Most of my favourite poetry is dangerous. It breaks the rules and takes risks. By that, I don't mean that it necessarily undermines metrics or flouts grammar. Instead, I'm referring to a great poet's ability to pull off something that shouldn't work at all.
One such example is Tom Duddy's poem "The Café". It comes from his indispensable first full collection, The Hiding Place (Arlen House, 2011), which inhabits my desk alongside his posthumous book, The Years (HappenStance Press, 2014). Duddy achieves delicious simplicity in "The Café", convincing the reader that his words couldn't have been written in any other way. Here's an extract:
"...Though I always ask for one
coffee - regular, black - she
never presumes to guess.
And so each day is a new day.
Which is as it should be.
There is an understanding
that there is no understanding..."
Count those four uses of "is" in eight lines, alongside the seemingly mundane repetition of "day" and "understanding".Yet the poem undoubtedly works. How? Forget logical analysis or explanation, this is verse that's been lifted from the ordinary by Duddy's magisterial touch.
The prizes tend to go to books about grief, or dystopias. Or oppression. Or sexual abuse, or any kind of sexual dysfunction. ‘Light verse’ – about as disp...