Friday, August 17, 2018

Unicorn Poetry: A Manifesto

Yesterday, I posted a poem entitled "The Mind Has its Seasons" (link here), which I consider the first official Unicorn Poem. I am the first of the Unicorn poets, but surely it cannot be very long before other versifiers join the movement.

Some of my previous poems are doubtless proto-Unicorn poetry. I will let the literary historians attend to that.

The Unicorn Poets are ready to take their place beside the Metaphysical Poets, the Pylon Poets, the Georgian Poets, the Cavalier Poets, the Movement, and every other literary current which winds through the annals of literature.

My blog post "The Dark Side of the Moon" is to be considered a seminal text for the Unicorn School. This passage, for instance, might explain the atmosphere in which Unicorns choose to dwell:

Another reason Rossetti's poetry is interesting to me is because of its dream-like, symbolic, otherworldy atmosphere. At the moment, I'm completely besotted with this kind of thing. I'm in the mood for dreams, visions, archetypes, legends, myths, folklore, and everything that sustains the less rational, more poetic side of our nature. I want to read about all these subjects right now!


If was forced to encapsulate the attitude of the Unicorn School in three words, I would say: "Naive, not ironic."

Christina Rossetti, much revered by Unicorn poets

These are the requirements of Unicorn Poetry:

1) Unicorn poetry must be upon exalted subjects. A Unicorn poet has no interest in writing about a man staggering home from the pub and throwing up in the gutter. The unicorn is an appropriate symbol of all that is lofty, refined, romantic. Unicorn poets deal with such themes.

2) Unicorn poetry prefers the vague to the concrete, the timeless to the historical, the universal to the particular, and especially avoids proper names. Imagery used in unicorn poetry should be, preferably, archetypal imagery; mountains, towers, waves, jewels, and so forth. Combine harvesters, bunsen burners and chihuahas should not intrude upon Unicorn poetry.

3) Unicorn poetry favours slack, loose metres and rhyming schemes. Free verse is OK, as long as doesn't grate upon the ear. Intricate and complex rhyming patterns are out. Repetition is encouraged, especially repetition that adds an incatatory quality.

The unicorn poet aims to awaken a trance-like mood in the reader. Formats which are jarring or brisk are not in the right spirit.

4) Unicorn poetry is adolescent. The Unicorn poet seeks to attain the outlook of a dreamy fifteen-year-old writing yearning poetry in her bedroom-- or perhaps a housewife writing equally yearning poetry between the school run and the ironing. A morbid self-awareness is to be shunned, and irony is to be altogether abhorred. The Unicorn poet is not at all afraid to be corny.

5) Unicorn poetry prefers the inner world to the outer world; to the Unicorn poet, the outer world is an expression of the inner world. Dreams, visions, never-never lands, and allegorical landscapes are an appropriate setting for unicorn poetry.

6) There is no place for humour in Unicorn poetry.

Some may say: "Why, you are simply describing Pre-Raphaelite poetry!". It's certainly true that Unicorn poetry is similar to Pre-Raphaelite poetry in some ways, but there are subtle differences. Unicorn poetry does not concentrate upon the medieval, eschewing historical particularity as far as possible; nor does it admit the grotesque. There are no goblins in Unicorn poetry. There may be demons and dragons, but no goblins. Another difference is that Unicorn poetry encourages a certain callowness, whereas Pre-Raphaelite poetry was psychologically and emotionally sophisticated and often breathed a certain ennui. If you are a man or a woman of the world, and you wish to write Unicorn poetry, you must try to jettison your worldly wisdom.

So what are you waiting for? Seek out some lonely spot-- ponder an unrequited love-- meditate upon a lonely well-- light a candle, or perhaps a stick of incense-- and join this exciting (and yet sedate) new school of poetry! The world needs Unicorn poets!


  1. The esoteric use of unicorns, especially during the 90s, did turn me off them a bit. I'm not a poet, even to comment on someone else's, but I did have a fantasy dream a few weeks ago,a colourful one. Meaning-actual colours. I rarely remember colours in dreams. I was a hobbit on a ladder in a nicely landscaped garden and for some reason started doing Roland Orzabal's MadWorld dance moves while on the rung, as per the original video, a dance which doesn't require the use of legs, really. But I'm less likely to dance, especially on a ladder rung, but even on the ground, than I am to actually be a hobbit. The after-effects were strange, but fragrant. I felt like an extremely lovable person for the whole next day, as much as any of Tolkien's tiny heroes.

    1. Ha, that's an awesome dream! Thanks for describing it. I love hearing about dreams, and I'm glad it had a good aftereffect.

      You are not a poet so you are not going to adopt this dream to Unicorn poetry....if you were, of course, the mention of Roland Orzabal (whoever he is) would have to be remove as being to contemporary and particular. Have hobbits attained the status of archetypal beings, or are they too tied in to Tolkien's lgendarium? An interesting topic of discussion for the first Unicorn Poets Conference.

  2. Orzabal wrote the song's lyrics, based on an offshoot of Freudian psychology. And I'm not impressed by a lot of the theories, what I know of them, but he was also reflecting on his own childhood, the words are a little bit nihilistic but reflective, except perhaps for the rather whimpering last verse, and even the pop psychology theories can have a bit of something reflective in them. To dream about the particular song in itself meant something. It seems to endure more than a lot of others from the era. Similar artists from the same time still use it when performing, sometimes over their own old hits. It did make it to the top again in 2001, but than version didn't quite have the pace to go with the chaos of a mad world.

    1. I think pretty much every theory can be fruitful when it comes to artistic creation. I just saw that Orzabal's birthday is in two days!

  3. The Candle Horn

    The candle's flame, the Unicorn's horn,
    In both a sense of hope is borne
    Aloft, alight for all to see -
    By fire or bone inspir'd be!

    Find comfort and find confidence
    In symbols of magnificence -
    And when you feel your spirit worn
    Ignite the candle, invoke the horn.

    Do not allow naysayers slight
    The power drawn from strength and light
    And pity those fools who would scorn
    The warming light, the piercing horn.

    Belief is what we need today,
    Belief tight-held, which followed may
    Unpick the forest from the trees
    (By fire or bone inspir'd be!)

    Come to the table and bring your share
    Faith's bounty is found everywhere
    You care to look, be not forlorn -
    Ignite your candle, invoke your horn!

    1. Another fantastic Unicorn poem! Thank you, Anonymous. May I include it in a blog post?