The Singular Conundrum of High Concept Poems

It’s funny the way things go. Poems, I mean. I often feel that the best poems are created when two or more ideas come together, and this always excites me. And indeed, some of my best loved poems and the ones I love performing the most are these types.
Yet lately I’ve had a trouble with three or four poems which have been perplexing me greatly. And these are conceptual, a conjoining of several themes and ideas. Indeed, part of the problem seems to be that they are purely ‘concept’ poems and as a result they exist more as mathematical experiments, scientific poems with no heart.
Take the one I’ve been working on lately. It’s called Poem’, but it also has the subtitle, ‘I can’t believe you would rather go rock pooling than come with me to the circus’. The moment I started working on this I felt rather proud of it and several verses seemed to write themselves, and at the end of each day I’d relax, happy with my efforts and my intellectual prowess at having created something so wonderful as a poem about a couple arguing over going rock pooling or going to the circus.
And then I put it aside for a while.

And then when I read it again, it felt me cold. I mean, the whole idea of it, the poem seemed too forced.
I think the problem was that it was not speaking from my heart. I have no interest in either circuses or rock pooling, I just liked the idea of these concepts being forced together. I didn’t care about the characters in it. All of the references to rock pooling and circuses seemed forced.
This doesn’t mean that the poem is dead. Far from it, the whole thing is very much alive, even if it currently resembles an old car in a garage, in several bits all over the floor. It’s become like a puzzle which has to be solved, and I’m looking forward to getting underneath its skin!
There are two other poems. They are so old that they’ve been following me around for years. Indeed, one of them gave me the title for my first book. ‘Sofa Phobia’ is a true poem about my own phobia of common sofas, and ‘Moist Robot’ is about a robot which sweats a lot. It seems that every few months I might rewrite one or both of these. The problem, again, is that they seem too high concept.
But I’m plugging away at them.
So for now, here’s another high concept poem which I might come back to. It’s about tortoises.

WAKE UP TORTOISE WAKE UP
Bringing the tortoise out of hibernation.

Wake up tortoise wake up.

Four months of slumber now he’s ready for the summer.

Wake up tortoise wake up.

Enmeshed in hay, time to see if he’s okay

Wake up tortoise wake up.
All winter tiptoeing around the bastard.

Don’t wake the tortoise, that’s what I kept repeating,

Shaking my fist at low flying planes

And castigating anyone who sneezes loudly

That amorous couple upstairs

Whose lovemaking wakes me,

Banging on the walls shouting, Don’t wake the tortoise!

To which she shouts back,

That’s what I’ve been trying to do all night!

And he replies, That’s it, you’ve put me right off, now.

Wake up tortoise wake up.
Your life is a mystery, Mister Tortoise,

You don’t tell me anything about yourself.

All those years I spent

Trying to get you to come out of your shell.

Wake up tortoise wake up.
Your such a good imparter of wisdom.

We hang on your every word.

I’ve never forgotten the lessons that you taught us,

Mr Tortoise,

Or those shopping expeditions,

The things that you bought us,

Mr Tortoise.

Or the fishing trips to the riverbank

The things that you caught us,

Mr Tortoise,

Or the myriad of times we were lost

And you sought us

Mr Tortoise,

Or the times that we fell out

And you fought us,

Mr Tortoise,

Or that lovely iron gate

That you wrought us,

Mr Tortoise.

You look nothing like a porpoise,

Mr Tortoise.

(I’ve run out of rhymes).

Wake up tortoise wake up.
I hope you don’t mind

But my mate Jeff borrowed you

Mid January

And gaffer taped you to his forehead

So he could go to a Star Trek convention

As a Klingon.

He met Uhura.

Wake up tortoise wake up.
You just sleep there,

Don’t worry about me.

You just have yourself a little snooze,

I’ve got figures to crack on with,

And a job and rent to pay

And a boss who’s got a face like a 

Warthog with a slapped arse

And an ex who keeps

Sitting outside my flat

In his Mazda

You just sleep there tortoise tortoise 

Slumbering through Christmas which means

You missed my aunt getting drunk on sherry

For the eighth straight year

And all those repeats

You just sleep there

I’m okay

Because the earth it spins on it’s axis

And the stars align one more time

And the seasons crack on as if fate

Were but a ghost hanging with a finger

Outstretched saying, hey, you,

Your life on this earth is but a fraction of a second,

A minusule nothing in history.

Wake up tortoise wake up.
Wakey wakey

Tortoise tortoise

Reminds me

I must go out some time

And buy a 

Cornish pasty.

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