Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Roses are from Nantucket

I don't really get poetry.

Actually scratch that, I get it, I just don't really like it much.

I can't say I am a massive reader of poetry to make me the best judge, but I have read more than the odd 4 liner about people from Nantucket or what colour roses are.

Some battlefield poetry particularly from the first World War has a certain resonance, but all said and done I would prefer if they shared their thoughts and emotions in a simpler written format.

My dislike of poetry probably stems from my appreciation of the beauty of simplicity. To my sensibilities, something that performs it's duty completely, in the simplest way possible is inherently beautiful. Poetry seems to perform it's duty of conveying a message, using a combination of words that the author finds evokes particular emotions for them, but could be interpreted completely differently by others. If the intention is to evoke specific emotions, then poetry can be a pretty haphazard way of doing it.

I got this definition of poetry from about.com :

Poetry is an imaginative awareness of experience expressed through meaning, sound, and rhythmic language choices so as to evoke an emotional response. Poetry has been known to employ meter and rhyme, but this is by no means necessary. Poetry is an ancient form that has gone through numerous and drastic reinvention over time. The very nature of poetry as an authentic and individual mode of expression makes it nearly impossible to define.

I see the written word as a means to convey information and at times solicit an emotional response. If you want me to have an emotional response then tell me a simple story, don't string a bunch of fancy words together in some kind of rhythmic pattern and expect any emotional response other than frustration, after I've spent 20 minutes working out what you are on about.

Hmmm, might explain why I generally prefer photography over other forms of visual art.

Anyway, feel free to tell me just how wrong I am.


  1. Not a massive fan myself but you know what really shits me? When Rappers Rhyme.

  2. Poetry is meant to be spoken aloud. The use of the beat within the words is meant to pattern-lull & hypnotise. Rap is recorded poetry with a beat- it is poetry delivered properly as spoken word with a beat behind it.

    For hypnosis or beat hypnosis to work better, you need to be in a receptive state. One of the best receptive states is achieved through relaxation and alcohol.

    So I think that in order to give this poetry a good solid go you need someone to read it to you while you are quite drunk.

    Please, experiment and report.

  3. Not a big fan of poetry myself. To me, if I can't express it or understand the writers meaning in a simple sentence then the right words weren't used in the first place.

  4. May I suggest Haldeman's "Saul's Death" as a piece I like.

  5. First of all mate welcome back.

    I'm also a bit cynical about poetry but as a result of having to study so farking much of it at high school. There's no greater way of losing or destroying the mystery of a piece of art than by pulling it to bits and figuring out exactly how the did it. Science and engineering on the other hand gains in value by that sort of approach.

    Moko's poem about BBQs on Blunty, though, that was decent.

  6. I absolutely love poetry. I love the ambiguety of it. The whole process is a puzzle: piecing it together as a writer, trying to see the pieces as a whole as a reader.

  7. Where ya been, Naut?

    Another aspect of poetry probably goes back to the beginning of language.

    As a rule, you probably remember concepts that are spoken in a beat or a rhyme scheme. Someone long ago probably grabbed that idea and used a rhyme to convey ideas and lessons to others in their group. Voila! A literary idea was born.

    The Doc is onto something-I'm convinced a lot of people don't like literature because after dissecting a story, the 'fun' of reading is diminished.

  8. Same with me. I’ve always had the same problem: I spend ten minutes trying to decipher something, and am usually still left wondering whether I’ve interpreted it correctly. I far prefer prose, which can convey far more exactly what is required, albeit at greater length.

    I do see the ‘evoking an emotion’ thing – but that usually means that it’s the reader who’s doing the work, not the writer. You have no idea if your reaction is the one intended, as it’s so often subjective. Of course there are some that aren’t subjective: your example of some WW1 poetry for example (Dulce et Decorum Est being one I remember well) – but why not have it as more easily readable prose? You can still indulge in metaphor or whatever other literary device you like.

    It may also be true in certain cases that something incomprehensible in print may sound entirely different when read out with the correct pace and emphasis. But if you’re reading it to yourself out of a book that’s not much consolation. No, prose any day for me.

  9. Mate!.

    Poetry is a personal thing. Same as a picture. What you might find random someone else will find inspirational.

    Music's a form of poetry. Well, two forms of poetry in one. The written side of it, and the instrument side. Instruments have been used along side words to incite emotions since the dawn of time. You listen to an opera and the music tells a story on its own.

  10. NatV - Very true, but then I am also a Beastie Boys fan?

    Bart - Not sure what all that meant, but damn I'm thirsty now!

    DD - Got it in one!

    bangarrr - I will look it up, if it hurts to read you will be hearing from me;-)

    Doc - Haven't looked at Blunty, but if moko's spouting poetry there I will stay the fuck away from it!

    Jen - Your female so it is no surprise you like ambiguety.

    YD - I like your theory, but if poetry is supposed to convey ideas and lessons, then why doesn't it make sense?

    Simon - I may just delete my post and replace it with your comment. 100% agree!

    Moko - Most of the music I listen to, it's impossible to understand what they are saying anyway so it becomes a plesant noise. The difference between a lot of music and poetry is that music tends to use simple storytelling enhanced with music. Rather than simple storytelling fucked up with unneccessarily elobrate rubbish.

  11. Strangely enough, I love poetry (and not just because watching Warney rip a leg-spinner was poetry in motion). When I was in the Army I used to carry a small edition of Shakespeare's Sonnets with me everywhere in one of my ammo pouches.

    I know about seventy of them by rote now and am pretty familiar with the remainder. Sometimes I see something IRL that reminds me of one of the sonnets and those beautiful words come flooding back. It gives me pleasure regularly (like porn).

    Hope all is well at 20000 Leagues


  12. Lerm, always surprising. If you were any more multidimensional we'd need superstring theory to describe you.

    Can we call Aussie hip hop poetry? Sometimes the Hilltop Hoods make astonishing amounts of profound sense. Other times they're just pissed bogans from Adelaide.

  13. Indeed nice to have you posting.

    I think the definition of poetry here is a bit harsh if you only consider stuff that was studied at school as the only POETRY. Which is like big L Literature serious and vital and a bit too full of itself.

    If you are talking about poetry as just “stuff that rhymes” then consider its a lot easier to remember stuff if it has rhyme and rhythm and the best poetry is that which has both. You remember it more easily. Consider the example quoted above ‘Dulce et Decorum Est’ and assuming you are referring to the Poem by Wilfred Owen and not Horace's work. Those final lines “'it is sweet and right to die for your country” hit with a chill after the early refrains of:

    "If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
    Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
    Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud,
    Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues"

    yes it could be written plainer but I doubt I could remember those lines 30 years after I read them if they weren’t in a poem.

    "If the intention is to evoke specific emotions, then poetry can be a pretty haphazard way of doing it" I don't necessarily think that this is the sole intention of a piece of poetry. The same can be said of a novel, painting, sculpture, TV program or other form of communication.

    The charge "..perform it's duty of conveying a message, using a combination of words that the author finds evokes particular emotions for them” can also be made for any form of communication. Novels can invoke responses that differ wildly between two different readers. I find Stephanie Meyers 'Twilight' series annoying but some 13 years old girls consider it the greatest read since that bloke Shakespeare.

    Is it possible that your dislike of poetry is due to the way it was presented to you in school as a body of work to be picked apart. I only asked because the phrases you use:

    "fancy words together", "a simpler written format" and "in the simplest way possible" all seem to speak to you believing poetry is overly florid, and complex. Which some is but doesn’t have to be. While some is ( I am looking at you Byron) poetry at its simplest is communication using rhythmic language.

    So perhaps when you say you don’t like poetry could it be you mean you don't like those poems that are overly florid, use complex words and are perhaps difficult to understand unless you can analysis the patterns to get the meaning.

    As others have mentioned poetry is best read out loud. a lot of the bard’s stuff in his plays is poetry if you count iambic pentameter and I love to hear his stuff read out loud.

    Some of the greatest speeches use rhythmic and so could be considered poems.

    “I have a dream”, “We will fight them on the beaches’ or one of my favourite all time speeches Lincoln’s Gettysburg’s address.

    Please don’t give up on it, poetry can be as varied as prose. Forget the pulling apart stuff they covered in school. Read a few different poets until you find one you like what they say. I

    I guess my defence of poetry is not suprising from someone who's blog is a phase from a W.H.Auden.

    Like all forms of communication proses, music,

  14. LERM you just wanna woo Kate Winslet a la Sense and Sensibility!

  15. Lerm - Unlike the Doc I am not surprised you love poetry (and porn). I am glad someone out there is getting pleasure from it.

    Doc - Hilltop Hoods are always pissed bogans from Adelaide, the things is that being a pissed bogan from Adelaide is not as bad as it sounds. Better than being from Adelaide and sober.

    Barnesm - You make an altogether to coherant point, so BUGGER OFF! ;-)

    NatV - I don't think woo is the right word.

  16. Lerm you're not fooling me I know it's just another string to your bow to get some bird into bed!!

    Naut, actually I thought it was Mrs N who loved simple things, hence the reason she married you.....

  17. Because of my father's twisted sense of humor, I have an appreciation for the dirty limerick (as did he), and the endless possibilities of that artform. Aside from that, I have a hard time grasping most poetry. I appreciate it as an art (unlike Disco music or anything by Fall Out Boy), but unless it grabs me, I lose interest.

  18. Just re-read this and fuck me you are a thoughtful and intelligent bunch.

    That said you do read me rubbish.