Back in 2008, the partner introduced me to a song by The Lucksmiths, “The Chapter in Your Life Entitled San Francisco” (click here to listen to the song). This love song is pleasant to listen to and the story is sad in a sweet way. You know the old story: boy loves girl, girl leaves boy, boy misses girl.
I like the lyrics. The first line “Is it April yet?”, bursted out breathlessly by the singer, immediately reminds one of T.S. Eliot’s everlasting condemnation of the month. I particularly like the instances when writing (or lack of substantial writing) is mentioned: “I went a fortnight without so much as an email / Then a postcard scant of detail”. And here: “Or will I never know the meaning / Of the lines you scribbled out / So that I couldn’t read between?” This is showing, not telling. You know the boy is trying to understand the textual remains of the girl. Why? Because she is on his mind. He misses her.
And the most impressive lines are: “Should it one day come to pass / That you sit down to your memoirs”. “Memoirs” is stretched long in angst. I have never thought of rhyming “pass” with “memoirs”. I like clever rhymes (“email” and “detail” (see previous paragraph) are good too), and it is obvious that The Lucksmiths are talented with words and apparently they are also quite serious about rhymes. It was said that they spent about two years thinking of a suitable rhyme for “San Francisco”.
In the end, they chose “go”.
Well, simple is good.
I like having rhyming lines in my poems, but unfortunately I am not very good at doing that. Some publications indicate explicitly that they do not want rhyming poetry. I never fully comprehend this prejudice.
My proudest rhyming moments in poetry, as far as I can remember, must be the following lines from a poem titled “Deceiving the World”, which was first published in Envoi in February 2007: “Words are foolish, they signify nothing. / They sing” (3rd stanza) and “My bare feet feel the centre of your chest. / You know the rest.” (5th stanza). The first stanza (A man, a woman: / Rubric of a romance.) was inspired by Professor Kerr’s analysis of Pygmalion, Shaw’s celebrated play which we were teaching the first-year students at the University of Hong Kong at the time when I composed the poem.
I wish I could come up with something as good as ‘pass’ and ‘memoirs’ in one of my future poems.