The Next Tennyson

Words by Emma Kathryn

I remember being a romantic teenager. I loved the story of Cupid and Psyche. About the lonely girl and the mysterious lover whose face she was not allowed to see. It stirred up so many tender feelings in me. Enid Blyton’s “Tales of Long Ago,” presented a somewhat abridged version of this second century story.

I wanted to be part of that myth. One day I found John Keats’ “Ode to Psyche” in a book on my parents’ bookshelf. Many critics agree that it is not one of Keats’ best poems. But it so beautifully visualized the lovers after all their trials were over. It was what sparked my interest in poetry.

I became a poetry-obsessed teenager. I hugged the whole thing to my heart. In my mind I had a special relationship with Keats, Shelley and others. I thought of poets like pop stars! And modern portrayals of them, especially the way books on them were presented, seemed to encourage that.

I would visualize their lives in Georgian and Victorian England. I was so delighted when Percy Bysshe Shelley, Samuel Johnson and Lord Byron were portrayed on “Blackadder.” Even more so when Michael Hutchence was cast to play Shelley in “Frankenstein Unbound.” I was always flattered to hear current references to my favourite poets. It was like people were flattering me.

Well, I grew up. Life hit me hard. My own poetry- yes, I had always been writing it- became a bit more realistic.

These were the days before the internet. It was very easy to give up on the dream of being a published poet. The experience of having a poem published in a paying magazine seemed to be ring-fenced. The best I had done was the school magazine.

Where were these poets who got their work published? Surely there was more to it than submitting a poem to a magazine. Were there those who had the confidence to go to places where editors hung out, and sweet-talk them, and learn what they really wanted? Poets who were not shy? Was there really such a species? I wanted to think all poets were shy like me. I wanted to think we were all sensitive souls. People who had social problems and were far too nervous to be proactive. Well, maybe not all were quite like that.

I finally forced myself to go to a poetry competition at my local library. The other poets there invited me to come to The Dan with them. The whole poetry scene became a part of my life.

However, when I was at The Dan the other day I was reminded of how I used to think about it. How it all seemed so romantic to me. Hey, the poetry scene is what I’m living now! One of these days one of the Dan poets might be dreadfully romanticized and built up into a legendary figure.

I can’t see anybody at The Dan who seems to have a golden halo around them. Who seems to have a sign over their head saying, “One day I’ll be a huge legend, and people will aspire to be like me.” But then, neither did Shakespeare, I guess. Or Banjo Paterson. Or Wordsworth. If they did, we would have heard about it!

I had a huge laugh thinking one of us might become an awe-inspiring myth. The Dan yielding up the next Tennyson? The next Sappho? The next Plath? We’ll just have to wait and see.

Annie Solah