‘I’m a hoor for a villanelle. I like a good joke. Poetry criticism often doesn’t’

Limericks for Broadsheet.ie were John Moynes’ gateway drug to a serious poetry habit

John Moynes: “Limericks are fun, but only in small doses. If I read them for 20 minutes I’d end up on trial in the Hague.”

John Moynes: “Limericks are fun, but only in small doses. If I read them for 20 minutes I’d end up on trial in the Hague.”

 

After 15 years as a comedy writer I became a poet in order to earn less money. It worked. I’d dabbled with poetry before, a few tedious undergraduate attempts to impress other undergraduates. But I’d set that squat pen down long ago and I thought those days were behind me. And then I got called back for one last job.

The editor of broadsheet.ie asked me if I could write satirical limericks about daily news and I walked straight into it. Limericks, I told myself, are not poetry. They may rhyme and have a metre but they’re not real poems. I won’t get addicted. And I didn’t at first.

But then someone said they liked the limericks and asked if I’d like to perform at a poetry reading. Now I’ve never said no to a stage, but I realised I had a problem. Limericks are fun, but only in small doses. If I read them for 20 minutes I’d end up on trial in the Hague. So I wrote a few longer pieces and some of them worked. And I liked it.

Dublin helped. When I got back into writing verse there were slam poetry nights appearing everywhere. And they had an audience. I never thought I’d see a couple of hundred young people choosing to spend their Friday night listening to poets but I’m proud to have seen it.

Another surprise was discovering how old-fashioned I am. I like rhyme, I like structures and I like rules. I love a good sonnet. I’m a hoor for a villanelle. Some of these things have fallen out of fashion in the poetry world, just as poetry has been falling out of fashion in the actual world.

I also still like a good joke. Poetry criticism often doesn’t. Brilliant poets like Wendy Cope have sometimes been dismissed because they sometimes make the reader laugh. What wonderful logic. We all know Dickens would have been a great writer if it wasn’t for the gags.

Eventually, inevitably, I got talking to a guy in a pub who turned out to be a publisher. Eventually, inevitably that conversation turned into a book. And now I’m proud and relieved to say that we’ll be launching Scenes of Moderate Violence on May 15th in the Pearse Centre at 6pm. Please join us if you’re in the area.

Imposters
I once gave myself to Failure
To her kiss, her skin, her hair,
And I always will love Failure
I’m just having an affair.

You know that sometimes fools like me
Let lust disolve our continence
But never fear a fool like me
Just trust in my incompetence.

For sometimes in my line of work
The best laid plans blow up
I did my normal kind of work
And saw Success show up.

So just for now I love her
This sexy, sacred cow
But I will not always love her
Or forget my sacred vow.

That I gave myself to Failure
To her kiss, her skin, her hair,
That I always will love Failure
I’m just having an affair.

The Waste Years
A century since Kipling wrote
Epitaphs: Common Form.
A century since we mattered.
A hundred years of dancing
After Eliot, into the Wasteland.
A hundred years of wanking.
We had an audience once
We have professors now.
But we had an audience once.
You’ve studied the classics?
Well done. I’ve not. I won’t write poems
For people who’ve studied the classics.
We had a crowd once
Now people are paid to understand us.
We have whores now.
Don’t question why our market died
It was murder, and worse, suicide.
And no one fought and no one tried.

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