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nanowrimo 2010


Diary of a Blind Madman

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Ranting about poetry
nanowrimo 2010
Calliope, the muse of epic poetry and beautiful speech. Euterpe, the muse of lyric poetry and music. Thalia, the muse of bucolic poetry and comedy.         
I've been arguing again…         

         <rant>Calliope, Euterpe, and Thalia sustain me! This happens periodically; I take the bait and wind up frothing at the mouth all day. It could be worse, this could be happening in a bar. Although, now that I think on it, I don't recall the last time I discussed poetry in a bar.

         Speaking of one of those forums where you may post your poetry for critique or review, someone who remains nameless — you know who you are, Brady — asserted that "99% of the poetry on this site is shit." My reaction was, "…and your point?" This generated a lively discussion and some name-calling.

         I think most poets would agree with me that the vast majority of what is posted on the internet as poetry is poetry only by courtesy. By and large the "poets" out there don't craft their poetry, they simply spew words in unrhymed, free verse. Which is to say they simply put out a bunch of words in non-sentences stranded on individual lines unusually arranged.

         This is not a criticism. I don't care for such efforts, preferring very strongly metered verse and poetic forms, even if those forms are self-defined. Still, I can appreciate free verse and the attempts to be thereby evocative.

         Poetry, all art in my opinion, is about evoking in the audience a response. Failure to do so means your attempt lacks merit. If nobody cares about your poetry, it is bad. So it is with your novel, your painting, your sculpture, and interpretive dance. If nobody pays attention you've failed.

         This does not mean that you have a right to read your verse in public. Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (or the 1st amendment of the US constitution for Americans) guarantees your right to speak. There is no law saying anyone has to pay you any attention, and afflicting your verse on an unsuspecting public is heinous. Confine your readings to poetry circles in your home where you masochists can flagellate one another with words and leave the rest of us alone.

         Every photographer I've known and many artists have told me the same story. "99% of what I do should be burned. I have to take 100 pictures to get a good one. I have to paint 100 paintings to finish one worth keeping." There's nothing wrong with that. Any manufacturer will tell you there is an "acceptable loss rate (ALR)". For anything you create, be it Deloreans or horsehead bookends, you will have some that don't meet your manufacturing specifications and have to be discarded. So it is with poetry. It is sad that, in 10,000 you lose 1 horsehead bookend and 9,999 poems.

         Back to the original question: "99% of the poetry on this site is shit." "…and your point?" The internet doesn't have a quality filter on much of anything. Of course, most of the poetry posted will be awful, most poetry is awful. That doesn't make it less heartfelt or less genuinely "poetry". Further, why shouldn't the "crap" be posted. Emerson said, "One man's justice is another's injustice; one man's beauty another's ugliness; one man's wisdom another's folly." Mark Twain said, "In all lies there is wheat among the chaff…" What, pray, is poetry but sweet lies from the lips to bewitch the soul?

         The definition of poetry needs some refining, in my opinion. I am beginning to feel that nothing should be called poetry that doesn't answer "what is the poetic form" and "what is the rhyme scheme" right up front. Even if the answer to both of those is "none" that will, at the least, let your audience forego the burden of trying to discern patterns where none exist.</rant>

         Oh well. Having got that out of my system I suppose I should go write poetry. I think not.

         Recipes added today: Welsh Baked Eggs, Gratin Dauphinois

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Because my current English instructor is a self-declared poet (I've never seen any examples) and she annoys the hell out of me, I've been wondering how to define poetry. I've come up with a definition that I like. I think of poetry as a piece of short literature in which every single word is relevant and carefully chosen. Admittedly, there are plenty of short stories that could fall into this categorization, but do plot and characterization necessarily detract from the poetic quality of a piece?

The problem you'll run into, both with freeform poets and those who stick to the prescribed formulae, is that most amateurs tend to spew words where maybe 50% of them sound pleasant or the subject matter seems remotely deep. It calls to mind the former poet laureate of New Jersey who attempted to sue the state for his early termination after he wrote a poem insinuating that 9/11 was a Jewish conspiracy. For the record, the US Supreme Court ruled that New Jersey was within its boundaries to terminate his employment, but a bunch of whiners seem to think that his right to free speech was somehow being impinged upon. Apparently the US is now a place where "free speech" means "freedom from consequences," too.

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