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aj47
January 16th, 2012, 05:26 AM
... because some of what I'm seeing in terms of poetry is over my head.

I participate in several fora and I just keep coming across posts in the poetry boards that look like a litter of words that almost fit together and that maybe if I were older, smarter, wiser or something, would make perfect and profound sense to me. They don't look like total nonsense--more like someone tried too hard to exercise a vocabulary that they read about somewhere or maybe had dropped into their inbox by a daily word service. I'm not saying that's what is going on, but it's how it appears to me. Or as if suddenly the majority of poets are foreign-tongued with English as a secondary or tertiary language.

I typically can stand to read only two or three stanzas of this sort of thing before giving up.

I don't intend any disrespect to anyone. Like I said, I think the problem is with me. I'm self-taught in rhyme and meter and so if there's such a thing as a Poetry Appreciation course in school, I've never taken it.

Is there someone here who can help me grow taller in the ways of unstructured verse?

- annie

j.w.olson
January 16th, 2012, 05:46 AM
I also appreciate poetry that takes an approach to being deep other than self-obfuscation. I very much appreciate tactile imagery, logical grammar use, and complete thoughts. Images I can imagine and sentences I can parse. That said, I also enjoy T.S. Eliot's the Wasteland, which I feel is an appropriate way of being purposely difficult.

The only approach I know is to practice reading it more -- and, if possible, talking about the dense poetry with people who appreciate it to see how they approach interpreting it.

Cran
January 16th, 2012, 01:35 PM
... because some of what I'm seeing in terms of poetry is over my head.

I participate in several fora and I just keep coming across posts in the poetry boards that look like a litter of words that almost fit together ... more like someone tried too hard to exercise a vocabulary ...

I typically can stand to read only two or three stanzas of this sort of thing before giving up.

Is there someone here who can help me grow taller in the ways of unstructured verse?

- annie
Nope - you understand it well enough.

Although this type of approach is common among new writers of poetry, it also turns up in occasional efforts by poets with more experience. It is usually a case of trying too hard; either an attempt to impress, or to force a result (eg, for a deadline) - some might describe it as "all head, no heart". Occasionally, it stems from a misguided belief that poetry is easy and anyone can do it; just string words together.

A sub-class of all head-no heart are the esoterica offerings: pieces which require readers to have PhDs and ready-reference materials to understand if there is a central message, and what that message might be; the poetic form of artistic snobbery.

The most successful form is an elaborate wordplay where the piece may or may not have any meaning, and may or may not include words which do not yet exist in the dictionary (or nonsense words); these are usually distinguishable from esoterica by their flow and obvious humour.

Finally, there are some which can only be described as pure (or impure) gibberish.

Gumby
January 16th, 2012, 03:01 PM
I know what you're saying here, annie. I enjoy poetry that makes me reach a little, but not poetry that seems like it's trying so hard to be 'intelligent' or 'clever', that it's a chore to decipher.

Bloggsworth
January 16th, 2012, 03:24 PM
You stand pretty tall from where I am sitting. A lot of poetry, like a lot else in the arts, is king's new clothes; starting with Damien Hirst, who has been taking the p*ss out of the art establishment for years. To prove the point, I wrote a poem which was just a random concatenation of unconnected lines and it got a really good response - I have no doubt, that those who said it was good would justify the opinion on the basis that no poet actually knows what he is really writing about; presumably the same critics who gave rave reviews to a collection of paintings by monkeys having been fed a totolly fictitious artist's biography.

My university tutor thought Seamus Heaney a waste of space, as did Mark Twain of Shakespeare - All opinions of art are in general a matter of taste and commercial interest; Saatchi puts his in a shed and only brings them out when he wants to sell or otherwise dispose of them, I on the other hand look at my art on a daily basis, which as far as I am concerned makes it far more valuable in real terms. There are no absolutes. I recently started to read a TS Elliot collection and half way through thought "Well I've only found one poem worth reading..." and took it back to the library; but then, thinking about it, that applies to most books of poetry - To be quite honest, I don't actually much like "reading" poetry, I am much happier hearing friends read their poems and discussing them, and like every other poet, whether they admit it or not, I like to hear my own poems get a good reception. Discussing friend's poems lets you know that you are not alone, that they too go through periods varying from problematic to outright incompetent; it also helps your writing process when you understand anothers. It is all very well being presented with a fait accompli and being told by an academic that when Emily Dickinson writes about snow on the railings surrounding a field she is really talking about death and a shroud, but I doubt that's much use to you, and it certainly isn't to me, because I have no intention of copying her style and manner, not hers nor anybody elses. If you don't like it, don't read it; seems reasonable to me. I read poems in this forum which I think barely rate as juvenalia, far too much concentration on rhyme at the expense of almost everything else that makes a poem, and it is then that serious critiquing would make a real difference, because if you can handle the beginnings then you are on your way, but I rather suspect that if I really said what I thought Baron would eject me from the site instantum. Lovely/sweet/aah doesn't cut it, neither does rambling on for verse after verse essentially repeating a line of thought - real critiqueing will make you a better poet, but you normally only get that in an academic environment or from colleagues who will say exactly what they think, even if you don't want to hear it...

Jon M
January 16th, 2012, 03:45 PM
When one of my classmates would submit a poem for critique, it was as if he had suddenly forgotten how to write in a coherent, natural way. His poems were often a garbled mess of ideas, conflicting imagery, and included the occasional word which had connotations far beyond what he realized or intended. My teacher's advice to him, which I whole-heartedly agreed with, was to "speak in the language of men".

It's as if the very notion of writing poetry makes people think they have to be worldly all of a sudden.

I also agree with ____________ about not bothering to offer a critique, at least online in places such as this. Generally a waste of time and energy. I love to discuss writing, to break it down and figure out how it works, to strip away the excess and reveal the essence, but I've found that a lot of the 'poets' are not receptive to that kind of analysis. "This is wonderful" or "Superb" is usually what suffices.

Bloggsworth
January 16th, 2012, 03:49 PM
I also agree with Bloggsworth about not bothering to offer a critique...

I didn't say that, I said that I couldn't be as forthright as I would want to be - If I thought forthright would be accepted in the spirit it was meant, I would be. Clearly some would accept it, most wouldn't, and I have no idea which are which...

aj47
January 17th, 2012, 05:23 AM
Thank you all. I honestly thought I was somehow "out of the loop" and that people were "getting" this stuff that I'm looking at and seeing verbal vomit.

- annie

Squalid Glass
January 19th, 2012, 06:21 PM
Poetry is what you make of it. I am bias to the artist and take issue to "academics" telling me that *this* is what "Sunday Morning" is about or *that* is what "Prufrock" is about. I agree with bloggs - give me a few friends and a little discussion about our own work any day over analyzing "great works" in class. To me, the best poetry is low brow. If I can't relate to it then why should I read it?

Bloggsworth
January 19th, 2012, 06:49 PM
A little, I hope amusing, light on the subject of art.

When at boarding school, one of my tasks was to supervise Ian McEwan at prep/homework - He now lives in New York and his son attends the local public school, where no-one knows who he is. One day his English teacher, a somewhat strident feminist, set the class to critique Atonement for their homework; this'll be a doddle he thought, as did his mother and father, so they set to with a will. When the young man got his work back he saw that he had received a "D", and the comment that he clearly understood nothing about the issues involved. He was kind enough not to tell the teacher.

Ariel
January 6th, 2013, 03:21 PM
Actually, in college I had a professor (in a poetry writing course) rant about those kinds of poems and he called them drivel. This cheered me up immensely because I I always felt that I just wasn't writing poetry if I didn't go in that direction. I was shocked when I started meeting poets and they turned out to be down-to-earth normal types.

:)

bajmahal
March 16th, 2013, 06:25 AM
Well, now this whole thread depresses me even more than I had been. I'm currently working on a rather long poem with numerous five and ten dollar words. So far, it's running at 2060 words and I expect at least another thousand before I'm through. I'm really liking it - so there's that. I'm trying for more of a Rossetti/Whitman accessibility over a Wasteland vibe, but I don't want to dumb it down anymore than it would naturally be, given my completely non-academic (self-taught) folk art credentials. Up until this thread I was just a little depressed, firstly, because I can't post my work yet and secondly, because I'm getting the impression that I won't be allowed to post something so long anyway. Now, I'm also worried that I've apparently written epic drivel, but that no one will tell me to my "face" - saving their true feelings for threads like this. Or worse (maybe) that you will tell me it's crap to my face, but only because of some tl;dr prejudice that you've brought to the table.

I don't know. It's just upsetting to read that people who use words like fora, esoterica, and concatenation can complain with straight faces about the rest of us poor, pretentious slobs. I find myself wondering why you get to flaunt your vocabularies and others don't.
By the way, I like the words fora, esoterica, and concatenation. I even like that I had to look up concatenation.

Ariel
March 16th, 2013, 01:32 PM
It isn't vocabulary that has certain poems going over people's heads but rather the execution or obvious free-form style that ignores all logic and draws comparisons between two objects that can't truly be compared. It's poetry that is winding and long-winded without saying anything.

Considering that the class of which I was speaking had an emphasis on grammatical and logical structure and that subjects were to be kept in the solid and real world then yes, by that professor's opinion, a poem exploring smoke and dreams and even more abstract concepts with other intangibles would be drivel.

There's nothing wrong with flaunting vocabulary but there is when the vocabulary does nothing for the poem.

I like free-form poetry because what I write isn't always suited for an established form. However, I think that free-form doesn't mean it has no structure and is just prose with funny line breaks and if-y punctuation. Grammar and its use is even more important in poetry because it is economy of words and good word selection that turns an ok poem into an outstanding poem.

If all of that can be achieved using $10 words then great but sometimes . . .

Sometimes as poets and writers we need to let go of our egos and accept that a $1 word works in place of that fancy word we worked so hard to put into our poem. We need to step up and go, yeah, there was no reason for me to end that line like that or to use that meter.

bajmahal
March 16th, 2013, 10:59 PM
Okay, fair enough. Clearly I was taking this all too personally. Even as I was writing what I wrote, I was thinking how I haven't been here all that long and I really need to sit down and shut up. However the OP opened with, "They don't look like total nonsense--more like someone tried too hard to exercise a vocabulary that they read about somewhere or maybe had dropped into their inbox by a daily word service." And Cran directly agreed with that statement, adding, " Although this type of approach is common among new writers of poetry, it also turns up in occasional efforts by poets with more experience. It is usually a case of trying too hard; either an attempt to impress, or to force a result... - some might describe it as "all head, no heart". And Gumby wrote, "I enjoy poetry that makes me reach a little, but not poetry that seems like it's trying so hard to be 'intelligent' or 'clever', that it's a chore to decipher."

I respect and appreciate that you've clarified that it's not just about pretentious word choices, but also gratuitous obscurity.

Segrotlo
March 16th, 2013, 11:20 PM
There's nothing wrong with flaunting vocabulary but there is when the vocabulary does nothing for the poem. ~amsawtell

bajmahal - I am relatively new here and I was glad to find this particular thread. I appreciate your comments, especially the irony of large word usage - I didn't catch it till you pointed it out.

What I would say is to give it a chance because there are many different kinds of people here and you will surely have a place.

You write what you write and try to encourage others and learn from others as well - it took a little while for me to catch on but I have definitely improved my understanding of many facets of poetry (It's where I have been hanging out)

Keep reading and posting.

A tough life lesson for me was, "It is better to understand than to be understood."

I hope I helped. : )

Chesters Daughter
March 16th, 2013, 11:44 PM
There are no length restrictions currently in place for pieces, bajmahal.

bajmahal
March 17th, 2013, 03:23 AM
Thanks. That's good to know. I'm looking forward to torturing everyone with my epic drivel any day now.

Gumby
March 17th, 2013, 03:19 PM
If I've learned anything about poetry, it's how much I don't know, and to not judge someone's work by my lack of understanding.

What I meant by my above statement was that I like poetry that makes me stretch and I certainly don't mind looking up words that I don't know. However, if I have to have a thesaurus by my side in order to attempt to understand a particular poem because of its word usage, then I usually move on.