Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Human League: Music and Poetry

Yesterday, on a whim and in a rush of fond nostalgia, I bought another copy of a lost CD of The Human League's Greatest Hits. Listening to the tracks this afternoon, such as 'Being Boiled' above, from 1982, I could feel myself slipping almost instantly back into "Jane in the early 80s" mode:

Ra-ra skirts
Drainpipe jeans
Adam Ant make-up
Industrial-strength hair gel

There's a pleasure to these moments of nostalgia but a curious frustration too, as I realise how poorly such acts of reminiscence translate to reading poetry. It's true that, more often than not, I can remember where I first read a poem, and even how it impacted on me, but I don't experience the same mildly Proustian being-steeped-in-the-past sensation, as though for a few seconds I was actually there again, back in that time.

Presumably the rhythms of this music, hot-wired into my head as a teenager, perhaps by being listened to at moments of intense adolescent emotion, perform that instant miracle of nostalgia?

If so, surely the rhythms of a poem should approximate to the same effect? Yet they don't seem to, not for me anyway. Why not?

Basically, is it rhythm, or is it the compulsive repetition of particular pop songs, and their accompanying riot of emotions - god, X is never going to look twice at me! what a fool I made of myself! - that forces them in so deep?

And how can we replicate that effect with poetry - if at all?


Bo said...

takes me back to what I was wearing in the early 80's too - nappies ;)

Jane Holland said...

Drat you, horrid boy! (Rushes off to count her wrinkles ...)