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Poetry: Thoughts from reading else-LJ

Most of the following post/mini-essay/rant was originally going to be a comment on a post by ysabetwordsmith that linked to a poll on DW about poetry and people's understanding/enjoyment/reading/writing of it. This is a ramble of thoughts dumped into my keyboard, for which I do not apologise.

Some of my free-verse, like the poetry that people (in comments on the above links) are referring to as "prose with random line-breaks", has random-seeming line-breaks because that is how my brain works and that is how the words come out. I rarely edit my free-verse because it is self-descriptive in that way. The form of the stream-of-consciousness describes the words as such.

I love reading. Anything with words on it. Poetry, prose, cereal packets, anything. I initially had difficulty reading haiku, for example, because I could not "feel" the meter but now love to read and write them because they tickle the mathematical part of my brain much like knitting does. There is bound to be a poem or poetry style out there that I cannot parse but I can usually eventually see the meter, rhyme or lack thereof as part of the meaning of the poem.

Maybe it is because I have a classical music training as well. Many of my poems I have set to music with my guitar, back when I still used to play, and so know that much poetry (and even prose) can have rhythm imposed upon it by setting it to music. Just because the author did not make it blatantly obvious to the reader with signposts, rhymes, line-breaks and other punctuation does not mean that it is not there to be found.

I used to hate "poetry appreciation" classes at 'high-school' in English Literature class because, as someone who had been writing poetry since I was eight, I knew that the reader would very often have no idea what the author meant by their poem's words. I went through a phase of writing poems as opaque and hard to decipher as possible that were also 'clever', 'pretty', lyrical or rhythmic, just to see what other people might (fail to) make of them. I knew what I meant by them. They were my own secret code to myself, I suppose. I remember verbally laying into one English teacher (6th form, my friend's (who talked me into showing him my poetry) teacher - I did not study English) who had offered to critique some of my poetry out of class. He had talked about how I should edit them or change things. He just did not get that the words came out of my head, off the pen and onto the page (in those days - keyboard, often, now but more rarely) exactly how I meant them to be. Changing them would ruin them and change what they were saying. Narcissistic of me, maybe, but if the words asked me to write them, who was I to change them?



( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 17th, 2011 12:34 am (UTC)
JJ here in her LJ incarnation
Adding music to poetry is like hearing it said aloud--suddenly there's a whole other set of channels for meaning threaded through the words, extra timbres of emotion and pace and tone that can jive or jangle with the words' internal force.

Thanks for taking the time to write this up; it's very helpful for me in terms of organizing my own thoughts.
May. 17th, 2011 05:45 am (UTC)
1) Some poets have line breaks that are deliberate, but not obviously so. That's fine. Good free verse has a cadence to it, not a regular rhythm but a carrying momentum. The line breaks help to shape that.

Other poets really are random. Seriously, I have seen people write a paragraph and then just break it up for a poetry class.

2) Much of my poetry is lyrical, like the ballads or villanelles. But even my free verse has an awareness of the sound and mouthfeel. For me it comes not from classical music but from linguistics. I suspect the result is similar though.

3) The earliest of my poetry we have is from when I was six, and it's in my parents' handwriting because I couldn't write well yet. So yeah, most classes on poetry were wretched and the poems in the textbooks were often wretched too. But I did have a couple of good teachers over the years.

4) There are different reasons for writing poetry. Not all of it is meant to be shared. Some is for personal expression or private communication. Some is just for fun. And if it works for those purposes, then it's effective, even if it wouldn't make sense to other people. There's a difference between that, and poetry that's supposed to be for an audience but fails to connect.

Thanks for raising some new points.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )


Nat S Ford
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