who wrote a lot about cheese. Now, as someone who recently published a poem by the Great McGonagall himself, the invitation to explore was impossible to resist. And this led me to this Homage to Fromage.

Now, the poem scans, unlike most of McGonagall, but the rhymes are dreadful. I particularly like ‘Beau’ and ‘Toronto’ which makes for a pronunciation of the Canadian city that one will surely never hear in real life. Most satisfying. Far less annoying to me than the GPS on my phone, which has an American accent and pronounces Canberra with the emphasis on the last syllable. (By the way, a University of ToronTOE site gives the spelling baloon, so who am I to argue?)

I must point out that McIntyre was born in Scotland, seemingly in 1827 (possibly 1828), making him a near contemporary of McGonagall (the latter’s dates are also somewhat murky, but 1825 seems to be generally accepted as the true birth year). ‘Oh Scotland, Scotland!’ as Macduff says. There must have been something in the air in the mid to late 1820s, when these two were conceived. If one reads the Ode, one can still catch a whiff.

I promise to be serious next time. Press this feather to see if any other Tuesday Poets have been scraping the bottom of the barrel, or if I’m the only one to go that whey.

Tuesday Poem

An Address to Shakespeare

Immortal! William Shakespeare, there’s none can you excel,
You have drawn out your characters remarkably well,
Which is delightful for to see enacted upon the stage
For instance, the love-sick Romeo, or Othello, in a rage;
His writings are a treasure, which the world cannot repay,
He was the greatest poet of the past or of the present day
Also the greatest dramatist, and is worthy of the name,
I’m afraid the world shall never look upon his like again.
His tragedy of Hamlet is moral and sublime,
And for purity of language, nothing can be more fine
For instance, to hear the fair Ophelia making her moan,
At her father’s grave, sad and alone….
In his beautiful play, “As You Like It,” one passage is very fine,
Just for instance in fhe forest of Arden, the language is sublime,
Where Orlando speaks of his Rosilind, most lovely and divine,
And no other poet I am sure has written anything more fine;
His language is spoken in the Church and by the Advocate at the bar,
Here and there and everywhere throughout the world afar;
His writings abound with gospel truths, moral and sublime,
And I’m sure in my opinion they are surpassing fine;
In his beautiful tragedy of Othello, one passage is very fine,
Just for instance where Cassio looses his lieutenancy
… By drinking too much wine;
And in grief he exclaims, “Oh! that men should put an
Enemy in their mouths to steal away their brains.”
In his great tragedy of Richard the III, one passage is very fine
Where the Duchess of York invokes the aid of the Divine
For to protect her innocent babes from the murderer’s uplifted hand,
And smite him powerless, and save her babes, I’m sure ’tis really grand.
Immortal! Bard of Avon, your writings are divine,
And will live in the memories of your admirers until the end of time;
Your plays are read in family circles with wonder and delight,
While seated around the fireside on a cold winter’s night.

Whenever I feel doubt about my poetry, I turn either to a great poet for inspiration, or to William Topaz McGonagall. Schadenfreude soothes as well as Shakespeare, and this work, by the man often described as the world’s worst poet, has a particular bite as the incompetent bard of Dundee struggles to describe that other William.

One of my favourite sites on the web is a tribute site to the great McGonagall. It’s put together by Chris Hunt, and its full title is McGonagall Online — A Tribute to the great Poet and Tragedian of Dundee. Such a well-researched and professional memorial to this man who seems to have continued to believe in his poetry’s worth, despite ridicule wherever he travelled. I often find myself laughing, and I often find myself wincing, as I read both the poetry and biographical entries.

His unsuccessful journey to meet Queen Victoria is recorded in painful detail down to every meal at every farm in one of his autobiographical writings. His hatred of publicans and alcohol (you’ll note how he ‘subtly’ worked it into the Shakespeare tribute) adds another source of mirth, particularly as he often performed his readings in pubs. Was his persistence admirable, or evidence of his lack of ability to read the world, just as he was unable to write anything that scanned or rhymed with less clang than is made by a metal bridge collapsing?

Now, for other poems, all better than those of McGonagall:

Click on this scattered feather
That tells a tale of foul and windy Southern weather,
Such as might cause a sturdy bridge to suddenly fall,
Or an unfortunate boat to founder because of the treacherous squall.

Tuesday Poem

It really is hard to write like that; he had a talent. I’m off to see a Bell Shakespeare production of Macbeth later this week. May this poem not intrude itself into my mind, with its limpingly pedestrian ‘for instances’ and endless ‘fines’, as the witches appear.

This rock poems!

February 15, 2012

For all those occasionally frustrated by the financial aspects of poetry (that is, working your guts out for love alone, just hoping that your poem may reach another person, somewhere) please check out the poetic contribution from mining magnate Gina Rinehart, ‘Australia’s richest woman’, and be consoled that money and art do not walk hand in hand. She donated the rock that the poem is attached to. The rock is a little less shiny than the poem. And a little less clunky. This link is to an often wonderful (and sometimes scurrilous) site called The Worst of Perth, where you can read the poem ‘Our Future’ in all its iron awe, as it appears in situ. Go ahead and enjoy!

But it rhymes, so it must be real poetry…The fact that this was put up in a public place confirms to me that Western Australia and the Australian Capital Territory are Very Different Places. But as Ms Rinehart points out in her poem:

‘Our nation needs special economic zones and wiser government before it is too late.’

Stirring stuff.

prospecting for pentameter