Poetry Parnassus

Part of the Olympic Games festivities in London began today, with the first day of a week-long “Poetry Parnassus”–a gathering of some 204 poets, one from each country entering the games. Take a look here, at an interactive map of poems. I have sampled a dozen or so, and have come to a very familiar conclusion:

Poetry no longer rhymes.

I love the Olympic Games. I have followed them since I can remember–the first I really remember were the 1968 Mexico City games. Memory being what it is, I don’t know how much I really remember, and how much is confabulated from later information–I do remember one gas station (Marathon) was giving away olympics placemats and mugs–but I was well aware, and following, and was excited about Beamon’s long jump, although I probably couldn’t have told you *why*. 1972 was far more memorable, of course, sadly not just for Mark Spitz and Olga Korbut (and the gold medal basketball game!), but for terrorism.

I ran at the Olympic Stadium. Not “an” Olympic stadium, but the stadium at Olympia.

I did not win.

Had I heard of the Poetry Parnassus in time, I’d have entered, and I would not have won. Poetry no longer rhymes.

(actually, I have not checked all 204 poems; if you find one that rhymes, let me know and I shall eat my hat.)

One of these years, I am going to make it to the games. Meanwhile, I am happy that the technology is improving, and I will get to see more of them in real time.


  1. Trebuchet says

    I’ve disliked poetry ever since they made me read it in High School. And that was long enough ago that most of it even rhymed. (Although rhyming “good” with “food” always drove me up the wall.)

    What I like, I guess, is doggerel. Which is why I like your poetry. I see it as doggerel, and that’s a good thing!

  2. davem says

    Some of them might rhyme – in their original language. It’s rather difficult to translate a poem from, say Malagasy, to English, and expect it still to rhyme afterwards…

  3. embertine says

    Oh Cuttle, I knew even before I clicked behind the cut what you were going to say. *sigh*

    I worked down on the Olympics and have a variety of mental health problems as a result, so my poem on the Olympics may be slightly different from the others:

    You spent twelve billion pounds although you said it would be five.
    You had to bribe Thames Water just to keep the trees alive.
    You chose contractors in advance to further your own ends –
    I find it odd the contracts only went to all your friends.

    I wish that you had told us that the access would be poor,
    Or that every foreign truck driver would get stopped at the door.
    We should have known the paperwork requirements would be shitty
    And that every small decision would be worked out by committee.

    The general population of East London are excluded;
    You’ve sold the Village to emirs who earned the same as you did.
    Your Health & Safety record’s not as spotless as you thought:
    Your managers just edit to ensure they’re never caught.

    All those Olympic tourists who will turn up for the day:
    They need a transport system and they need a place to stay.
    Our overloaded services, already fit to bust,
    Will somehow have to cope because you have decreed they must.

    And when the Games are over and the visitors have gone,
    And the country’s disappointed in the medals we have won,
    Will we think that it was worth the raft of money you have spent?
    When we’re cleaning up the litter blowing everywhere they went?

    “It’s a boost to the economy,” you pompously proclaim,
    But after it’s all over the economy’s the same.
    Apart from those twelve billion pounds we don’t have anymore,
    That we could have spent on healthcare, which we surely needed more.

    I know I’m being churlish; I should have more civic pride,
    But I’ve worked on the Olympics and I’ve seen it from inside.
    And the set-up is a shambles, so go ahead and scoff:
    You all enjoy the spectacle; I’m taking August off.

  4. Hairy Chris, blah blah blah etc says

    Hope that things work out, embertine. :-(

    As a London resident with a lot of Bow/Stratford/etc based friends I know exactly where you’re coming from. Complete disaster. I mean, a cable-car from Newham to North Greenwich? What the hell is all that about?

  5. Cuttlefish says

    Embertine, that is beautiful–might I beg your permission to post it as a separate piece? Do you have a title for it?

  6. embertine says

    Chris, I do feel sorry for some of the local residents! On the other hand, the high speed rail link to Kent is the cat’s pajamas. I used to take it from St Pancras every Monday and it’s the soothingest, smoothingest train EVAR.

    Cuttlefish, I’m not sure I should have written it in the first place, as I can’t prove some of the, er, more contentious parts, although I know them to be true! I am very glad you liked it though.

    I think it should be: “The general population of East London is excluded” though.

  7. says

    Thefirst poem I clicked on was from the USA, by a certain Ryan, Kay.

    I agree that the verse is not a strict as what you produce, but there seemed to be too many rhymes, roughly evenly spaced, for it to be coincidence.

    “goes” “belows”
    “nature” “structure”
    “egg” “act” “leg” “back” exact”
    “sinuous” “serious”

  8. Cuttlefish says

    One Brow, my verse is not so much “strict” as “obsessive-compulsive”. Now that you point it out, I see it too–but had not really before. After all, once you relax your rhyming rules that much, the next thing you know you’ll be endorsing mixed-foot pentameter!

  9. Funny Diva says

    Cuttlefish @9
    Well, if it was good enough for that Shakespeare chappie…(or whoever it was who published under the name).

  10. Cuttlefish says

    And that, Funny Diva, is the difference between a poet and an obsessive doggerelist!

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