I’ve been thinking, that if I visit the Nayland Rock Shelter overlooking Margate Sands at the right time in the autumn of 2021 – exactly 100 years on from when Thomas Stearns Eliot went there to write his masterpiece, The Waste Land, the greatest poem of the 20th Century – then, if I sit there long enough with my laptop, maybe I’ll end up writing the greatest poem of the 21st Century.
Things in my favour:
- My first name is Thomas.
- I once worked for Lloyds Bank.
- I write poetry.
Things that might go against me:
- My surname isn’t Eliot, it’s McColl.
- Working for Lloyds Bank is, in itself, no indicator of literary talent.
- History doesn’t tend to repeat itself.
In fact, what if, this time round, the inverse happens, and I end up writing the worst poem of the 21st Century? In the current climate, it’s highly likely. Let’s face it – Thomas Sterns Eliot had advances in psychoanalysis to help him get in the right frame of mind…
…whereas all I have is advances in social media. Who knows? Maybe, by 2021, I’ll have no choice but to fit my opus into four lines on Instagram. But then, when I do, my simple, artless platitude will inexplicably receive a million likes, and then, released as part of a book, will inexplicably sell a million copies, and my poem will be so bad that everyone will definitely remember it much more than whatever the best poem of the 21st Century will actually be – written, perhaps, by someone who, like Eliot, may be going through difficult times, and talented enough to harness adversity, will, out of that, create a brilliant, epic poem, but, unfortunately, there’ll no longer be anyone with the attention span to read it, let alone publish it, and he or she, in despair, will delete it and give up writing altogether…
…whereas I’ll go on to publish book after book, and William McGonagall will turn in his grave at no longer being the worst poet in the English language, usurped by Thomas McColl…
…now famous for having written the worst poem of the 21st Century, or indeed any century, but that’s the thing – writing the worst ever poem is no barrier anymore to immense success.
Thomas Sterns Eliot may well have been the best, but there’s no room for that now. Now, it has to be four lines or less, and totally trite:
been and gone.
bring it on.
Thomas McColl lives in London. He’s had poems and stories published in magazines such as Envoi, Iota, Fictive Dream, Smoke: A London Peculiar and Ink, Sweat and Tears, and his first full collection of flash fiction and poetry, Being With Me Will Help You Learn, is out now with Listen Softly London Press.