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The Greatest Poets Who Never Were... or Are Still Yet to Be

What would they rhyme or say if internal demons could sing or lost angels lament?

Howard Hughes (1905-1976) Credit: Alamy

Lately, I have been thinking about poetry—a lot. Being a published poet and blogger myself (all thanks to the Cove) will do that to you, however, more recently my focus has been primarily on what poetry has the potential of becoming in the present and the future, and not much else.

With the rise of celebrity poetry and poetry 'rockstars' that take the form of monetising micro and 'instapoets' (see Rupi Kaur), one cannot help but consider that perhaps the writer's diaristic voice accounts for much of mainstream culture's fascination with poetry, or more so, their fascination of the poet.

So with this fascination leads to my unwavering curiosity about all the great art and poetry that has never come to fruition because the voices that could have told these stories are either lost or hiding. But we can jump down the rabbit hole and make do like Doris Day and dream a little dream of what could have been or could be (see? Anyone can write poetry!)

Article Guide:

The Shakespearean Tragic: Howard Hughes

Howard Hughes with Bette Davis. Credit: Getty Images

Upon learning of his alleged eccentricities and bouts of strange behaviours throughout his life, the turbulent existence and death of American business magnate, pilot, and film producer Howard Hughes have never ceased to intrigue me, so much so that I wrote a poem loosely inspired by the tragic figure.

But to read any literature birthed from Hughes' troubled mind would be jumping right into the mind of madness, or perhaps deep into the psyche of a tenacious industrial victor.

If one were to speculate the kind of poetry Hughes would write, one must first grasp the psyche of a dreamer, and bare the burdens of the unbridled benefits of the Impossible Dream or in this case, the American Dream.

In other words, think of our world's version of the ambitious Daenerys Targaryen and fractured Anakin Skywalker with their downfalls, coupled with the inconsistent genius and inanity of Elon Musk. Poetry from such a mind would be reminiscent of any epic tragedy or a cautionary tale told by others who, like Hughes, were masters in their field, such as Shakespeare or Jonson.

Hughes was perceived to be a melancholic and volatile man, so there is little doubt any creative energy exerted by him would be intertwined with cynicism, and nihilism, and would likely be deeply incoherent in structure and expression considering his mental health.

Having said that, his manifestos and ramblings would also be raw, abstract, and wondrous in the Blakean sense, lecturing to readers why there should be no rules nor limits as to how one should live their own life, and encouraging them to constantly ask themselves, 'but what if?'- never settling for comfort, or anything bland and predictable, or even logical.

A Plathian Mind: Diana, Princess of Wales

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To call Diana, the Princess of Wales a martyr among sharks is to claim white is the antithesis of black. There would be few people out there who can capture the hearts of readers, academics, and nations alike not only with the strength and dignity of their characters but with their art.

Diana would have been a shining light and a driving force behind a literary revolution with an abundance of personal trials and tribulations to divulge, as well as her expressions of love towards those she cares for deeply.

Though these aspects of her life troubled her greatly, Diana was also overwhelmingly in love and servitude to these things; I can imagine her writing epic and gentle praises for loved ones she would sacrifice everything for, and just as passionately, woefully expressing her pain, solitude, and loneliness, with distinct hints of anger, angst and ultimately, philosophical revelation.

She would have been Sylvia Plath in a tiara, tactfully experimenting with rhyme and alliteration, and providing some dazzling imagery to accompany the two.

Additionally, she would have been one of the first of the post-modern era to meld poetry with social justice, at least when it comes to causes she devoted much of her time championing, such as calling out for an international ban on landmines and breaking the negative stigma attached to AIDS patients.

Diana's poetry would be surprising, evoking, revealing, and perhaps confronting and controversial for those unnerved by her activism and unapologetic honesty.

The Ultimate Eccentric: Dennis Rodman

Image found on Bleacher Report, credited by Mark Lennihan from Associated Press

Yes, you read that correctly. Rodman- along with Patti Smith and Stephen Fry- is a valued member of my '3 Dinner Guest club' (i.e. that exercise where you choose 3 individuals you would love to have over for dinner). According to the official NBA website, Rodman is considered to be "arguably the best rebounding forward in NBA history" (I don't know what that means).

Being a former professional basketball player isn't necessarily a requisite for commencing a life in poetry, but as we all know, what Rodman gets up to off the court (like, you know, hanging out with Kim Jong-un and marrying himself... yes) means him becoming a poet one day may be more of a possibility than the main plot of someone's wild fever dream.

Somewhat like Hughes, Rodman is an eccentric who would be the kind of writer who would enjoy shocking or humouring readers in the style of Spike Milligan or Bo Burnham in his heyday. However, also being a man of mystery and intrigue, his poetry could also be multi-layered, enlightening, and a bit unpredictable, amplifying some of his deeper philosophies and outlooks on life.

He also earned the nickname "the Worm" from his mother for being restless, so I would bet serious money that he would write a poem or release a book titled "Worm". I think this and releasing his poetry would be fitting for someone as unruly as the colourful man himself, and I mean literally.

A Poe-Carroll Love Child: Helena Bonham Carter

Credit: Elena Rendina

If Edgar Allan Poe teased his hair, killed Harry Potter's godfather, and kissed Lyndon B Johnson at a lavish dinner party while attempting to bail the United Kingdom out of debt, you'd get something close to what Helena Bonham Carter would be if she ever decides to get behind the pen and pad and create some macabre magic of her own.

Already with a penchant for reading and discussing poetry on various corners of the internet, Bonham Carter's whimsically endearing persona would likely be reflected in her literature, perhaps even drawing inspiration from some of the literary greats she admires.

Stylistically, Bonham Carter has been heavily influenced by Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, and is a self-proclaimed "wannabe Alice" which compliments her collaborations with fellow eccentrics such as Tim Burton and Johnny Depp. Hence, she would likely be an artist who would have some difficulty separating her interests from her art- which is a good thing because it is one of her most notable strengths and quirks.

I would expect some of her poetry to be a little nonsensical, a little playful, daring, and full of vivid and striking imagery that mirrors the visuals of her fictional characters. And of course- rhymes, alliteration, and neologisms galore.

Having said that, it is safe to assume Bonham Carter would also uphold some aspects of traditional poetry in her writings, providing in-depth and warranted insight into parts of life and existence that are equally as wholesome and beautiful as they are robustly dark.

Much like the characters she embodies on-screen, expressed with a strong, feminine voice. Bonham Carter may be one of the few artists I can think of who would juxtapose her mature poems against those that unveil her wild and unbound imagination.

Already a Literary Master: Stephen Fry

Credit: Getty Images, Neil Mockford/GC Images

If there was ever a person more impassioned by literature and appreciative of the complex and meticulous art form that is poetry than Mr. Fry, that person would be the very embodiment of literature itself (so, an actual book).

The British comedian, actor, writer, presenter, and history enthusiast appears to have an insatiable penchant for not only harvesting ample knowledge on several diverse topics, but dispersing that knowledge to the wider public in the forms of books.

The Ode Less Travelled: Unlocking the Poet Within, Fry's comprehensive guide to writing poetry, or as Wikipedia definitively states: 'covers metre, rhyme, many common and arcane poetic forms, and offers poetry exercises, contrasting modern and classic poets.' So no one can say Fry hesitates to push boundaries and does not tread where others are afraid to go, intellectually.

Fry is an eclectic artist who dabbles in a bit of everything. He is in pursuit to be moved emotively and linguistically impressed. He states in his book that "...poetry today suffers from anemia. There is no iron in its blood, no energy, no drive."

Hence, if he were to write poetry, it wouldn't fall short of being technical, evoking, and metaphorically rich. Like Bonham Carter, I believe his poetry would embody many classical elements and would execute rhyme, metre and style to a 'T.'

Fry would also not shy away from experimenting with various types of poetry, producing an array of poems that rhyme, or take the forms of odes, ballads, comic verses, maybe a haiku or two, and some sonnets.

Much like the man himself, one could also expect to learn something valuable from his work- whether it be an obscure fact about the siege of Troy or a recollection of what it is like to be Stephen Fry looking out to a world he is so committed to comprehending.

Reading his poetry would be akin to sipping on a cup of hot coffee by a window sill as it rains outside... although I'm certain Mr. Fry could write up a better, less cliche equivalent with more 'drive'.

Some Concluding Thoughts...

I have wondered, more than once, as to what the true motivation of this article was as I wrote it. Perhaps it stems from some skepticism I feel towards the future of poetry, and what may and is being neglected for not being on trend or capable of holding one's attention span for more than two stanzas.

Considering the personal life and mind of a poet have proven to be an efficient motivator for one to read poetry, this may also be an indication not that a poet needs to be famous, tortured, or notorious to be appreciated, but that there is great power in individual stories, and that every poet deserves to be heard, even if their poems run for more than four lines...

If the literary greats mentioned here taught us anything, they deserve to be heard especially if their poems run for longer than four lines.


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