View Full Version : Overdiagnosis: Observations of a Verse Mangler

March 16th, 2016, 11:57 PM
Recently I've noticed a few recurring themes, one being a flood of 'rush poetry', defining parameters pertain to work cobbled together in five minutes or less with no effort given to basic proofreading, and it shows, painfully at times. (Examples having been encountered both in various forums online and in face to face critique groups.) Pieces are rife with misspelled, missing, or misused words. Some border on gibberish in places, but none of it matters because the writer proclaims their work is a poem and so it must be. But as a reader, a writer, I have feeling that there is a distinct difference between a concept and a poem.

The list poem phenomenon is another construct of poetry, I haven't been able to quite comprehend either, what reads like a list of examples grouped under a categorization is, as with the rush poetry, also a poem because the writer says it is. I know all of this is entirely arbitrary, yet it still bothers me as a writer having read works like this. More often then not, the bones of a good concept can be found in the work, and there is the possibility for good, if not, speaking results, but so often authors don't like hearing an honest reaction to a piece. Actual critique with the reader's observations and their reasoning behind what worked, what didn't, and the critical why. Again, it is subjective to the reader.

Critique, when done properly, is honest and fair, but much of the time authors don't want to hear it; they are trolling for adulation, others are merely looking for a place to exhibit with no regard given to the quality of the work presented. And heaven help those who dare to provide an honest opinion to pieces of this nature. The first version is the only version and it is perfect!

'I am are a Poet, goddammit! And you're just stupid.' That was a reply received at my last poetry group from one of the new members; it wasn't even my critique. No one said she wasn't a poet, but the reaction was par for the course. By not supplying the expected adulation one becomes 'evil incarnate'. I know it is an fundamental human reaction, but seriously, why even ask for critique if one doesn't at least consider the observations made.

I just think that in the rush to write a 'poem', so much is lost in unutilized potential of concepts, concepts that with a little time and attention could become decent poems. I also know that defining poetry is about as probable as proving the Theory of Everything. There are so many elements, but no hard and fast delineations. It is amorphous, much more delicate and abstract than prose. It has an element of mystique that holds a perpetual fascination to people around the world and has since language began.

For me, it has always been the flow of language, bursting with imagery and cant not heard in modern society. I love the old poets, narratives in particular. By moderns standards I'm a 'bumbling, cliched nightmare', needless to say, I was quite pleased because modern poetry is not among my favourite things. I can't get lost in it like I do with the old poets. Once in a while a piece will speak to me, but for the most part, I don't connect with it on a fundamental level, the undefinable zing that keeps you returning.

I might not care for modern poetry, but as poets, the authors took the time to develop their ideas. That being said, the rational in today's society with: If I say it is, so it must be because you can't prove otherwise...predisposes individuals to an increased resistance to opportunities, not because they are afraid of failure, but because they believe that there have nothing left to learn. Critical thinking isn't required and is often quelled because it might have negative repercussions and the feelings of the individual must be protected at all cost. And there is a cost.

The intrinsic wonder of the creative process going from a loose concept to a finished project. All the highs and lows involved...Whoo! to Thud! to Whoo!, again. Rush poetry illustrates this. There are no edits, no rational or reasoning behind a piece. Why is something worded the way it is? How does it add to the whole? It simply is, nothing more, nothing less. No hint of a poet's voice. Slap dash construction doesn't aid endeavors like this and the two are often found check by jowl. There is no element of critical thinking involved. It doesn't hurt anything, but it leaves me wondering, what's the point? I honestly don't understand the mindset. I like to know why.

So what's with the overdiagnosis? Well, consider the medical and educational systems in the United States today. Everyone wants an instant answer, a quick fix...ADD, ADHD that's the problem, so here's a pill to fix it. Perfect, not so much...No one takes the time to consider, well much of anything any more. Sometimes a cold is a cold, not a rare respiratory entreovirus. And a scraped knee can often be treated with soap, water, and a band-aid. But because there is pain or effort involved, it becomes the end of the world.

Pain, physical or emotional, is never fun, but consider that some of the most important lessons in life are learned through it, including that people, as a whole, have an amazing capacity to overcome it. Yet how can one overcome something one refuses to face, for instance, actual critique? It's fine the way it is...You're wrong...It took me five minutes, so yeah...Why does it matter? It matters because it perpetuates a self stunting cycle of denial and when reality finally takes hold it can and will be brutal.

Why am I blathering on about this, well, part of it stems from the quick fix mindset. It doesn't always have beneficial results. I have ADHD and a pill didn't 'fix' me, it took away everything that made me, me. It isn't a feeling I would wish on my worst enemy, so when I see the parallels between poetry and one of my worst memories, it saddens me. As a writer I found my voice, found what I needed to teach myself to focus, and proved that I didn't need a quick fix. Hard work, the learning process itself, taught me as nothing else could. It took time...So things like rushed, perfect poetry seems counterintuitive.

So consider, is a list just a list? If not, then what makes it more? Does it have that nonquantifiable element that makes poetry, poetry? Sure, a poem took less than three minutes to write, but read it. Does it make sense, does it reflect your voice as a writer? Or are you going for quick fix glory? Is it a concept or a poem? I know it is arbitrary, but two minutes of critical thinking can make a world of difference in just about everything, not just writing.

Am I a poet, honestly, no. I write in verse, so my projects can't be quantified as prose, as such, it defaults to poetry because of the structure. I'm a writer, a verse mangler. There is no wrong or right way to write or define poetry. All I can say is just consider the most important question of all why.

There is wisdom found in innocence, as why is the favourite question of most children. Fight to keep your whys.

- D. the T. of P.B.