Friday, 19 February 2016

They Matter to Me - Oscar Wilde

Oscar Wilde (1854 -1900)

It is a peculiar thing being an Oscar Wilde lover and, as such, I’ve felt a strange sort of pressure in getting this post right (truth be told this is my 4th draft). I think other Wilde fans will appreciate my plight with this quick summary of my thoughts;
Oscar Wilde isn’t an author/playwright/poet/wit whose books/plays/poems/quotes I pick from my bookshelves in order to have a jolly good read. He is more than this. He is a friend, someone that I know, someone that has shared their turmoil (De Profundis) and joviality (The Importance of Being Earnest) with me and listened attentively to my own.
Usually, when a person loves something, like an author, they glean great joy in introducing new people to their work and delve into passionate discussions about it. This doesn’t happen with Oscar Wilde! I will introduce people to his work and hope that they enjoy it but only on the (in my mind only) proviso that they acknowledge their enjoyment is of a much shallower sort than mine. How could they possibly understand Oscar Wilde like I do – after all he belongs to me, not them. They can laugh at his one-liners, be moved by his poetry, even pity the unravelling of his life – but they can’t have him. After all they aren’t ‘real’ fans. Not like me!

With that out of the way lets see why Oscar Wilde matters to me.
I’ve read it countless times that he was born in the wrong century. It is assumed wisdom that he would have thrived in the 21st Century with our liberal values and more civilised outlook. I’m not sure this is accurate. You see, if he lived now then he wouldn’t have lived then, and it’s the effect that he had upon the Victorian world that has helped shape us into what we are today.

Oh how those Victorians didn’t know what they had!

How can one person write with such elegance and beauty as Wilde? In fact the writing is so brilliant that to quote Wilde is seen by all as not only erudite but as providing an unchallengeable truth. How often have we all ended a debate with Oscar Wilde says……
The inference being that if your opponent disagrees then clearly they are idiots because you can’t go against his genius.

I never saw a man who looked
With such a wistful eye
Upon that little tent of blue
Which prisoners call the sky,
And at every differing cloud that went
With silver sails by.

This stanza illustrates the ease with which Wilde can project you to a place by a flick of his pen. Who amongst us could do justice to the melancholic view that a prisoner holds, and so romantically. 
If you ever want to read a perfect love letter then look no further than the first couple of chapters of The Picture of Dorain Gray. Basil Hallward’s love for Dorian Gray is often over looked and very rarely surpassed in literature. The tragic echoes of Wilde’s own love for Lord Alfred Douglas (Bosie) seem too obvious to discuss. Or try not to view the world differently after reading The Happy Prince – Wilde’s flamboyance contrasted in the moral deficit of material wealth here.

He is often seen as the epitome of hedonism and class yet he wrote ‘The Soul of Man Under Socialism’ where he wishes to ‘reconstruct society on such a basis that poverty will be impossible.’ People believe that he is arrogant and self-assured yet he sees his own flaws and addictions in De Profundis and is humble enough to try and exorcise them.  Complex and irresistible as he is.

Oscar Wilde matters to me because he is mine. He changed the world but more importantly he continues to change me.

Thursday, 11 February 2016


Sometimes it’s enough knowing that it’s difficult.
Sometimes it’s not enough to cry
Sometimes it’s  easy to go along
Sometimes it’s hard to ask why

Sometimes I forget to tell you
Sometimes I know I don’t know
Sometimes I open the gates
Sometimes I don’t think I can show

Sometimes I’m scared of the darkness
Sometimes I’m glad that it’s there
Sometimes I’m two steps behind you
Sometimes I’m honest and bare

Sometimes I’ll say that I love you
Sometimes I’ll whisper it low
Sometimes I'll hold you forever
Sometimes I'll never let go

Friday, 5 February 2016

They Matter to Me - Edgar Allan Poe

Edgar Allan Poe (1809 – 1849)

I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with Edgar Allan Poe.
Let me explain…
Fact: Poe is the master of rhythm and rhyme. His writing cuts through the perceived difficulties associated with poetry by grabbing the reader and giving them no option but to read exactly how he intended. This doesn’t happen with a lot of poets’ work. After reading a poem from Poe you feel like you have just been his puppet for the duration of the piece.
I love this. It makes him, all at once, a great introduction to poetry for anyone struggling with the genre and also a master of the demons of the mind.
I hate this. Because every time I read his work it makes me want to rip mine up – I have a very acute (and justifiable) inferiority complex with Poe.

Obviously when my Mum reads this she will tell me that my poems are better than his ever were and I’m her special little writer.  Usually I’m happy to believe this from my Mum – but regretfully not when it comes to Poe.

Let’s have a look at the start of his greatest work.

The Raven

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore -
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of someone gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door. 
"'Tis some visitor," I muttered, "tapping at my chamber door - 
Only this and nothing more."

See what I mean about rhythm and rhyme? It’s astounding isn’t it?

Imagine having the talent to write like that. His work seems natural and not to have any of the forced rhymes that creep into the poetry of us mere mortals.

Over the last 150 years he has become a beacon of damaged genius. Tragedy followed him throughout his life and he died far too young. The mystery surrounding his death has only served to enhance his reputation and provide an eerie context to his most tormented lines.

Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before;

God, that’s a great line! I never get tired of reading it.

It not just his poetry that is incredible either – without his character Auguste Dupin we would never have had Sherlock Holmes.

There is a common misconception that great writers can only be interesting on the page and not in their real life. Edgar Allan Poe disproves this as he lived many of the nightmares that he left us in print. I for one, will never get tired having a glimpse of the tortured mind that was able to fight through the darkness to stain his notebook with works like ‘The Raven’

Edgar Allan Poe matters to me because heroes should be out of reach.

I hope he matters to you (please feel free just to enjoy him and not have him damage your confidence though)