1. kivsartre
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    kivsartre New Member

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    Poetry

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by kivsartre, Mar 1, 2009.

    A girlfriend is very into poetry, and thus has been sending me lots of it. Is there anywhere I can go to simply get better at reading poetry? Although I do like some of Bukowski's poems, I cannot seem to grasp the metaphor or simile of most poetry. Along with this I find it difficult to derive what the poet was thinking, or what I think the poem means, whether this is because I have too many ideas and I get confused or too few is still up to date.

    But anyways, any good resources for me?

    Edit: Though this is a writing forum, how can one write poetry without being able to see what is good or bad poetry first?
     
  2. Aeroflot
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    Aeroflot Senior Member

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    You know this is a good question. I'd say that you should read the poem slowly and carefully, and then read it again at normal speed. 'Cause some poems are meant to be read quickly and others at almost snail speed. You're going to need to gauge each one individually. And then there are poems you're not going to be able to understand no matter much you study it. Like many skills, reading poetry is going to take time. All I can say is start to read more.

    And for your last question, just write until you're satisfied. If you begin to compare your poetry with others, then you'll fall into a trap. What makes writing so great is that there are as many styles as people. Readers want originality and readability, not clones.
     
  3. Vayda
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    Vayda Senior Member

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    I learned this about poetry:

    In writing a poem, the author has very, very limited real estate. Every word they pick is chosen for a reason - if they should repeat a word, that puts a far greater emphasis on it than in prose, where word counts are much much larger. Because of this, every word, every sentence, every connotation - it all adds to the meaning of the poem. When Robert Frost stands "in a yellow wood," does his choice of "yellow" describe the colors of the leaves in autumn? Yes, but it also sets a tone of the poem - yellow has connotations of gold, riches, and beauty, but also of jaundice and sickness. The meanings of his words waver, which, unconsciously or not, sets the wavering mood of the poem. When he has "Miles to go before I sleep / and miles to go before I sleep," he's using up prime poem real estate to repeat a line verbatim. But in doing so, he makes the miles to go seem so much longer, and the sleep so much farther away.

    My point, basically, is that good poetry falls into a rigid structure - even free verse poetry - such that none of the words can be wasted. A few dictionaries and thesauri can be your best friends when reading poetry.

    When you're going through it, read every line for its many meanings. "Sundays too my father got up early."....the "Too" there, three letters but what it says is "my dad gets up early every single day of the week, even the day of rest"

    See what I mean? Poems pack a lot into a small package. When you don't understand a metaphor, remember that the poet chose that specific metaphor for a reason and find out every little nuance of its meaning.

    When it comes to talking about larger symbols, like the hawk representing death (I just made that up) trust your gut. If you think the hawk symbolizes death, go through and read every line to back up your thought process. Does it talk about razor sharp talons? Does it talk about a manacle-like grip? Both of those would justify your thinking.

    I hope i've helped a little...it took me a loooong time to appreciate poetry!
     
  4. Gone Wishing
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    Gone Wishing Contributing Member

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    I agree with Vayda - poetry is often very concise. Something to remember, though, is that doesn't necessarily mean precise.

    I sometimes find myself a little lost when reading poetry - some poetry provokes a thought process that not always results in an actual conclusion as to what the poet is trying to show or evoke. When that happens, I do much what is suggested above - take a line that jumps out at me more than others, and go through what the chosen words might represent (also, when I do that, I completely dismiss any thought as to what the poet intended, concentrating only on what I know of the particular words, which helps me to maintain focus).

    For example, a friend asked for opinions on a poem which contained the line rent reality's shroud. This was the first line I focused on, and separated each word. For rent, I got the sense of something borrowed, on loan - but at a cost; I felt reality was a bold enough word to be left as is; I then ran through all the possibilites for shroud - from simply a cover for something, to it's more specific meaning as a burial garment. The line, overall, then gave me the sense of someone seeking comfort in the dividing line between reality, and the place where they actually hide, but at a cost (which, in going through the rest of the poem, was affirmed - to my mind). It turns out I was pretty much spot on with my friend's intention for the poem, but in interpreting it, that wasn't actually my primary concern. First and formost, I was delving into the what the language represented to me.

    Jim Morrison once said "Real poetry doesn't say anything, it just ticks of the possibilities. You can walk through whichever door you choose." There are times when I feel that is more applicable than others, sometimes the poet has an extremely obvious intention with what they are trying to convey - but when it's not, I just look at what it means to me. (That would be the more concise explanation of the process I personally use to interpret poetry. :p)
     
  5. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Poetry is, in my opinion, one of the more difficult forms of literature to get a handle on, bith as a reader and a writer.

    Some people think that any stream of consciousness dump is a poem, especially if they don't turn it into full sentences. They call it free form, and argue that it isn't prose, therefore it is poetry. As far as I'm concerned, this is flawed thinking. A piece of writing can be neither a story, nor an essay, nor a poem.

    There are elements that are associated with poetry. Not all poems have all those elements, but I believe that a piece of writing that has none of them probably does not deserve to be labeled a poem.
    In no particular order:
    Rhyme (by far the most disposable element)
    rhythm
    structure (more on this below)
    imagery

    I would extend rhyme to include other tonal elements like alliteration and onomatopoeia that add to the auditory appeal of the piece and can serve to emphasize parts of the poem.

    Strusture transcends clauses and sentences and paragraphs. A poem is generally broken into lines and verses, and the placement of the breaks is significant; if the placement of the breaks changes, so does the poem. That is a decent test of whether a structure really exists or is merely tacked on as an afterthought; if you remove the breaks, does it read essentially the same, or do the breaks add something to the piece.

    Imagery is, to me, the most important element. The real power of poetry is to show something to the reader that goes beyond the surface meaning. If for instance, I have a poem about fishing on a lake, if it also conveys a feeling of peace and silence, it's a successful poem. Poems often relate two separate ideas, like comparing waves crashing on rocks to an assault on a stronghold.

    When I joined this site, I avoided the poetry section. It still is not my favorite type of writing, but the more I read of it, the more I have begun to see the role of those elements in making or breaking a poem.

    There may be other key elements besides those I've listed. Some may argue that emotion alone makes a poem, but I'm not really swayed by that position.

    Poetry, more than any other literary form, is largely subtractive. Fiction is promarily additive, building from simple components to a well rounded story. Poetry, on the other hand, usually starts with a description, and then pares it down and molds it to its essential core. Haiku, especially, requires a sharp focus to economically fuse two concepts, usually a naturalistic theme with a view of the human condition.
     
  6. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    one can't!

    i'm a full time poet and i mentor many aspiring ones... i'll be glad to send you some info on the art, answer questions, help in any way... just drop me a line any time... and welcome to the site!

    love and hugs, maia
    maia3maia@hotmail.com
     
  7. Arrow
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    Arrow Member

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    Some may say that "you can't," and that's a valid response.

    If one is that rare breed that takes to the writing of poetry "naturally" then they are truly blessed and should trust and write. Otherwise, like most of us--perhaps including yourself thus this OP--we must work at writing poetry (or leave it alone...lol.) I believe that you can begin writing poetry if so moved now; you can read poetry right now; you can think critically about what you're reading and what you're writing; you can gather information about the art of poetry writing and the approaches to interpreting it. All these things can be done NOW and LATER. We grow as we go.

    The human brain is an amazing thing that allows us to do several things at the same time. (I don't mean that poetically ;).)
     
  8. HKB
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    HKB Contributing Member

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    Perrine's Sound and Sense: An Introduction to Poetry or any other similar book will teach you how to read poetry. I really believe poetry is something that you have to learn to appreciate. Though some poets are more immediately accessible than others. Read a lot of poetry, don't be discouraged if you don't like or don't get something right away, you don't have to "get" everything in a poem to enjoy it. There's so much variety in poetry you're bound to find some things that you really love.
     
  9. HKB
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    HKB Contributing Member

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    And take with a grain of salt "rules" such as an important element of poetry is economy of language. There's a lot of poetry out there now called "ultra-talk" which is extremely garrulous and discursive.
     
  10. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i don't see why anyone needs to be taught how to read poetry... i've been reading and enjoying the best of it all my able-to-read life, without any lessons, and have been a better-than-most poet for almost that long...

    but for those who need/want to be taught, i suppose that book may be as good as any, though i've never heard of it till now...
     
  11. Ghosts in Latin
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    Ghosts in Latin Senior Member

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    Not everyone is prone to poetry, whether it be reading or writing, and others may realize that being taught by someone better than themselves is of great benefit.

    To not see that is a bit arrogant, at best.

    With this, I completely agree:

    But, in the past, I was seldom able to appreciate true free form poetry. It just did not appeal to me. It took reading what other people saw in it to spark the flame of appreciation.
     
  12. Arrow
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    Arrow Member

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  13. Banzai
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    Banzai One-time Mod, but on the road to recovery Contributor

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    The importance of poetry, to me at least, has always been what the individual takes from it. Discussion with others helps interpretation, but really I don't think any interpretative conclusion you reach can be invalid (well, unless it's completely stupid, and even then if that's what it means to you, that's fair enough).
     

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