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clark
August 19th, 2019, 12:05 AM
Ariel started an intriguing thread--Writing Poetry: Abstract vs Concrete Imagery & Specificity--still alive on the boards. At post #18, Tim Murphy made this comment: "


The problem with abstraction is that it attempts to explain complex concepts where concrete imagery illustrates.

Explanation is the realm of academic writing. It’s expository. It kills poetry, which is about communication through intuition and emotion. Abstraction turns poetry into an intellectual exercise - it becomes about understanding meaning instead of absorbing meaning.

I wholeheartedly agree, and my own poetry is a testament to my dedication to the concrete. Then I became nervous about that "dedication". Was I being close-minded? Could one write a poem using abstract language that felt concrete, hence could move a reader emotionally? The poem below is my attempt. What do you think? . . . . . 59 words. 15 of them abstractions.

TALENT

...............a cabbie eases a ton of metal
...............through rush hour in speed
.............. and safety
a lead violist’s trembling strains
honour the composer’s invitation
...............a welder fuses metals to
...............precise harmonies
a philosopher’s ideas
identify the potency........of snake oil

their lonely passions
at once start in the future
source fuels from the past

and alter the present
.................forever

Darren White
August 19th, 2019, 09:55 AM
I like your poem, and your attempt. As a non-native speaker, I forever struggle with abstract-concrete. Also, I am from a culture that looks at poetry with different eyes. It's not the same everywhere in the world, and that makes the topic intriguing. For me, this is a good poem regardless. Of course I have learned to recognize, and appreciate the differences.

So I can tell you that overall you succeeded with this exercise. I have to say too, that the first stanza is very concrete as far as I am concerned, but the part I quote goes too much into abstractions, even though I understand your poem from start to finish:

their lonely passions
at once start in the future
source fuels from the past

and alter the present
.................forever

PS
Don't ask me to identify all abstractions, I still can't and doubt that I ever will be able :)

clark
August 19th, 2019, 12:11 PM
Thank you Darren. S1 has, I think, 6 abstractions, the final stanza 8, only 2 more. It was an interesting try, though I won't be rushing it off to journals!

luckyscars
August 20th, 2019, 06:32 AM
Interesting little exercise! As somebody who writes virtually no poetry ever, its this kind of thing that sometimes tempts me to the 'dark side'.

Here's a go...

An abstract poem may,
as the sudden strike of an inferno in the midst of a long parched summer,
breathe life into a dead existence,
while simultaneously sucking the soreness from the malignancy of mundanity.
Thereupon it swirls its creator's sins about its soul
Losing them, in the unholy chasm
of a thousand dreams.

Pulse
August 21st, 2019, 08:55 AM
I agree, Darren. I'd be unwilling to polarise abstract and concrete.

In Clark's poem, the philosopher appears to be caricatured. That feels appropriate to me, though I am sure different poets would choose different intellectuals to parody; I'd probably go for some kind of ‘-ists’. Maureen Lipman did a brilliant British Telecom commercial on '-ologies'.

I would like to read a poem about concrete, which is not a word I had not necessarily seen with this connotation except on the Writing Forums. I may write one. It would be fun if some of you would join me.
I've been told I'm a cerebral poet. I've been told poetry often contains heightened emotion. I'm not keen on sensationalism, but I do feel senses are important tools to enable a poet to express his/her perception to a reader.

Some poets attempt to extract eternal truths from multiple images. Clark’s ‘Talent’ made me think of a definition poem when I began reading it; it provides excellent instances of different slants on the concept and then goes into a time capsule of flashbacks and flash-forwards, marvelling at the power of the talented.


CONCRETE

fragmented rock reconstitutes its form
revolving mixers pulverise cement
break down old caves with marketing intent
to sell smart houses made to a new norm.

Long way from Crete, the Grecian language morphs
makes tracts in tongues and tacit pacts with pens
contorts picture symbols to represent
another lexicon far from the wharfs
where fishermen drag tackle back and forth
along the whitewashed walls. A meal is meant.

The floppy disk an obelisk, replaced
with mem’ry sticks and fast-made flicks, escaped
from someone’s image of how things could be
not things but concepts, imprints in the scree.

clark
August 21st, 2019, 09:29 AM
LUCKY SCARS -- thanks for throwing your hat in the ring! It's much harder to do than one might think, I'm finding. The abstract words slap onto the ground like pancakes and most of them impose an arbitrary uncertainty, handmaid of meaning. The abstract words produce vagueness, bringing the reader to a halt as he tries to understand, rather than the layers of ambiguity often implicit in concrete imagery. Your poem's opening, for example (abstractions in red)

: somehow, a poem--itself abstract, "may"--then an analogy--
as the sudden strike of an inferno in the midst of a long parched summer,
breathe life into a dead existence,

The inferno image has visual and emotinal potential to transport the reader, but the next line takes it into irrational territory where resolving meaning becomes paramount and the emotional movement or flow grinds to a halt. Especially the last line above. The reader must pause to decipher how this abstract poem will rejuvenate that which is simultaneously dead and alive. This activity is cerebral--there are no imaginative planes for a reader to explore, no nexus of feeling/emotion. No poetry.

luckyscars
August 22nd, 2019, 07:29 PM
LUCKY SCARS -- thanks for throwing your hat in the ring! It's much harder to do than one might think, I'm finding. The abstract words slap onto the ground like pancakes and most of them impose an arbitrary uncertainty, handmaid of meaning. The abstract words produce vagueness, bringing the reader to a halt as he tries to understand, rather than the layers of ambiguity often implicit in concrete imagery. Your poem's opening, for example (abstractions in red)

: somehow, a poem--itself abstract, "may"--then an analogy--
as the sudden strike of an inferno in the midst of a long parched summer,
breathe life into a dead existence,

The inferno image has visual and emotinal potential to transport the reader, but the next line takes it into irrational territory where resolving meaning becomes paramount and the emotional movement or flow grinds to a halt. Especially the last line above. The reader must pause to decipher how this abstract poem will rejuvenate that which is simultaneously dead and alive. This activity is cerebral--there are no imaginative planes for a reader to explore, no nexus of feeling/emotion. No poetry.


Thanks Clark. Perhaps I misread the intent of the challenge. My “poem” tried to dispense with the concrete completely - I don’t think there were any concrete nouns in mine at all (?) and of course it lacks total meaning as a result. I see the other attempts here do employ at least a few concrete terms, which makes them better poetry.

Pulse
August 23rd, 2019, 11:52 AM
I wouldn't say that, LuckyScars. The imagery you use is powerful. The way you allude to 'sucking . . . soreness' brings abstract hell to a physical level all readers can appreciate. Furthermore, you present a poem that swells out from a short line into a growth and rein it in to leave your readers with a significant, (almost) single, idea to consider. (I think the shape of a poem is often what commentators are talking about when they refer to concrete poetry.) In the meantime you have personified the poem with a soul and suggested the rhizome mesh of ebbing symbols that give rise to it.

clark
August 23rd, 2019, 05:32 PM
luckyscars -- without going into each detail of Katrina's post , I agree with the generality of her assessment: there is more tangible power in your poem than you are granting. It is tidy, and not without validity, to turn to dichotomy as a tool of discussion, hence "abstract" and "concrete". But we must be cautious. Revelations, for example, is a veritable ORGY of concrete nouns, producing an intensely visual, terrifying and overwhelming landscape of the final chapter for Believers. Within this sea of concrete beasts with six wings each and horses snorting fire and--to borrow a line from Alice's Restaurant--"all kinda mean, nasty, horrible, ugly things"--will appear now and again clusters of abstractions that, because of context and other devices (anaphora perhaps) have the force and effect of the concrete:

"Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing" (Rev 5:12).

A couple of your "abstract" images have similar impact. Poets should certainly avoid abstractions, but IMO be sensitive to their occasional 'rightness'.

Teijal
November 18th, 2019, 09:22 PM
Wow! Kudos for yourwriting skills, it’s quite fitting and it all hangs together surprisingly well.
I always have thetrouble of sidetracking once I get started on poetry, saying too much, or eventoo little.. I never seem to be able to find the balance.
I think the mostimportant thing is to stop thinking and just start writing, and something goodwill come from it, no matter what it is.