I wrote this while sitting on the service desk this morning. (It was a slow day, since term is over.) It's a subject I've been trying to treat poetically for a long time now and I don't really feel I've done justice to it here. The poem is entirely un-ironic. (OK, it's ninety-five per cent un-ironic.) I honestly think that the sunlit world of advertisements is healthier and even more profound than most "Art", and maybe even most life. I feel a great deal of gratitude and approval for all these pictures of smiling faces and happy families. Even though I am far from being a card-carrying cheerleader for capitalism, I think there is a great deal of truth in the remark often attributed (apparently apocryphally) to Dr. Johnson-- that a man is rarely more innocently occupied than when he is making money. Business at least has to please people, and is in the business of happiness-- or even just pleasantness. And is it possible to exaggerate the world's need for pleasantness?
We are always hearing how much harm, stereotyping, pressure, negative body-image and so forth are brought into the world by advertising. I don't dispute any of that, and yet...I suspect there is another column to the ledger. I suspect advertising brings a great deal of encouragement and uplift into the world.
I remember, back in my twenties, going through quite a rough spell of depression, and coming out of it because I saw a bus ad for the Irish fizzy drink Club Orange with the simple slogan: 'Welcome to the World'. These things happen. I suspect such a phenomenon may be happening at a less perceptible level all the time.
Ode to Advertisements
Pictures of people being happy
Are everywhere, and should be everywhere.
Life is as warm as a steaming cup of coffee
And happiness as common as the air
According to the billboards and the flyers.
God bless them all. We have enough despair.
The family around the game of Scrabble
Are everything the human race should be.
They are not lost, or shame-faced, or in trouble.
They have no need for pride or dignity
And pay no heed to those seductive liars;
Disdain, and scorn, and withering ennui.
Oh, woman with the dazzling smile and headset
How can I ever give you praise enough?
Nothing that any poet’s ever said yet
Is deeper than your smile, meant to sell stuff.
Count me, count me, count me amongst the buyers
Of your unsullied dream of life and love.