The origin of this poem—or at least one of the origins—came from a remark John Armstrong made on his blog about honesty and poetry.
Regular readers will know that the Bebrowed editorial board has little time for dishonest or overly mannered verse, in fact we tend to condemn dishonesty as the gravest possible sin which frequently gets in the way of otherwise accomplished work.
Now, honesty in poetry must be different than the honesty you might expect (or not expect) from the process, say, of buying a used car. For on the one hand, there is not the same type of ‘reality testing’. If that duplicitous salesman tells me that the transmission was just replaced—and it wasn’t—we can easily accuse him of lying. If I start off my poem, ‘My dog, Raoul, died when I was eight,’ it doesn’t really matter if my dog did die, or if he was called Raoul. On the other hand, given the overflow of consciousness that goes into a poem, honesty in poetry seems a very complex thing. Is it more like lying to yourself? A deep lie about yourself? An even deeper lie that your self can’t bear to know?
‘Theatrum Mendacia’ is my attempt at a dishonest poem…
Or at least it was until is wrote this.