1. DvnMrtn
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    DvnMrtn Contributing Member

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    Getting intro Poetry

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by DvnMrtn, Feb 28, 2010.

    I really want to get into poetry. The thing is...I don't get it. When I read lots of it I can't help but just shrug and move on. Any suggestions?
     
  2. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    One reason I don't like much of modern poetry is because it's too abstract. That's why I tend to read poetry from earlier time periods like the 19th and 20th centuries.

    Here are some poets (who wrote in English) that I recommend:
    Walt Whitman
    W.H. Auden
    Wallace Stevens
    John Donne
    W.B. Yeats - his earlier works are the easiest to understand. His later works require a lot of knowledge about Irish culture, history, and mythology.

    Give some of these a try and see what you think. Also try to read some of the background of the poems to get a better sense of what they are trying to convey.
     
  3. Irish87
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    Irish87 Contributing Member

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    Much to my chagrin, I have the same issue as DvnMrtn. Personally, I want to love poetry and when I hear beautifully read poems I get a chill down my back... yet, whenever I delve into a book of the stuff I find myself quickly consuming the words and moving on as though they were nothing more than mere sentences.
     
  4. m5roberts
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    m5roberts Member

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    I find that I often only like particular lines from poetry. It sometimes feels like such a waste having to read through everything just for that one line.
     
  5. Evil Flamingo
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    Evil Flamingo Contributing Member Contributor

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    The real problem lies in how you go about reading the poetry. Poetry is not meant to be breezed through, it's meant to be read aloud.

    Take Emily Dickinson for instance. She uses dashes and capitalization in order for the reader to find where emphasis is, to feel the meaning and depth of the poem. This can't be found with a brush with the eyes and a simple "oh I get it." You are meant to feel these poems through inflection and direct pauses while listening to or reading them aloud. It is completely necessary.

    Now I know this is a rough base to start from, but it helps to at least get into poetry at first.

    Some authors that are easy to start with, and quite powerful.

    Emily Dickinson
    Walt Whitman (his shorter works at first...reserve Song of Myself for when your good and ready)
    Robert Browning (Especially Prospice)
    Robert Frost (I'm partial to the poem Mending Wall)
    William Butler Yeats
    Yusef Komunyakaa'a Facing It
    Wilfred Owen (If your into war stuff)
    Elizabeth Bishop
    Edgar Allen Poe (of course)
    Sylvia Plath

    These are great ones to start with. Maybe wait on authors like W. H. Auden, e. e. cummings, and T. S. Eliot for a bit. Thier works are phenomenal, but quite loaded pieces.

    This is all I got for ya, it's all on you for actually getting into them and liking them.

    E. F. Mingo
     
  6. LordKyleOfEarth
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    LordKyleOfEarth Contributing Member Contributor

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    Do you not like poetry or the heavy use of metaphors (which you may not interpret the same way as the author). The Iliad and Odyssey are both poetry, as are Gilgamesh, Siri, and Manash.

    FWIW I don't 'get' most poetry either. I really blame personal differences (there are lots of stories I dislike because they are just not my thing) and the abundance of crappy poetry on the market. The similes and metaphors that Homer slang were solid however (even 2000+ years later)
     
  7. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    Probably the best way to get into it is to invest in a decent poetry reader (either a general one, or one from a specific period if there's one you like particularly), ideally one with some good commentary too.
     
  8. LordKyleOfEarth
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    LordKyleOfEarth Contributing Member Contributor

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    See, that is what I dislike about poetry. The need to have a commentator ride along and explain what the person was thinking/feeling/trying to convey. I feel I should be able to pick up the literary work, read it, and enjoy it. I want a no-strings-attached experience. I feel that, too often, poetry doesn't deliver that.
     
  9. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    Poetry almost by definition doesn't deliver that. The reason so many people enjoy poetry is precisely because of the ambiguities that prevent it from being immediately understood. You have to mull over it, reread it, think about it, sometime labour over it, before it will yield to you. And that's entirely intentional. It isn't supposed to be a sudden revelation, or something easy to read and understand like most prose, its supposed to be much richer and more significant with less words.

    The commentary isn't intended (and never does) elucidate the entire meaning of the poem, it simply provides an access point for new readers, maybe some biographical detail, maybe a single interpretation of some or all of the text, maybe a note on the context. It doesn't and isn't supposed to replace your own interpretation.

    Poetry's not for everyone, but if it's not for you it's not the fault of the poets. Besides, there's always limericks.
     
  10. pinelopikappa
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    pinelopikappa Senior Member

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    There are many types of poetry. You have to find the one that suits you, in more than one levels. You start from there, and then move on to other types in time. Or not.

    Nobody should feel bad about not getting something, or not liking a poet that everyone else think is a genius. Poetry is a very private thing, in my opinion. Of course you can work on all that and evolve your taste and understanding. But don't feel bad about it.

    I also think (evil flamingo) that you must read aloud and enjoy the language. Reading about the craft of it is always helpful, especially if you feel like writing. Even blank verse needs some kind of discipline, otherwise it's just another delirium. Strictly my opinion that one.


    Arron89, you are right in most cases, but I need to say that sometimes it is the fault of the poets. We can't always blame the reader. Some poets (not all) just don't bother working on their tools and craft. Am I wrong? I think one must be a humble worker of the language before one thinks about writing an important piece of art. Or even a small one!
     
  11. laciemn
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    laciemn Senior Member

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    Are you saying you want to get into writing poetry, or reading poetry? Are you reading poetry about stuff you are interested at the moment? For example, at certain periods of my life I enjoy love poems, but other times I can't stand them. Maybe you should try reading a different genre of poetry.
     
  12. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Good poetry may require contemplation to understand it, but it should not require explanation. If the poem is not self-contained, it is a failure. If your "Ah hah!" moment only comes when you know the poet's sister died the week before he wrote it, then it is only partially successful, even if it was cathartic to the poet.
     
  13. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    Perhaps what you should be looking at is performance poetry. That's written to have an immediate impact when read to an audience, so although some of it does benefit from closer reading, it's all fairly accessible. Some of the 60s/70s Liverpool poets might be a good place to start: Adrian Henri, Stewart Henderson, Brian Patten, Roger McGough. Then move on to other performance poets such as John Cooper Clarke and John Hegley. That might provide a route in to the "heavier" stuff.
     
  14. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    what are you reading?... the best poetry makes its meaning easily accessible to the reader... only the self-loving egoist writes obscure scheiss that makes most of us go, 'wtf!?'...

    to see how 'easy to get' poetry can be, browse the 'philosetry' section of 'writings' on my website... and if you want help learning how to write poetry for ordinary folks, drop me a line any time...

    love and hugs, maia
     
  15. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    I beg to differ. There's a place for the easily accessible stuff, but some of the stuff that's really hard is really rewarding when you get to grips with it. Just because you don't get it shouldn't mean that those of us who do should be deprived of it or have it denigrated.
     
  16. LordKyleOfEarth
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    LordKyleOfEarth Contributing Member Contributor

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    See, I can read those not feel like I need to google your life story to understand them.
     
  17. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    I sort of agree with you, but also, it depends on the reader. Some people simply won't be able to relate to a particular idea, understand a particular reference or be able to see the value in particular artistic choices. Again, this is not the fault of the poet and it certainly doesn't render the poem a failure. Writing to the lowest common denominator might be fine for some, but it's wrong to chastise poets who choose not to simply for creating something that is beyond your grasp. A poem shouldn't require explanation, but I've never encountered a poem that does (with the exception of a few of Beckett's works); as I said, critical commentary does not intend to replace your own interpretation or elucidate all of the meanings of a text, it simply provides a helpful starting point for those unfamiliar with the text.
     
  18. DvnMrtn
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    DvnMrtn Contributing Member

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    Thank you all so much for your advice! I plan on taking a lot of what has been said to heart. I have set a goal for the end of the week to have some poetry written, regardless of how skilled it is. I figure I won't learn if I don't try. Practice, like anything else.

    Thanks again everyone :)
     
  19. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    ok, dig and arron, let's see if you can make any sense at all of this bit of nonsense by charles bukowsky:

    i think it proves my point, as does most of the 'poetic' stuff this guy wrote [usually while drunker 'n the proverbial skunk... though i've never seen a drunk skunk, have you?]... and yes, he was a supreme egotist...
     
  20. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    I read that bit (which would make more sense should had you included the rest of the text) as Bukowski simply listing ways of being shot, or dying. The poem is about his perception of the absurdity of violence and the inevitability of violence and death, so those four lines (to me) stress this inevitability - you will be shot, whether its in the eye, brain or ass, or, (absurdly, or read into it what symbolism you will) like a flower in the dance.

    Maybe that isn't what Bukowski intended, but that's irrelevant.

    EDIT: I don't know what you were hoping to prove with that extract. It's not particularly abstract or difficult to understand, especially in the context of the poem which you chose to leave out...there are certainly more difficult poems and poets out there, but again, simply being difficult to interpret does not render them invalid. Are you saying that you are a better poet than Bukowski because your poetry is easier to understand?
     
  21. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    That might have some value as an exercise, but if you don't understand poetry or enjoy reading it, I wouldn't hold out much hope for producing poetry that's any good. "Practice", as you say, but I'd suggest that what you need at the moment is practice in reading, not writing poetry.

    Why? I'm arguing that difficult stuff can be good, not that it necessarily is. Sturgeon's Law applies just as much here as everywhere else.
     
  22. Gallowglass
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    Gallowglass Contributing Member Contributor

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    It works, if it relies on connotation. If it's too descriptive, then of course it won't be that accessible to the reader. But if the reader sees the words as having something to say that is not written on the page, then it is easy for them to get a rough idea of what the poet is trying to say.

    Let's take the most institutionally egoistical poetic class in world history, the sennachies, or, more specifically, the highest ranks of ancient European poets, the filidh, as an example:

    I've received a present I didn't request,
    Not long will it remain a foolish secret;
    Sad my house is not beside him,
    The man who initiated the intimacy


    (Taghd Dall, published in Duanaire na Sracaire)

    It makes no real coherent sense - it makes even less in the original version, especially in the context of what the poet was actually talking about. But when it is viewed as a whole, rather than read as if it was separate bits of information, quite a bit of the backstory is evident, as is the poet's emotions and thoughts.
     
  23. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    arron...
    i did NOT 'choose to leave out' any part of the poem... that's the whole thing i found on a site that contained his poetic works... i had no idea that it wasn't the entire piece... perhaps i should have checked another source and for that, i apologize...

    but please don't accuse me of something i'd never even think of doing... and please do not put words in my mouth [or fingers ;-) ], as i've never said/written a word about some works being 'invalid'...

    i don't care to make this a debate to the death, so i hope you'll agree to disagree on what i was saying and let us [and the thread] go on to other, less contentious matters...

    hugs, m
     

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