What was this poem? March 6, 2018 5:46 PM   Subscribe

Within the last week or so, there was a link (I think in a comment) to a poem about how sometimes things actually do turn out okay. The author had written it in haste and was displeased with it and with the fact that it had become so well known. What was it?
posted by HotToddy to MetaFilter-Related at 5:46 PM (14 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

Never mind!
posted by HotToddy at 5:49 PM on March 6 [7 favorites]


I had not seen that before, and it is wonderful.
posted by The World Famous at 6:39 PM on March 6


I think so too, but it's depressing to read that it's mostly misinterpreted as being cheerfully optimistic, when what she meant is that things mostly do go wrong (which is how I read it, and why I like it). I don't blame her for being disgusted.
posted by HotToddy at 6:53 PM on March 6 [3 favorites]


Sometimes people interpret a poem as the poet intended, I guess.
posted by The World Famous at 7:00 PM on March 6 [3 favorites]


what she meant is that things mostly do go wrong

That's just her interpretation.
posted by Miko at 8:15 PM on March 6 [3 favorites]


Although the fact that it’s usually misinterpreted vindicates what it’s saying, so there’s that.
posted by Segundus at 1:05 AM on March 7 [3 favorites]


Sheenagh Pugh, the poet who wrote “Sometimes”, explained her misgivings with the poem here (Web Archive link). I think if her objections were summarized in a sentence they would be that her poem about a specific person in specific circumstances has been universalized to the point that people change the words of the poem to fit this wider interpretation while still attributing the changed version to her. That seems like a reasonable thing for a writer to be irritated by.
posted by Kattullus at 2:23 AM on March 7 [1 favorite]


I accept that an artist will sometimes (ha) tire of their old work, but this part of Pugh's page about the poem struck me:

I wrote it back in the eighties and it appeared in my Selected Poems...

This wasn't a private poem that found its way out to the wider world despite her best efforts: it was included (presumably she included it) in her own anthology.

Maybe the younger you wasn't the poet that you are now, or want to be, but in that case attempting to suppress your younger work seems akin to suppressing the work of another person, which doesn't sit well.

Still, she stops short of disowning it completely, and leaves the door open for reproduction in certain circumstances, including for "a charity I felt very strongly about". And I completely sympathize with her irritation over people modifying key words and ruining the scansion.
posted by rory at 3:48 AM on March 7 [4 favorites]


As a fairly (and justifiably) pessimistic person, this is the only flavor of optimism I can stomach. Moreover, it’s kind. When things are incomprehensibly, relentlessly bad, other people’s determined optimism can feel indistinguishable from willful indifference. It’s such a kindness to acknowledge that you don’t know that everything’s going to be fine, that there’s a very good chance it won’t be, only an outside chance that it will, and you’re pulling for that outcome, but will be by the person’s side regardless.
posted by HotToddy at 8:19 AM on March 7 [3 favorites]


It’s a bit like Housman, who said that although people called him a pessimist, he didn’t feel he was. Pessimists believed everything always turned out for the worst; he just thought things had a strong tendency to turn out for the worst.
posted by Segundus at 9:11 AM on March 7 [3 favorites]


Thanks for this question, which led me to another poem by Sheenagh Pugh, What If This Road.
posted by paduasoy at 3:30 PM on March 7 [2 favorites]


I think if her objections were summarized in a sentence they would be that her poem about a specific person in specific circumstances has been universalized to the point that people change the words of the poem to fit this wider interpretation while still attributing the changed version to her.

Wait till she hears what William Carlos Williams has had to deal with.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:17 PM on March 8 [8 favorites]


This Is Just To Say

I have misread
the poems
that were in
your anthology

and which
you had probably
written
for someone

Forgive me
they were ambiguous
so terse
and so cold
posted by eotvos at 11:31 AM on March 9 [10 favorites]


Hey thanks for bringing my attention to this poem. I am pretty much pathologically pessimistic, and this has helped me lift my head a little. I've been carrying it around with me for the last few days.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 7:19 PM on March 9 [3 favorites]


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