Unleash the Tipsy Balladeer

We’ve all been there before, it’s the end of a long week, your boss is a bore and you’re feeling kinda footloose restless. It sounds to me like you might be hungry for some good old verse… How about penning a bawdy sea shanty to cure what ails ya?

The ballad. The ballad! Fellas, mollies and the old street wretch can’t help but tap tootsies to a folksy ballad. It is pleasant and puerile pub poetry, carefree and coarse, cute and crude, corrupt and callous, crass and creepy. It’s a nose up stink to high flutin’ talk and corporate kites, it don’t care about what’s proper or polite, it’ll calm down tempers or start brewin’ a fight…yikes, I’m getting carried away…

Anyway, my point is, instead of getting drunk at the end of a work week, why not write a ballad, and then get drunk.

How to write a ballad with yer mates

Everyone put your business card on the table.

Agree on a topic.

On the back of a card, write one quatrain per card – which is four lines with an A B A B rhyme scheme (alternating cross-rhymed iambic pentameter for those whom are interested in the proper parlance). Clap each line in your mind or aloud as there should be four or three beats per line. For example:

There’s nothin’ like a ballad song (A) (4 beats)

For makin’ tools stand out (B) (3 beats)

They’ll sing aloud and carry on (A) (4 beats)

Till the bouncer gives ‘em clout (B) (3 beats)

Once everyone has written a quatrain on the back of their card, order the cards together in a natural sequence to create an original swashbuckling ballad!

Till next time, crack a queer whid!

WordSmith Jo

Psst! Did you know that the English word Ballad comes from the Italian word ballare, which means ‘to dance’.

Dinglichkeit: The Marvellous Reality of Triviality

Our attention is often captured by stories of extraordinary feat and courage and rightly so. However, it may be argued that our most heart soaring experiences can be reduced to a slight moment; a simple nod of encouragement from a person we hold in esteem, or observing the way light filters through trees in a passing car.

Good writers understand that capturing simple moments in time and representing them well, are what makes a seemingly banal moment, a textually rich and meaningful experience.

A very famous screen example of this is in the film American Beauty by Sam Mendes. The character Ricky, narrates some footage of a plastic bag and dead leaves swirling around in the wind – and invites us to see the beauty in the banal.

Poets in the Victorian Period (1830s to 1900) were masters at capturing and rejoicing in the Dinglichkeit of things. There is something seriously sensational about being able to tread a fine line between expressing an observation that is Romantic in its sense, but delivered with poise and control.

One Victorian Poet who did this well was John Clare (1793-1864). He was deemed mad by his contemporaries and spent the final twenty years of his life in an asylum.   While we can only speculate about Clare’s troubles, we can appreciate his legacy of works, which demonstrate a talent for showing quiet intensity in observation – particularly in rural settings.

Clare’s poem Signs of Winter, is a fantastic example of finding eloquence in the daily routine:

The cat runs races with her tail. The dog
Leaps o’er the orchard hedge and knarls the grass.
The swine run round and grunt and play with straw,
Snatching out hasty mouthfuls from the stack.
Sudden upon the elmtree tops the crow
Unceremonious visit pays and croaks,
Then swoops away. From mossy barn the owl
Bobs hasty out – wheels round and, scared as soon,
As hastily retires. The ducks grow wild
And from the muddy pond fly up and wheel
A circle round the village and soon, tired,
Plunge in the pond again. The maids in haste
Snatch from the orchard hedge the muzzled clothes
And laughing hurry in to keep them dry.

Keep Clare’s spirit in mind next time you’re elbowing for a seat on the train, or about to lose your cool over a parking space. Stop and observe your surroundings for a moment; you may just stumble upon something wonderful, and wholly unexpected…

Till next time, crack a queer whid!

WordSmith Jo

Lack Inspiration? Try the Graveyard Poet

Next time you have a whinge about there being a lack of good venues to wow your Missus with, spare a thought for our old eighteenth-century British poets, whom often dilly-dallied after dark in the local graveyards for a sense of the romantic.

Enduring indentured labour since they were probably ten years old, bad dental hygiene, and no fresh fruit, I can personally understand the appeal of a refreshing nightwalk around the graves to get one’s creative juices flowing after putting in a 15 hour day at the local textile factory.

Many a nightwalk produced some Western Canon Classics, such as Thomas Parnell’s ‘Night Piece on Death’ (1721), and the very uplifting, Thomas Gray’s ‘Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard’.

If you’re feeling adventurous, pack the pen and paper, with your missus on arm, and jump on a train to Newtown. For every two parking meters there’s one Goth. Tap him on the shoulder and ask him to recommend his ‘top ten tombstones’ and then, go!

Till next time, crack some queer whids!

WordSmith Jo