A Vogon on Poetry

Touchstone / Spyglass / GIPHY / Douglas Adams

‘No, well you’re completely wrong,’ he said, ‘I just write poetry to throw my mean callous heartless exterior into sharp relief.’ —Prostetnic vogon jeltz

**spoilers for those very unaware of Douglas Adams’s and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy**

Later to come, I will attempt to recreate some Vogon poetry for the fun of it…this may appear in a few blips of a light year given the busy nature of the Holiday season. I wanted to include Jeltz’s line here because I felt like this should be the motto of today’s poet. There is much to be said and many words with which to say them, but should we expect people to find our underlying humanity in the matrices of language? I doubt people really do look for the human below, and perhaps that is too human-centric. This brings me to Douglas Adams’s amazing text, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. After the intensely bureaucratic destruction of Earth to make way for Hyperspace travel, there are only two ape-descendents remaining, Arthur and ‘Trillian’. As Arthur muses, England, Nelson’s Column, Trafalgar Square, and, most importantly McDonalds are all only ideas in his head. Their existence, their veracity, and their tangibility have left the realm of physical existence to metaphysical recollection and supposition. A memory to be forgotten or improperly recreated. 

Yet, when Arthur begins to Panic, a verb the wise Guide advises the wary, drunk, or happy traveller against, Ford tries to engage Arthur in an exercise in empathy with the Vogon guard, who is about to send them into outer space—something Arthur only eventually able to do:

‘There you are, Arthur,’ said Ford with the air of somone reaching the conclusion of his argument, ‘you think you’ve got problems.’

Arthur Rather thoughT he had. Apart from the unpleasant business with his home planet the vogon guard had half-throttled him already and he didn’t like the sound of being thrown into space very much.

‘Try and understand his problem,’ insisted Ford. ‘Here he is, poor lad, his entire life’s work is stamping around throwing people off spaceships…’

After much prodding from Ford, Arthur realizes existence beyond himself and beyond the truth of his world’s existence and, therefore, his own. But at this moment, he is about to be ejected into nothingness.

Indeed, in a previous scene, when Arthur prattles on about humanity, VOGANITY!, we are reminded, he mindlessly recreated a stream of pseudo-intellectual mumbo-jumbo. And, although Jeltz is cast as a character-type who belongs to an uncivilized race, he intuitively sees through these empty platitudes. He offers a statement of interpretation to both Ford and Arthur, who are attempting to save their own lives. Just as they accept, he calls their bluff. He says no, I don’t secretly want to be loved. I don’t want people to have to wade through my words to discover I need to be loved.  Heartlessness and crudity is my truth, but poetry, as a concept, signifies an opposing truth to you. Thus, although the text claims that poetry was inculcated in Vogon society as a way to display cultivation and culture, Jeltz mumbles his own indecipherable poetry in congruous language that emphasizes the cacophony and harshness of his own character:

‘o freddled gruntbuggly….thy micturations are to me / as plurdled gaggleblotchiTs on a lurgid bee.’

Indeed, it is Ford and Arthur who respond to Jelt’z poetry with onomatopoeic signifiers of their distress, rather than real words: ‘Aaaaaaaarrrrrrghhh’ and ‘Nnnnnnnnyyyyyuuuuurrrggghhh’

So, I’ll leave this brief and inconclusive because I want to continue to chew this over in my mind. Hopefully, more to come. In the meantime…


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