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Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Sound Bite Artist

I'm top shot at my game. I pen
the sound bites for a man
you've heard of right enough -
one too verbose for words.

From long and convoluted sentences
I strike the fiery chips
that sparkle for eternities
on everybody's lips.

I can reduce a dissertation
to a syllable or two,
wrap up a constipated message
in a word that hits home true.

My master's speeches you'll forget
before you've finished clapping
but mine go on -
some say too long -
and never lose their grip.

Give me a closely argued script
and some syllables to fill,
I'll give you back a winning phrase
to move in for the kill.

When my haiku hit the campaign trails
I'm the Kikaku* of Tooting,
I'm the Manifesto Masefield of my day,
The Ezra Pound of policy,
a Spenserian of speeches
and a Browning who will storm a budget day.

I write villanelles on voting
and tetrameters to trumpet
every turning of the tortuous
political, backstabbing working day.
..........................................
*A protege of Basho.
..........................................

Like my poem of a couple of days ago, I've based this on a person known to me, though on this occasion, only briefly. I met him at a conference and during a lunch time chat he confided that he had worked for a time as a writer of sound bites. He seemed to consider that his "bites" were politically more important than "the big man's" speeches. Maybe he was right. I have for long toyed with the idea of writing about him, but there was a problem: Carol Ann Duffy has a poem I much admire about the man who writes the headlines for a newspaper. The similarity is unmissable, I thought I would not be able to avoid stealing from her. Nor - I think - have I. For those who might be interested, "Poet for our Times" can be read here. I don't mind you reading it now, but I sure wasn't going to follow it!

12 comments:

The Elephant's Child said...

I did indeed think of political scriptwriters. Unseen, but heard. Sometimes too often.
The link reminded me of the story I was taught at university was the dullest ever to be printed. 'Small earthquake in Chile. Not many dead.'

jabblog said...

You answered the question I was pondering - the sound bite people really do think their words more important!!
Thank you for linking to Carol Ann Duffy:-)

David Cranmer said...

"... wrap up a constipated message." Loved that line, Dave. And the whole piece.

Mary said...

I wouldn't doubt that often the 'soundbytes' are remembered longer than so much of what is said BY any given politician!

Kat Mortensen said...

I should think coming from "Tooting" would considerably diminish the ability to take the fellow seriously, but then, I am an outsider.

Ygraine said...

I find the 'bites' always outlive the 'big speech' in the memory of an observer like me - but maybe that's because I tend to become bored too easily by unnessary words!!

Tommaso Gervasutti said...

Sheer delight reading this Dave. The title matches perfectly the poem with its sparkling boldness, aggressiveness and determination.

Windsmoke. said...

Most enjoyable indeed :-).

Brian Miller said...

ha what an interesting job...thinking of the words that people will remember...nice write yourself man

Hannah Stephenson said...

Being concise and precise is indeed a talent (the ability to reduce a dissertation to syllables--how refreshing!).

JeannetteLS said...

Enjoyed both poems, both for their own words and for what they say...

It DOES make me think of people who must write speeches for Presidents and Kings... pithy somethings to take away from EVERY occasion. Not a job I would ever want, which is just as well because I would stink at it!

I, too, am most drawn to the couplet with "wrap up a constipated message."

Dave King said...

The Elephant's Child
I saw (quoted) once: "Seven bodies rescued."

jabblog
I rather think his sound bite writing was not his main function, but I'm sure he thought it was!

David
Thanks. Good to know these things.

Mary
Yes, I'm sure that's true.

Kat
Well, I came from the next Borough, and I'm sure you are right!

Ygraine
I'm sure that's why they've become so popular with (necessary for?) politicians. Very few speeches are fodder for the mind these days, i find.

Tommaso
Thank you so much. this is very reassuring to hear.

Windsmoke
Thanks. Much appreciated.

Brian
Yup, I would probably have enjoyed a job like that - why didn't I think of it early enough? )Well, I didn't think of it at all. You did!)

Hannah
Yes, I'd love to be able to do that! (I still recall the horror of precis writing at school, though!) Do you know, I think I might be going off the idea...

Jeanette
Thanks for this. I was happy there for a moment, but I'm more realistic again, now.