Discussion in 'Poetry' started by Frost, Feb 3, 2007.
thank you very much for that guide....has helped clarify things a lot
I agree that most writing (if not all) should be original. However, I disagree with Metaphor and Grammar as necessities. First, Poetry is not Prose, so grammar goes out the window right away. Otherwise, there would be no such thing called "Poetry." It would all be prose.
All good poetry really has to do is convey the thoughts of the writer (or whatever the purpose of the poem was), in an effective way. Metaphors can be helpful, but there are hundreds of other ways to get the idea across. For example, something a lot of people (including me) constantly forget about is sound.
Poetry is not prose, and basically all rules go out the window. But to write an effective poem, it should take more than just metaphors - it should require the usage of many of the devices that can be used to embellish the text, from sound, to flow, to line breaks.
Edit: "Rules go out the window" means there are no restrictions on poetry, but despite the rules having gone out of the window, that does not mean you can't follow them anymore. What rules you choose to keep (if any) depends on what you want to do. For example, e.e. cummings is one of the few that doesn't use capitalization and very little punctuation in poems, but they are just as good as others. And, as Cogito points out in the post below, some middle-schoolers may choose no rules unwisely and produce
If all rules go out the window, what you have left is word compost. Even poetry requires some adherence to grammar. Grammar helps define the structure between words in combination.
In poetry, you pare away some of the grammatical restrictions, but with a scalpel, not a woodchipper. Agreement in number remains important, even if in the deliberate breaking of that rule.
When all structure goes out the window, what you often have left is the self-indulgent emotional vomit passed off as poetry by angst-ridden middle schoolers, dashed off between classes they won't pay attention to anyway. In short, garbage.
amen to all that!
In my opinion, that's not blank verse.
Blank verse is unrhymed iambic pentameter.
A line of of iambic pentameter is composed of five feet. Feet are
metrical units defined by the number of syllables and the position
of the stress (accented syllable). In this case, we are dealing with iambs,
which are comprised of two syllables, the stress falling on the second
A famous example of blank verse*:
Of course, I'm not saying that one should rigidly stick to the
metrical pattern when composing blank verse. The best formal
poets tend to use metrical substitution (alternative feet - varying effects)
in combination with line-breaks and enjambment (etc).
But even then, the musculature of the poem will (in most cases)
be centred around the iambic pentameter.
* The highlights are the 'stresses' (accented syllables). See 'scansion' for
solar... yes, i should have labeled that 'free verse'... sorry for the slip...
No need to apologize. I kind of figured it was a slip.
Just thought it would be a good opportunity to contribute
to this thread. Although I'm no expert on poetry, I am still
passionate about it.
Blank verse is easily confused with free verse. After all, some
people would say that blank verse is free verse - blank verse
just has certain defining characteristics.
Anyway, I was pleased to see this thread. I hope
there'll be more lively poetry discussions in the near future.
all the best.
Labels (this is this, that is that) are useful for organization but not very helpful in creative endeavors. Prose, poetry, drama, journalism, etc. can all draw freely upon a common set of tools for shaping a collection of words: grammar, structure, style, sound, rhythm, connotation, denotation, context, simile, metaphor, and so on. None of these is exclusively reserved for one form or another. Likewise, no one form demands any prerequisite tool.
So, what makes poetry? As “beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” I believe the categorization of any writing is based on intent (from the writer’s point of view) and perception (from the reader’s or hearer’s point of view). There is an “I and Thou” element to all writing. I often find myself reading what appears to be poetry – and I feel safe in assuming the author’s intent was poetry – but, in the end, the words do not hold together as I expect poetry should. In such cases I must label the attempt as something else: rambling, thought stream, cacophony, or whatever.
Take the case of song lyrics. Poetry can be lyrical and may be sung, but lyrics – which usually look like poetry (similar formatting) – are not necessarily poetry. Why not? Sometimes it’s because the intent is other than poetry, while other times it fails to be perceived as poetry.
So it’s all relative – to each his/her own? In a word, Yes. In another word, No. Relativity does not mean each individual gets to choose his/her own set of rules. It means a common set of rules may yield different results through different points of view. An author intending poetry may find his writing is rejected as being otherwise. Then again, an author intending something other than poetry may find her efforts eliciting a poetic effect.
Know your audience. Most writers submit to their own, personal awareness when setting to work. Eventually, though, unless it is reserved only for private purpose, an author will surrender the result to other eyes and ears, knowing that it may not be perceived as intended. Through experience, trial and retrial, an author gains wisdom and understanding of the general response evoked by his/her writing and may choose to modify the approach or limit future offerings to a specific subgroup. This is the normal course of the process.
My advice to beginners: practice using the various tools, especially the ones that are found to be the most challenging; be clear about your intent, staying focused; and remain open to learning from others’ perceptions of your work. A willingness to go back to the “drawing board” will serve you well in the long run.
"In the eye of the beholder", unfortunately, sans any other criteria, admits vomited streams of random words to be labeled poetry (projectile poetry?) That is not particularly useful, although it's great for PC ungrading. Don't introduce ranking, because some poor sap will be left feeling inferior.
With no concept of ranking, there can be no accomplishment either. Without ranking, there is no concept of improvement, or of quality, either.
There are multiple criteria for poetry: rhyme, imagery, rhythm and meter, metaphor, etc. Not all of them meed apply to any particular poem, but if none of them do, it collapses into pretentious gibbering.
Who the eff said poetry is the right word in the right place at the right time? I like that. "Effective purpose. Words formed, ordered, and chosen properly to cause a disturbance."-old professor
As a reader or reviewer, employ all the ranking you care to. The point is, "vomited streams of random words" may very well be intended as poetry. However, it is unlikely they will be perceived as poetry by anyone else. A writer may claim, "This is poetry." A reader may argue, "That is not poetry." Neither is correct if the relationship between them is ignored. To say that a writer should be bound to a minimal set of criteria is just as errant as saying a writer need not follow any criteria. This is an old philosophical argument - realism vs. idealism. I stand by the middle ground - the claim must be resolved between the writer and reader. It is communal and will benefit from a forum where both sides may interact.
I know what you are getting at, but it has it's own risk of eliminating grading. If the "vomited streams of random words" are presented and received as poetry then I am content to label them poetry. I just label them very very bad poetry. If a text has to achieve a certain standard before it gets labelled "poetry" then we risk losing the ability to make a distinction between good and bad poetry. That's why I don't worry about the value being in the eye of the beholder: it still allows communities to make value judgements, it still allows a reviewer to talk about what works and what doesn't.
this is why the word 'doggerel' exists...
Well, doggerel might or might not meet Cog's criteria for poetry. It's a different axis to the good/bad axis. The "30 days hath September" rhyme is bad poetry but good doggerel in that it serves its intended function well and is certainly not "vomited streams of random words".
Poetry is probably one of the oldest literary art forms; it was sung alongside paintings of mastodons, cave lions and mammoths to tell of the bravery of the hunters and honour the sprits of the slain animals. It was how our Neolithic ancestors told their stories amongst the clan before the invention of the written word. The bard who sang the stories was held in a position of high reverence.
Beowulf is an example of this sort of tradition, and it’s cited as being the most important work of Anglo-Saxon literature. Important because it’s the first cohesive piece of literature to be written in what would one day become English, and it was a poem.
Also, it’s a kick-ass ripping story. (sic)
The importance of poetry and poetic tools in prose goes with out saying, writing anything the least bit descriptive is almost impossible without using a simile or metaphor.
However, There is a lot of very bed poetry, there is also great poetry, and unfortunately you sometimes have to wade through a mountain of self-indulgent emo type rubbish is find the good stuff.
It’s very easy to become a self indulgent as a poet because many would be poets try to dredge things up from their (so called) souls and spew it onto the page.
The problem with this is that passion in poetry without a coherent thread or idea that actually leads some where is just mental masturbation.
It’s my opinion that for a poem to stand any chance it needs to do more than make the reader feel something, it needs to relate somehow to how our perceptions of the world work and twist that in starling and interesting ways.
That is why for example poems about the majesty and spirituality of nature make most people go limp with boredom. These sort of things have been done before ad nauseum.
If you want to keep the readers interest you’d you really do need an original idea.
My suggestion for writing poetry is find something real to write about it, bad poems come from trying to imagine things, which you’ve never actually really had any real experience of. It’s phoney and the people reading it can tell it's phoney.
To tell a story within the poetic framework, it has to go some place and if it makes some uncomfortable point, then good! If is not doing that, then its just decoration.
all good points, sm...
love and hugs, maia [a 'serious' full time poet--see evidence below ]
Thanks for this - I really need to improve my poetry.
@Cogito: Completely unstructured poetry is not necessarily "middle-school vomit". Sure, a lot of teens think it's cool to write emo dribble (which could still be poetry, albeit bad poetry), but you have to keep an open mind to the real free verse poets. Charles Bukowski has no apparent structure, but I'll be damned if he doesn't have some extremely moving poems. The best way to discern different types of poetry is to do the labor of reading a lot of it. Truthfully, there are no hard lines that are universally accepted (but my English teacher said "anything that isn't prose is poetry"). You have to remember why you're reading. To be moved, to think, to learn, not to resolve impossible technicalities.
However, if you're reviewing for a friend/amateur, it's much easier to not get caught up in "is this technically poetry?" and just evaluate the writing. Does it move you or is it bland? The exception would be if they are writing perfectly coherent, complete sentences. Then they should probably just make it prose (or make it more poetical).
And the unseen force behind free verse, the rhythm, is often overlooked. Slam poets really exemplify what free verse can be, and how it differs from "middle-school vomit". Try reading the poem out loud to see if you gain any new insights.
I've been snooping around here and other sites for details on "correct" structure. As much as writing goes, and from what I've seen there is only a thin line to follow. One of the biggest parts of structure is personal style that is relate-able. Then again I am sort of just restating the obvious. (blah blah)
Would be pretty awesome for more details, though.
'correct' structure only relates to those long-established formal classes of poems like the sonnet, cinquain, haiku, and so on...
if you browse the 'philosetry' section of my website linked below, you'll see that while i don't cotton to any of the formal styles, each of my poems still has an intentional structure of some kind... and i doubt any two among the hundreds there are exactly alike in arrangement...
is this the kind of 'details' you wanted?... feel free to email me for more, if you wish...
love and hugs, maia
more poetry lessons!! fuck YES PLEASE!!
Separate names with a comma.