A Prayer For The Existential Atheist

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A Prayer For The Existential Atheist

Post by coffeedodger » Thu Oct 21, 2010 1:43 am

A Prayer For The Existential Atheist

Death is nothing at all.
No second life, no ethereal bliss
no strange reunion with those we miss.
No chance meeting with the flighty ex-wife,
or the nasty neighbour who burst your ball.

I really won't mind the deathly dust,
just to be free of all taxes and bills
and the sparrow shit stuck to my window sills.
No time to care about what I've not got
and the troubles of eating, drinking and lust.

Death is literally nothing at all.
No heaven or hell, no Devil or God,
no more parking tickets from PC Plod.
I can do without vision, taste, touch and smell
and the gruesome noise of incessant bird call.

Death is just sleep devoid of nightmares,
to never wake up to traffic and work,
no more miserable boss, no insufferable berk
whose pub talk is bollocks; thinks stupid is clever.
And good riddance to rip-offs and costly repairs.

Yet God has the most to answer for.
Tsunamis are His fault, earthquakes too,
tumours in children, spiders and poo.
All stuff we don't need, never mind want.
Like Bin Laden and Bush's God-given war.

It claims to be loving, embracing, fulfilling,
but religion's a sham of confusion and fear,
like it's wrong to be gay unless you're a queer.
The bible is merely a man made scam,
full of daft contradictions, incest and killing.

Darwin and Dawkins sum it up best.
We're here for no reason except to exist,
to pick noses and fights, get angry and pissed.
Grow weeds and get bitten, witness each season,
watch crap on TV, become fat and obsessed.

It's not about hatred, just truth, that's all.
For faith is the need to think there is more
to life than the dying, the sick and the poor.
But even that notion is based on pure greed.
So thank God, I'm convinced, life is nothing at all.

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Re: A Prayer For The Existential Atheist

Post by brianedwards » Thu Oct 21, 2010 2:43 am

This is absolute drivel.

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Re: A Prayer For The Existential Atheist

Post by Nicky B » Thu Oct 21, 2010 10:28 am

I found this interesting but a little rambling. It turned into a bit of an anti-Christianity rant, you could have made this point in one verse. Also, there’s many more religions which also believe in after-life, why were these let off the hook? It would be interesting to have them included. I found the first and last line rhyme didn’t scan very well.

Brian: That’s unnecessarily mean and unhelpful. This has rhythm, rhyme, is accessible and has a point to it. These things don’t make it bad. The stuff you write focuses on imagery which is often beautiful and moving, but generally lacks all these things. Perhaps you should be less close minded and learn something from here.

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Re: A Prayer For The Existential Atheist

Post by stuartryder » Thu Oct 21, 2010 11:00 am

I'm afraid I agree with Brian and I'm not sure how we, given Coffeedodger's stated principles on other threads, could comment any more constructively.

I do agree with Nicky that we as critters should focus on the medium rather than the message - I mean who am I to get into a religion/science debate with people I've never met? - but I just found it bumbled along rather than had the zip and bounce which was clearly its intention. A good example of contemporary rhyme done badly in my opinion. Several parts didn't even scan.

My guess is there was this idea of creating a rhyme scheme that had not or rarely been used before, but it isn't carried through consistently so would need at least one edit for that alone. Then there were phrases like "incessant bird call" which as well as sounding drab and annoying, seemed to have leapt into the verse in order to meet the rhyming needs. So much of the poem was like this, it was a juxtaposition of convenience rather than meaning and/or beauty. Some of the mixes between stanzas was pretty severe, too, eg going from a moan about expensive repair bills straight into a rant about "God".

Without stepping into the theological debate side of this, I should also mention that the points being made were full of all the usual jingoistic, pro-science anti-religion sententiousness that you hear all the time from people who have barely ever thought about the levels of meaning, intent or ethics of religious texts, nor their context within their wider religions. If this poem was going to bring anything different to the table, that would at least have made the stylistic problems palatable. As it is, it sounds exactly like one of those "men in the pub" on whom the poem rounded.

So all in all, not a great effort.

Sorry

Stuart

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Re: A Prayer For The Existential Atheist

Post by brianedwards » Thu Oct 21, 2010 11:06 am

When honesty is what's needed there is never anything more helpful than meanness.
The poem fails on all levels. Ooh it has nice rhythm, but so what, rhythm is just stringing syllables together in ways that are inherent to the language. The ideas are daft, the imagery staid and the language hackneyed. I'd give pointers but the author wouldn't be interested, so what else is left but to state the facts: drivel.

B.

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Re: A Prayer For The Existential Atheist

Post by Ros » Thu Oct 21, 2010 12:29 pm

Nicky, I take your point about being constructive, and I try very much to help those who want to learn, and had this been posted in Beginners I'm sure it would have had an easier ride. As it is, I'm afraid it doesn't have much going for it - I'd have to agree with all the points Stuart made. The rhythm is inconsistent, the rhymes included for the sake of it, the message crassly conveyed and the phrasing cliched. I'm assuming coffeedodger wants to hear an honest opinion as he has given his honest opinion to other posts here. We're critting the poem here, not the poster.

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Re: A Prayer For The Existential Atheist

Post by Ros » Thu Oct 21, 2010 12:36 pm

cd, I'm honestly surprised that you can post this after your comments here

viewtopic.php?f=3&t=14169&p=112081#p112081

"Rhyme, rhythm and meter with strong fresh imagery combined with engaging subject matter CAN also be beautiful, intense, thought provoking and passionate"

I absolutely agree with that. But I don't see it here.

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Re: A Prayer For The Existential Atheist

Post by Nicky B » Thu Oct 21, 2010 12:48 pm

Fair enough, clearly my protective maternal streak coming through.
Brian: for the record I think rhythm is just as important and difficult to master as imagery. It’s a shame you cast it aside so easily. A selection of images can equally be strung together resulting in drivel, pretty intellectual sounding drivel, but fundamentally drivel all the same. A worn out debate, I know, I know. Nicky B.

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Re: A Prayer For The Existential Atheist

Post by ray miller » Thu Oct 21, 2010 3:00 pm

I thought that the attitude being struck in the poem was an ironical one. I'll continue to believe that until I'm advised otherwise. This, the irony, seems particularly evident in the last 4 verses. I think the rhyme scheme is an unfortunate choice. Be interesting to see it rewritten in a more natural style.It's not particularly elegant or sharp, but I don't agree that it's drivel.

When honesty is what's needed there is never anything more helpful than meanness.

That's just self-serving, Brian.
I'm out of faith and in my cups
I contemplate such bitter stuff.

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Re: A Prayer For The Existential Atheist

Post by David » Thu Oct 21, 2010 6:55 pm

I agree with Ray. I'm not wild about the poem - after a while it just becomes an undisciplined diatribe, and a pretty tedious one at that, unless it really is ironic - but there are some enjoyable lines in the first half.

However, to dismiss it as absolute drivel is just too, well, dismissive. I'd be amazed if it's ironic, though.
ray miller wrote:When honesty is what's needed there is never anything more helpful than meanness.

That's just self-serving, Brian.
I would say it's just sophistry, but we're clearly on the same wavelength.

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Re: A Prayer For The Existential Atheist

Post by k-j » Thu Oct 21, 2010 8:11 pm

I'm not sure why this has attracted so much opprobrium.

The rhyme scheme is perfectly respectable. It's a bit arbitrary but so is any rhyme scheme. Stuart claims it "isn't carried through consistently" but actually, it is. Ros says "the rhymes are included for the sake of it". Well, I'm sure this is true of some of them - it always happens when you write any longish rhyming poem - but they don't stick out too blatantly to my ear.

Ros moans that "the rhythm is inconsistent". I think it's a fairly well-controlled loose dactylic beat. I think it works well. Every line partakes of it, none overindulges.

Everyone seems to have a big problem with "the ideas" (Brian), "the message" (Ros). But I'm more or less in agreement. They're stated quite bluntly but poetry can be blunt.

Nicky complains that the other religions don't get a good shoeing too. I'm assuming the writer is more familiar with the Christian tradition than the Mayan one, for example, so I think it's fine to use Christianity as the pinata.

Anyway there are a few things I think you could change. The poem is Victor Meldrew-ish and you could do with less of the "sparrow shit", "spiders and poo" (what's wrong with spiders and poo?), "crap on TV" aspect. It's great that you're an atheist but cheer up for god's sake. Of course there's more to life than "the dying, the sick and the poor". How about the living, the hale and the rich? "The gruesome noise of incessant bird call" sounds very odd, unless you live in the middle of the jungle or something. I'd leave Darwin and Dawkins out of it, personally, as they're just red rags. How about the Epicureans here, or wise old Lucretius instead? ("tantum religio potuit suadere malorum"). Same for Bin-Laden and Bush, they already sound dated.

I like the first verse and especially like the "miserable boss" and "insufferable berk / whose pub talk is bollocks; thinks stupid is clever."
fine words butter no parsnips

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Re: A Prayer For The Existential Atheist

Post by Arian » Thu Oct 21, 2010 8:29 pm

I hate it when I have to agree with Brian, but on this occasion I do. Sorry, CD, but - to me - this lacks any poetic merit whatever. Or intellectual merit. The "argument" is, well, David used the word "tedious" which is being kind, in my view. The whole thing is just...but enough. Again, i'm sorry to be so negative, CD, but I just can't see anything in this at all. Not a single redeeming feature.

I'd have found something it it had been put in B, though.

cheers
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Re: A Prayer For The Existential Atheist

Post by stuartryder » Thu Oct 21, 2010 8:48 pm

The rhyme scheme *is* inconsistent. Verse 1 has a rhyme in the fourth and halfway through the second lines, which is clearly intentional as it is replicated in other verses. But not in all of them. So, not carried through. As for the arbitrary scheme, of course all rhyme schemes are unique at first use, that wasn't my issue. My issue is that the scheme seems (to me at least) to be overtly trying to be unique but it comes off as showy and self-serving rather than fitted to the poem.

The rhythm is probably ok on the whole although I would moot that some lines are a bit hard to squeeze into the metre. (Eg verse 4.)

Use the familiar as the pinata makes sense, I'll grant, but it does smack of laziness. I mean to make this point the conscientious writer could at least do a bit of research into other organized religions in order to see where the balances lie and maybe bring in some other cultures. The whole "Christianity is bollox" rant is straight out of the pub after 5 pints and while I'm not a Christian I think it is a bit ill-judged to dismiss the entire theology in such a basic way. If as Ray thinks this second half is ironic then fair enough, but it doesn't really feel that way to me, and anyhow, this wouldn't mean that the other comments I made were invalid.

As I said, personally I don't think critting should be about judging the message per se, or personal views, of the poet. But we can and should crit the way the message or views are presented. That's not to say that the message was handled well, which I don't think it was as I already said.

This has probably attracted the reaction it has because the poet stated rather clearly in another thread that they had no truck with "modern" poetry as in stuff without rhythm and rhyme, and considered that a poem in this form can and should be beautiful if done well. This poem would seem to be a piece of evidence to support that claim, in which case it isn't a great exhibit. Or else it is deliberately and ironically intended to show how not to do it, in which case I can't really see the point in showing it.

Cheers

Stuart
k-j wrote:I'm not sure why this has attracted so much opprobrium.

The rhyme scheme is perfectly respectable. It's a bit arbitrary but so is any rhyme scheme. Stuart claims it "isn't carried through consistently" but actually, it is. Ros says "the rhymes are included for the sake of it". Well, I'm sure this is true of some of them - it always happens when you write any longish rhyming poem - but they don't stick out too blatantly to my ear.

Ros moans that "the rhythm is inconsistent". I think it's a fairly well-controlled loose dactylic beat. I think it works well. Every line partakes of it, none overindulges.

Everyone seems to have a big problem with "the ideas" (Brian), "the message" (Ros). But I'm more or less in agreement. They're stated quite bluntly but poetry can be blunt.

Nicky complains that the other religions don't get a good shoeing too. I'm assuming the writer is more familiar with the Christian tradition than the Mayan one, for example, so I think it's fine to use Christianity as the pinata.

Anyway there are a few things I think you could change. The poem is Victor Meldrew-ish and you could do with less of the "sparrow shit", "spiders and poo" (what's wrong with spiders and poo?), "crap on TV" aspect. It's great that you're an atheist but cheer up for god's sake. Of course there's more to life than "the dying, the sick and the poor". How about the living, the hale and the rich? "The gruesome noise of incessant bird call" sounds very odd, unless you live in the middle of the jungle or something. I'd leave Darwin and Dawkins out of it, personally, as they're just red rags. How about the Epicureans here, or wise old Lucretius instead? ("tantum religio potuit suadere malorum"). Same for Bin-Laden and Bush, they already sound dated.

I like the first verse and especially like the "miserable boss" and "insufferable berk / whose pub talk is bollocks; thinks stupid is clever."

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Re: A Prayer For The Existential Atheist

Post by k-j » Thu Oct 21, 2010 9:18 pm

stuartryder wrote:The rhyme scheme *is* inconsistent. Verse 1 has a rhyme in the fourth and halfway through the second lines, which is clearly intentional as it is replicated in other verses. But not in all of them. So, not carried through.
Suit yourself. I just see it as abbca with a few bonus rhymes...
stuartryder wrote:This has probably attracted the reaction it has because the poet stated rather clearly in another thread that they had no truck with "modern" poetry as in stuff without rhythm and rhyme
I don't give a flying bollock what this poet or anyone else has said in another thread.
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Re: A Prayer For The Existential Atheist

Post by brianedwards » Thu Oct 21, 2010 9:27 pm

David wrote:
raymiller wrote: That's just self-serving, Brian.
I would say it's just sophistry,
That and a drop of Merlot David . . .

Arian wrote: I'd have found something it it had been put in B, though.
I concur.

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Re: A Prayer For The Existential Atheist

Post by stuartryder » Thu Oct 21, 2010 9:41 pm

k-j wrote:
stuartryder wrote:The rhyme scheme *is* inconsistent. Verse 1 has a rhyme in the fourth and halfway through the second lines, which is clearly intentional as it is replicated in other verses. But not in all of them. So, not carried through.
Suit yourself. I just see it as abbca with a few bonus rhymes...
stuartryder wrote:This has probably attracted the reaction it has because the poet stated rather clearly in another thread that they had no truck with "modern" poetry as in stuff without rhythm and rhyme
I don't give a flying bollock what this poet or anyone else has said in another thread.
If it's relevant to, or has a direct bearing on this piece, then you should do.

Stuart

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Re: A Prayer For The Existential Atheist

Post by Ros » Fri Oct 22, 2010 7:59 am

stuartryder wrote: stuartryder wrote:This has probably attracted the reaction it has because the poet stated rather clearly in another thread that they had no truck with "modern" poetry as in stuff without rhythm and rhyme

I don't give a flying bollock what this poet or anyone else has said in another thread.

If it's relevant to, or has a direct bearing on this piece, then you should do.
Generally I'd attempt to judge a poem solely on its merits, but here the previous comments are relevant as they indicate what the poet was trying to achieve. And I think the poet's responses to others indicate that he doesn't want us to give less than an honest opinion, as he has provided with others.

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Re: A Prayer For The Existential Atheist

Post by CSThompson » Fri Oct 22, 2010 2:54 pm

Good writing is ultimately about insight- all the technical aspects are just tools to help convey that insight effectively. It's not possible to have an insight about something you dismiss out of hand. Even if you condemn something in the strongest possible terms, the condemnation will carry no weight unless it's grounded in a genuine understanding of the thing you're condemning. I don't have a problem with the technical aspects of this poem, except for the bursting balls- an unintentionally hilarious image created by trying to fit "ball-busting" into the meter. But the condemnation of religion is based on almost total ignorance of the depths and nuances of religious faith. As such, the poem is dishonest. And a dishonest poem is not a poem.

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Re: A Prayer For The Existential Atheist

Post by coffeedodger » Sun Oct 24, 2010 12:30 am

.
Last edited by coffeedodger on Sun Oct 24, 2010 12:32 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: A Prayer For The Existential Atheist

Post by coffeedodger » Sun Oct 24, 2010 12:32 am

Firstly, I'd like to point out that this poem is NOT an anti CHRISTIANITY poem. I use the word 'God' to refer to any spiritual entity. This is evidenced by the line which refers to BIN LADEN and Bush's war. The last I heard Bin Laden was a Muslim. It would get rather tedious if I had to name every deity of every crackpot theological sect in order to be equally scathing about all of them, when they all claim that there is only one God! Only the name and the list of things you can and can't do to cows and pigs varies. It's odd how atheists are supposed to respect theists and tread carefully around their books and robes, when theists are so utterly intolerant of other religions and so closed to the notion that they may well be wrong in their belief there is more to life than life.

Secondly to call the poem 'dishonest' is insulting to someone who doesn't believe in God. i.e. me! Why should someone who writes from a particular point of view have to concede to other points of view in order for it to qualify as a poem? Of course, it is an extreme expression of disbelief and nihilism, but these are perfectly legitimate philosophical belief systems. At least they are based on real life rather than the stuff of prayer mats and fairy tales.

If it is true that poetry without insight due to its dismissive viewpoint isn't poetry CS, then it must be true that critique which is similarly dismissive is not critique! As such your comments are a load of contradictory guff.

Brian.... I thought you had a bit more intelligence than to post that, but obviously I was wrong! I was going to post something similar about your piece of writing wherein you apologise profusely for something to do with Japan, but I found it too tedious to read all the way through, so didn't feel sufficiently informed to post anything more than 'this is drivel'. But, as you know, such statements are not poetry critique, but a simple knee jerk reaction to something one doesn't like and/or understand. So I thought better of it, as I always do when I read something that I consider drivel. I realise you have a very large ego though, so accept that your reason for responding at all was to help yourself by offering a crass echo of a generalised point and apply it in a spiteful way to a specific poem, rather than to offer anything useful to either the poem or the forum.

I've read a few threads on here recently whereby the comments become about political, religious or political biases rather than the writing. In particular the poem about a stoning in Saudi Arabia, which is littered with 'Brianedwards' type critique, people telling other people what the 'job' of the poet is, making value judgments about the subject matter, decrying it as inappropriate and other sanctimonious claptrap. I thought the stoning poem was a bloody good piece of writing, although perhaps a tad over-long, and perfectly credible in its expression. The rights and wrongs of the politics have no bearing on the matter. Clearly those doing the stoning do make careful choices about the size and weight of the stones they chuck. I'm sure if one of them walked up with a huge rock and caved the woman's skull in with one blow, they would be vilified for spoiling the fun of the ritual of barbarity for the rest of the mob. I think that is fascinating and very well expressed poetically, but of course that all gets buried under the weight of the Guardianista who think it is best left to journalists to tell us the 'truth'!!. That's got to be one of the most ridiculous statements since Rupert Murdoch was in nappies.

I posted this doggrelish piece specifically to see to what extent it and I would be judged for the subject matter rather than the writing. I know full well that it doesn't scan too well, stops and starts and so on, but it is a rhyming poem about religion and philosophy so I guessed it would do the trick in exposing the sickness of internet forums such as this one ,whereby a 'moderator' is compelled to post a potentially flaming comment without the slightest element of construction to it.It's no wonder I have such a negative view of people! 'Stupid is clever, eh Brian?' I'll have a pint of Stella if you're buying.

When I wrote elsewhere that writing good rhyming poetry is very difficult, I wasn't claiming to have mastered the art myself! The vast majority of my poems don't rhyme (although they tend to have form and don't just sprawl across the page like a lot of 'contemporary' writing). I didn't and wouldn't say that all poetry has to have rhythm or rhyme. It is generally the reason that is lacking. So it would have been nice if someone could have given me a few pointers as to how to improve its flow. In most regards it is a rant, is a bit clumsily written, but at least it isn't derivative, or the umpteen millionth poem about the beauty of nature, the joy of God, love, sadness and so on. There is a dearth of poetry about futility and far too much about the other stuff. But I think in the 17 or so replies there is little constructive about the criticism, because as I suspected would happen, it is mainly about cross-referencing this post to things I have written elsewhere, hence the criticism is hardly about the writing at all, other than to point out the bleeding obvious!

It rhymes, it's contemporary. Neither makes it a particularly well written poem, but with a bit of work and editing and work it's got the potential to entertain. Unfortunately, when people post poems expressing an unconventional belief, other people believe that the belief is set in stone, therefore the poem is as intransigent as its writer appears to be. Yet I'm very open to fair critique and advice about my writing when it is offered. What I don't want is critique of my beliefs dressed up is critique of my writing. Regardless of my talent (or lack of) I'm still entitled to say that much contemporary writing is in the poetic 'all together'.

However, it's clear that internet forums are just vapid extrapolations of the high street, the office, the church, the police station, the football stadium, the Government and the graveyard.

Noise, steam and dust.

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Re: A Prayer For The Existential Atheist

Post by CSThompson » Sun Oct 24, 2010 2:52 am

A tiresome, fanatical rant is a tiresome, fanatical rant whether it's theist or atheist.

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Re: A Prayer For The Existential Atheist

Post by k-j » Sun Oct 24, 2010 4:29 am

CSThompson wrote:A tiresome, fanatical rant is a tiresome, fanatical rant whether it's theist or atheist.
Correct.

Chill out, dodger.
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Re: A Prayer For The Existential Atheist

Post by Nino » Sun Oct 24, 2010 4:43 am

I agree with Brian and most of comments. This is rant. If you post your poem on workshop be prepared for a critique that might not be pleasant to you. I think it is unfair that you attack people who express their opinion about your work, no one is judging you, but the work you chose to give us to judge. I have had much worse comments, but after initial disappointment, I read it from other's pow and saw they were correct. No one in their right mind will spend a time to read and comment just to piss you off.
There is nothing here, no strong images, strong verbs, originality.
I am sorry but that is how I feel, or to be correct have no feelings about this piece.
Thank you for sharing.
Nino

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Re: A Prayer For The Existential Atheist

Post by brianedwards » Sun Oct 24, 2010 5:44 am

coffeedodger wrote:

I posted this doggrelish piece specifically to see to what extent it and I would be judged for the subject matter rather than the writing.
My judgement was based entirely on the writing.

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Re: A Prayer For The Existential Atheist

Post by ray miller » Sun Oct 24, 2010 8:10 am

Nino wrote: No one in their right mind will spend a time to read and comment just to piss you off.


You must be very young.
I'm out of faith and in my cups
I contemplate such bitter stuff.

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