A dissertation on writing a poem
 by Douglas Adams

douglasadams

I resisted temptation for this declamation
To reach out to literary height
For high aspiration in such an oration
Would seem quite remarkably trite:
So I thought something pithy and succinct and clever
Was exactly the right thing to write.

For nights I sat musing
And musing … and musing
Whilst burning the midnight oil;
My scratchings seemed futile
My muse seemed quite mute, while
My work proved to be barren toil.

I puzzled and thought and wrestled and fought
‘Till my midnight oil was exhausted,
So I furthered my writing by dim candle lighting,
And found, to my joy, this of course did
The trick, for I flowered,
My work – candle-powered –
Was inspired, both witty and slick.

Pithy and polished, my writing demolished
Much paper, as I beguiled
Myself with some punning,
(My word play was stunning,)
I wrote with the wit of a Wilde.

At length it was finished, the candle diminished,
I pondered and let my pride burn
At the great acclamation, the standing ovation
Its first public reading would earn.

But lost in the rapture of anticipation
And thinking how great was my brilliant creation
I quite failed to note as I gazed into space
That incendiary things were about to take place:
That which had ignited my literary passion,
Was about to ignite what my passion had fashioned.

And – oh! – all was lost in a great conflagration
And I just sat there and said ‘Hell and damnation’,
For the rest of the night and the following day.
(My muse in the meantime had flitted away
Alarmed, no doubt, at the ornamentation
My language acquired with increased consternation.

So unhappily the fruits of my priceless endeavour
Are lost to the literary world forever.
For now I offer this poem instead,
Which explains in itself why the other’s unsaid.

Douglas Adams
1952-2001

Note: written when Douglas Adams was a schoolboy

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About russellboyle.com

Russell Boyle, of russellboyle.com, is a mathematics teacher, writer, and poet. Russell is the author of a number of teaching resources, including the Year 7 to 8 Mathematics Short-Answer Tasks, the Year 7 to 10 Mathematics Multiple-Choice Tasks, the Year 9 Extended-Response Tasks, the solutions to the Year 12 VCAA Mathematics Exams and the Web-Programming For Beginners series of courses. Russell's poetry anthologies are titled The Beginning, Footprints and Loneliness.
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2 Responses to A dissertation on writing a poem
 by Douglas Adams

  1. Jackie says:

    I just read about this poem and how it was recently discovered. I love the HHGTTG trilogy so I found this to be fascinating. Thanks for posting it. 🙂

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