1. badgerjelly

    badgerjelly Contributor Contributor

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    Why do you read poetry?

    Discussion in 'Poetry' started by badgerjelly, Oct 3, 2018.

    This is something I am really curious about. Recently someone had a go at me for not reading poetry even though I enjoy writing it. Personally I just don’t get that much from reading poetry because I am not willing to read several hundred poems to find a few a deem “good” - I’ve always been open to different artistic styles across all manner of artistic media, yet I have always been very particular about what I like within my broad tastes.

    The more I’ve thought about this recently the more I’ve come to conclude that I look for teo very specific things in poetry - the first being euphonic quality and the second intellectual depth. I’m a sucker for clever metaphor too and Keats’ Ode to The Nightingale was the first one to really shake me to the core and appreciate the depth and reach a poem could have if executed well - and my teacher at the time helped a great deal too!

    I guess my criticism of many poems I come across is that they go over philosophical/existential ground well trodden by a philosophical tradition yet seemingly ignorant of said philosophical traditions. Maybe I’m just more impressed by rational arguments than mysticism dressed as intellect? I don’t know.

    Anyway, ramble over. What is it that draws you to poetry? Why do you continue to read more poetry and what is it that it does for you?
     
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  2. Solar

    Solar Contributor Contributor

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    Sorry mate, but I don't think your reasoning stacks up. That's like saying, 'I like writing
    novels but I'm not prepared to read novels to find stuff I like'. Same with short stories.
    It's poor logic and clearly an excuse for your laziness. You like intellectual depth? Start
    with your own reasoning.

    You clearly haven't read much contemporary poetry because your description of it
    doesn't match reality. And your own poetry is generally quite bad and wouldn't be
    accepted in journals and magazines.

    I read poetry for the same reason I read novels, watch plays and listen to music:
    it's pleasurable. I enjoy reading and absorbing well-crafted poetry. It also helps
    me learn as well.
     
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  3. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

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    I don't so much write poetry as much as I read it. And I really only tried writing it because I liked it and wanted to see if I could pull off certain forms and such. I'm not a poet, is what I learned. I can write many different forms correctly, but poetry is more than that. I do believe reading poetry is good for the soul and other things. I've read a lot of poetry and in my whole life I haven't read 100 bad poems. Are you sure you like poetry?

    I agree with @Solar that it's important to read what you want to write. And not doing so is just going to stunt your talents and abilities. I also agree that the contemporary poetry I read is not at all what you seem to think it is. Even older poetry is not really like that. Shakespeare was just one writer. It's not all so lofty. If we're going to talk about the old greats look at Ezra Pound and Elizabeth Bishop who both wrote so many poems and mastered so many forms. I know I've mentioned these two poets in another thread recently, but they are who I think of in terms of classic poetry or poetry worth studying. Anyone who can pull off a good sestina is probably a pretty great poet. But how can anyone write a good sestina without reading them? I'm not saying you need to write in any given form or form at all, but we have so many examples that came long before any of us ever thought of writing. Why would you not want to read them? And contemporary poetry has a lot of exciting things happening. I think it would be harder to find 100 bad poems than 100 good poems.
     
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  4. badgerjelly

    badgerjelly Contributor Contributor

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    Solar -

    I don’t quite follow you here. “Laziness” because I don’t enjoy reading much poetry? It isn’t a matter of “laziness” merely taste. I am not going to push every interest I have to the limit because I don’t have the time to. Of course if my intention was to put my heart and soul into writing poetry I’d suffer the consequences and learn, learn, learn, read, read, read. But I don’t because my heart and soul is not “poetry”, I have more pressing interests.

    If you want to talk about logic then why is it okay for you to pursue what you enjoy but “laziness” on my part? My question was lain out openly and honestly. I have made no claims as to be an expert in poetry yet you insist on being what I regard as needly rude for reasons I cannot fathom.

    Feel free to suggest some comtemporary poetry for me to read and see if you can entice me rather than greedily keeping it to yourself. I don’t much care to look further than I have already without suggestions from other people. I’ve not looked hard and I don’t apologise for not doing so. What I did say is that what I have looked at doesn’t give me as much pleasure as other pursuits do. I’m open to suggestions - if I like it I like it. If not then maybe I have bad taste in poetry.

    What makes you think say that all of my poetry is so bad? I suggested you to look at one I believe to be reasonable and comment. Of course you can ignore this request as you did ignore offering up suggestions of “good” contemporary poetry to read.
     
  5. badgerjelly

    badgerjelly Contributor Contributor

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    Deadrats -

    Maybe I don’t like poetry after all! Haha! I enjoy writing what I write and sometimes I even write something I am reasonably happy with.

    The ironic thing is a friend of mine likes to write poetry and I always go on at him to study more about the structure of poems. I guess Solar is trying to bludgeon me into action about something he is passionate about. Maybe his technique will work ;)

    I enjoy many aspects of language and tend toward more factual works than works of fiction. It is the interplay between fact and fiction within literature in general that has fascinated me for some time. I’d love to hear some suggestions of what to read that I can access with ease on the the net.
     
  6. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

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    @badgerjelly -- I suggest you try reading Dan O'Brien, specifically his collection titled "War Reporter." The history of how that collection came to be is also quite interesting. I really can't recommend him enough. I think based on what you just said you might like him. And I think he's doing things with poetry that aren't always seen. His work is breathtaking both for the language and content. He's got a few collections that are all pretty recent and also writes plays.
     
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  7. OurJud

    OurJud Contributor Contributor

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    I get where @badgerjelly is coming from, even if I don't wholly agree with all they say. When I first developed my interest in poetry I found it so intimidating and daunting that I put off trying to write it for literally years. But a lot of that intimation I now realise I would class as pretentious. The stuff I was reading (mainly the masters of yesteryear because I thought these were the 'real' and only poets) went so over my head that I thought the art form was beyond me, and because of this my interest and liking of poetry started to wane, and even, perhaps, move towards a disliking.

    But in my old age, and because of poets like Carlos Williams, Pound and others who dared to write poetry free of the flowery language and sentimentality so prevalent in the works of those who went before them, I decided to give it a try.

    To answer your question, finally, I read poetry because I'm hungry to discover the magic key. I'm eager to learn what turns a few nicely phrased lines into a poem, because make no mistake there is a key. You can read teach yourself books that talk about meter, rhyme, alliteration, metaphor, abstraction, or any other of the 10001 poetic devices we can employ, but none of these books will tell you how to tie these things together to create a genuinely 'good' poem. What is a genuinely good poem? I have no idea, and that's still part of my problem.

    Of course I read it for pleasure too. I like how a book of poetry can be dipped into, randomly. There's no plot to follow (as when reading a novel or short story). I like how a poem can make me feel, especially those with a certain type of abruptness to their ending. For me a good poem is like looking at a beautiful painting or photograph, but with ten times the power.

    Truth be told, though, and this brings me back to what I said about sympathising with @badgerjelly - I don't enjoy the majority of poetry I read. Most of it I don't even get to the end of.
     
    Last edited: Oct 4, 2018
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  8. 8Bit Bob

    8Bit Bob I see you took all the freakin' chips! Contributor

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    Same reason I consume any other type of art, for pleasure. ;) It's one of my favorite art forms for it's (usual) depth and many different forms. I personally enjoy metaphorical poetry, but I'm also a sucker for a good story-telling poem as well.
     
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  9. 8Bit Bob

    8Bit Bob I see you took all the freakin' chips! Contributor

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    @badgerjelly, also, if you're looking for some modern poetry I would suggest Ted Kooser. I haven't read too much of his stuff, but what I have read I've liked ;)
     
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  10. badgerjelly

    badgerjelly Contributor Contributor

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    I do really rely heavily on metaphor when I write and really enjoy that element when I read it in literature.

    I have to admit deadrats O’Brien’s “helicopters hectoring” and “panes prattling” is something I won’t forget in a hurry. Over all though I guess I’m too greedy. I expect every line to pluck at my tastes. Maybe that is why although I like some lines it is a bery rare thing for me you appreciate every line in a poem.
     
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  11. ReproveTheCurlew

    ReproveTheCurlew Active Member

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    Interesting thread topic and some rather heated debates :D My short reply would be the same the others gave: it's enjoyable. I certainly started out that way, and I enjoyed it so much that it was my primary motivator to study literature... 4 years later and I still focus mainly on it (with both my BA and MA dissertations having been on modernist poets)

    And now the long and probably somewhat more interesting response:
    Just because I've read much poetry doesn't mean I enjoy all poetry. For example (because you mentioned Keats), I love Romantic poetry in general, but if I was to choose from the 'big 5' I'd say I enjoy Keats and Shelley any day; Byron and Wordsworth are okay when I'm in the right mood, but I really dislike Coleridge. Why? Personal preference, nothing more. To say you like or dislike poetry as a whole is the same as saying you like or dislike novels as a whole, or musicals, you name it. In essence there are just so many differences between periods, poets, or even a poets own work across different timescales. Take an early Yeats, for example - say 'He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven' and compare it to his late 'The Tower'. Or for an even more extreme example, look at Ezra Pound's 'In a Station in the Metro', which has the honour of being the shortest Modernist poem, but he also wrote The Cantos, which is the longest modernist poem - and they aren't even comparable (for those interested in the Cantos: some of it is good, but there are pages upon pages of incomprehensible drivel...).

    You also couldn't really compare a Dan Brown with an Ian McEwan novel, or a Hitchcock to a modern-day horror film. Not in terms of what is good or bad, but just in terms of what you enjoy. If you like My Fair Lady it doesn't mean you'll like Heathers: The Musical.

    So I suppose the short of it is: if you say you don't like poetry as a whole, it just means you haven't read much of it. People who like poetry don't like all poetry; people who don't like poetry don't know poetry. There are a few poems I absolutely adore; many I admire greatly; a huge amount I enjoy but wouldn't bother reading too closely; and quite a few I really don't like. With 'the classics' (being anything until roughly 1950) I'd say most fall into the adore-enjoy categories, whereas a lot of contemporary stuff is in the 'don't like' category. Not all of them, by any means. But whereas the classics are those which have stood the test of time (and the shit from those times has largely been forgotten), in contemporary poetry you still get the full onslaught. So yes, I still buy the Forward book of poetry each year (second hand; they go away for almost nothing), and the New Poetries series whenever they're released. Conversely, I'm rather upset that spoken word 'poetry' is a thing and that 'instapoetry' is so popular.

    In the end, if you actually do like poetry, you should just read widely. The occasional gem you find will keep you hooked. THen, as you read more, you discover more that you like, and by growing your understanding (through reading) you appreciate more, and end up in a cycle of enjoyment - and voila, you're an avid reader of poetry.

    But if you really can't be bothered, also no harm done - I think there are worse things in the world than not being into poetry.
     
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  12. BabyNayahi

    BabyNayahi Member

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    I don't read it but I have written maybe a hundred poems. I don't read it because it's hard to explain but I like poetry that goes DEEP yet I can still understand what the heck it is talking about. I have read old style poetry like shakesphere and I was lost. Maybe I'm too dumb but it was like mumbo jumbo rambling. I even took classes on it and still didn't understand.
    Then I puchased many books on more modern poety and I started thinking to myself where is the poetry? It didn't make my imagination run wild and free or make me feel a sense of magic and art as I think poetry should. I read a few poems here and there but always end up dissapointed. So.... I don't read it. Just like you I couldn't find any good ones. They are out there but very few fit my taste. However, I do so love to write it. I use it as a way of telling my life story and expressing thoughts and feelings but in the writing style I enjoy. :superagree:
     
  13. OurJud

    OurJud Contributor Contributor

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    So what serves as your guide and inspiration for improving your poetry? Or is that not your aim?
     
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  14. CerebralEcstasy

    CerebralEcstasy Active Member

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    ...poetry is the most naked and intimate of written forms. I want readers to feel that uncanny closeness that I feel to... (the) experience. This excerpt from www.zyzzyva.org/2013/09/11/the-poet-finds-his-voice-through-the-war-reporter-qa-with-dan-obrien/ describes why I would read poetry. It is the revelation of the author and their struggle, the view they have about the world and the experience they're writing about. How they move through life.

    I'm a horrible poet, but I appreciate the rawness of a persons emotions, and I have an undeniable fondness for Kipling and Frost.


    Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936)

    The Female of the Species

    WHEN the Himalayan peasant meets the he-bear in his pride,
    He shouts to scare the monster, who will often turn aside.
    But the she-bear thus accosted rends the peasant tooth and nail.
    For the female of the species is more deadly than the male.

    When Nag the basking cobra hears the careless foot of man,
    He will sometimes wriggle sideways and avoid it if he can.
    But his mate makes no such motion where she camps beside the trail.
    For the female of the species is more deadly than the male.

    When the early Jesuit fathers preached to Hurons and Choctaws,
    They prayed to be delivered from the vengeance of the squaws.
    'Twas the women, not the warriors, turned those stark enthusiasts pale.
    For the female of the species is more deadly than the male.

    Man's timid heart is bursting with the things he must not say,
    For the Woman that God gave him isn't his to give away;
    But when hunter meets with husbands, each confirms the other's tale—
    The female of the species is more deadly than the male.

    Man, a bear in most relations—worm and savage otherwise,—
    Man propounds negotiations, Man accepts the compromise.
    Very rarely will he squarely push the logic of a fact
    To its ultimate conclusion in unmitigated act.

    Fear, or foolishness, impels him, ere he lay the wicked low,
    To concede some form of trial even to his fiercest foe.
    Mirth obscene diverts his anger—Doubt and Pity oft perplex
    Him in dealing with an issue—to the scandal of The Sex!

    But the Woman that God gave him, every fibre of her frame
    Proves her launched for one sole issue, armed and engined for the same;
    And to serve that single issue, lest the generations fail,
    The female of the species must be deadlier than the male.

    She who faces Death by torture for each life beneath her breast
    May not deal in doubt or pity—must not swerve for fact or jest.
    These be purely male diversions—not in these her honour dwells—
    She the Other Law we live by, is that Law and nothing else.

    She can bring no more to living than the powers that make her great
    As the Mother of the Infant and the Mistress of the Mate.
    And when Babe and Man are lacking and she strides unclaimed to claim
    Her right as femme (and baron), her equipment is the same.

    She is wedded to convictions—in default of grosser ties;
    Her contentions are her children, Heaven help him who denies!—
    He will meet no suave discussion, but the instant, white-hot, wild,
    Wakened female of the species warring as for spouse and child.

    Unprovoked and awful charges—even so the she-bear fights,
    Speech that drips, corrodes, and poisons—even so the cobra bites,
    Scientific vivisection of one nerve till it is raw
    And the victim writhes in anguish—like the Jesuit with the squaw!

    So it comes that Man, the coward, when he gathers to confer
    With his fellow-braves in council, dare not leave a place for her
    Where, at war with Life and Conscience, he uplifts his erring hands
    To some God of Abstract Justice—which no woman understands.

    And Man knows it! Knows, moreover, that the Woman that God gave him
    Must command but may not govern—shall enthral but not enslave him.
    And She knows, because She warns him, and Her instincts never fail,
    That the Female of Her Species is more deadly than the Male.
     
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  15. OurJud

    OurJud Contributor Contributor

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    It never really occurred to me to say as much, but the above motivations for reading poetry couldn't be further removed from my own reasons.

    It may be a selfish attitude, but I really am not interested in reading about a person's struggles, via poetry. I want the poetry I read to transport me. I want to be able to smell the scene. I want it to trigger my senses. All of which is why I prefer poetry that talks about concrete objects rather than human emotions.
     
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  16. 8Bit Bob

    8Bit Bob I see you took all the freakin' chips! Contributor

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    Which I think is a good example of the different types of poetry. Just like different people like different generas of prose, and therefore like reading for different reasons, people also like different "types" of poetry, and therefore like reading poetry for different reasons :)
     
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  17. ReproveTheCurlew

    ReproveTheCurlew Active Member

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    Would you say the same about things like 50 Shades of Grey or about the fanfic My Immortal? Just different tastes so fine? I mean, yeah, of course I couldn't care less what other people feel about something and what they like or dislike, but it paints a sad picture of the artform in general when things like that actually gain a huge popularity. And the type of poetry Cerebral promotes with what he says is good poetry is often rather poor poetry, at least when those are the only qualifiers for good poetry (thank heavens the examples, Frost and Kipling, are both excellent and have very little to do with the mere abstract expression of personality and inner struggle, but have a huge amount of technicality to them... esp. Frost who throughout his life was immensely interested in poetic technique).

    Of course the things Cerebral praises should be there, but the thing is: inner struggles and experiences can also be fictional. What's on the paper is all that counts. If it hooks the reader it is good; if it isn't, it's bad. Quite simple and straight-forward. If it hooks me I like it, if it doesn't, I don't. If you praise a poet for their lives rather than the actual quality of their poetry, you just don't really like poetry. Not that anyone has stated that extreme opinion mind you - but it's only a small step from 'Good poetry = genuine representation of personality and interesting life stories' and 'Good life story = good poetry'.

    To put it in Nietzschean terms, do away with Plato and embrace Homer... a lie can sound just genuine as the truth. Thing is, the way it's presented trumps almost everything.
     
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  18. 8Bit Bob

    8Bit Bob I see you took all the freakin' chips! Contributor

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    Oh no, I was by no means defending bad poetry. Have a look through my post history and you will find many lengthy debates on my part about that :p I was mainly talking about the different styles of poetry (love poetry, story-driven poetry, scenic poetry, etc.)

    I agree with everything said here.
     
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  19. ReproveTheCurlew

    ReproveTheCurlew Active Member

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    I know, it was only half a response to you and half a response to the current zeitgeist regarding poetry :D sorry you happened to be the target of my rant. I actually regard most of your posts highly
     
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  20. 8Bit Bob

    8Bit Bob I see you took all the freakin' chips! Contributor

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    It's all good, I understand ;):D

    Thanks for the kind words, I'm glad you think so :)
     
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  21. BabyNayahi

    BabyNayahi Member

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    At the time I was writing poetry I had no desire to improve I just wrote it for self expression and enjoyment because I have a hard time communicating myslef with spoken words.
    Now that I am thinking more and more about publishing I will probably look to expand my knowlege in the future and advance my skills, so I think I will have no choice but to read it more. I think the style and content of my poetry is perferct (to my taste) and I don't feel it needs improving but what I do need to work on is the correct pacing. I am not even sure of the correct terms for it but I need to learn how to even out the lines and syllables. I have some lines with long sentences and then the next one after it is short, so it doesn't flow well in poetry standards I think. There is always something to improve when it comes to writing. I would like to post one of them here one day. :write:
     
  22. OurJud

    OurJud Contributor Contributor

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    But you say you're looking to publish. If you're truly of the belief your poetry can't be improved, your only hope is self-publishing. Getting commercially published is incredibly difficult. Getting commercially published poetry is harder still. Getting commercially published poetry when you openly admit you don't enjoy reading it... well, good luck with that.
     
  23. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

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    It's often a long and hard fall down to reality when a writer thinks anything they write is perfect. And I don't think the goal is ever perfection. I've said before I can write correct poetry. I know and understand the forms of poetry (many of them, at least). So, does that make my sonnet perfect? Everything is where it's supposed to be. Everything is done right. Is it perfect? I don't think so. I don't submit poetry for publication. I have a few times in the past, but to publish a poem in a well-known and/or respected publication is probably one of the hardest things to do. Just read the bois of todays poets in these publications. No one is just accidentally good. I adore poetry. And I think I can spot a difference between what a published poem looks like and what someone scribbles down and thinks it's perfect in one draft. Professional poets (and I say that means the ones making money from it) spend a good deal of time working their craft and molding their pieces. Thinking your writing is perfect is only going to hold you back from improving, in my opinion. I like contemporary poetry and I'm familiar with what's being published where because I read many of the places publishing this stuff. I think going into this blind is stupid. But that's just what I think. I'm not even a poet.
     
    Last edited: Nov 4, 2018
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  24. BabyNayahi

    BabyNayahi Member

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    I sadly have to agree. I heard much about the publishing struggle. That's why I never thought much about publishing in the past because I have always written poetry for me and not the reader I guess. I know have to change my mindset if I want to get published. I really do not want to self publish but I would do it if I had no other choice because I would like to share some of my writings with the world. I am a little selfish when it comes to poetry but I'm not like that with my fiction stories. I always reading novels, researching, trying to learn how to get better at it. :write:
     
  25. JLT

    JLT Contributor Contributor

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    As usual, I speak only for myself.

    I get two things from reading poetry. First, there is the beauty of playing with the language itself. Second, there's a opportunity to see how a well-chosen phrase can compact a lot of meaning into a short space, and juxtapose unrelated thoughts into a related whole, giving a bit of perspective.

    For example, Billy Collins's "The Lanyard"

    https://www.poemhunter.com/poem/the-lanyard/

    where he contrasts the consequential gifts a mother gives her child with the somewhat less consequential gift that the child gives the mother, but how both gifts are given from the heart, as best as the giver can do.

    Or Jackson Browne's phrase in "Fountain of Sorrow"...

    "When you see through true love's illusions
    And your perfect lover just looks like a perfect fool
    So you go off in search of a perfect stranger ..."

    So he signals that the "perfect" in the third line is intended to mean both "ideal" and "complete" through the use of the word in both senses in the second line. That's poetry to me.

    As for why I write poetry and song lyrics, it's because I'm seeking that compression of meaning into a small space, and the sharing of an insight that occurs as sort of an aftershock to the more overt content.
     
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