Recently, my father sent me a volume of Stephen Spender’s poetry. I’m a huge fan of Spender as I wrote before here http://rgdinmalaysia.xanga.com/689505456/some-thoughts-on-stephen-spenders-poetry/
This particular collection has a poem in it I’d not read before entitled THE FURIES. It is a lengthy poem, five pages in total, and deals with an upper class mother‘s attempts to shield her son from the world and the son’s eventual death in combat during a war.
Lengthy poems are tricky. The longest one I’ve ever written is a page and a half. It is only my opinion but I consider part of the challenge of writing poetry to be brevity. Keeping it brief is a consideration of the form.
But that’s not to say there aren’t good long poems. I like a lot of TS Eliot’s longer poems and back to THE FURIES....Spender has divided the verse into three parts. He is telling a story so this is a function of relating narrative. The length helps create the dichotomy between the safe world of the mother’s estate with its details of canned hunting trips and a safe but dull bride for the son and the last section wherein the boy goes out to serve his country away from a situation his mother can control and gets killed.
The last image is of the corpse of the son on the battlefield his eyes “at last wide open”. That’s a striking final image....Death showing someone what life really is but does the poem need to be this long?
Well it’s a good poem but probably not. The verbiage does not get in the way but there probably could be less of it. I understand why there is so much though because I do it myself – The pile-on effect of adding more and more details is fun and addictive for both the reader and the poet.