View Full Version : What are the 'boundaries' of imagery in discussion of a poem?

October 2nd, 2020, 11:43 PM
With some frequency, discussions of specific poems morph into arcane discussions of principles of epistemology, linguistics, aesthetics, and other branches of philosophy. Fascinating in their own right and broadly relevant to poetry, these discussions have next-to-no relevance to the specific poem that owns the thread.

When ​do these discussions detach themselves from the poem? Is there some way we can determine--perhaps by reference to the poem's grounding in the 'functional' world from which it gains its concreteness?--if the warning flags should be raised?

October 3rd, 2020, 02:30 AM
Good question, Clark. I have noticed that often discussions (as an example) go the rails so to speak, but I realize writers, being how we are, tend to do that a lot. I suppose there has been some latitude taken toward going off topic and the mentors (while doing an excellent job) may have some patience until it goes too far. However, how do we know that the discussion is not helping the writer - who may very well get some insight into his/her poem in the process, even though the discussion may seem far afield.

It might help the discussion if you can come up with examples.

TL Murphy
October 3rd, 2020, 06:30 AM
I’m having trouble understanding what “boundaries of imagery” means in the context of the discussion.

There is a range of relevance that any broad discussion of ideas can have to a given poem. Digressions can take the discussion beyond relevance. But a good writer, who uses digression skillfully, can make connections that come as a surprise to the reader when alien concepts make a journey and return to the the original idea with new insight. In the same way, it seems most respectful to the author of the work to keep that in mind when going off on a tangent. Ultimately, the discussion should serve the original poem.

October 4th, 2020, 12:22 PM
It really depends on the OP and if they engage. IF while offering critique the topic drifts way off-topic into the realms of poetic discussion and moves away from the poem in hand, that is an area covered on the poetry discussion board. Create a thread here and then link back to it on the OP's thread. That way the discussion remains alive once the OP has moved on.

TL Murphy
October 6th, 2020, 04:58 AM
That makes sense. So it’s up to the Original Poster to step in and bring the discussion back to his/her poem?

Darren White
October 6th, 2020, 06:51 AM
That can be difficult. This thread here was started after a discussion about a poem I wrote. I have tried to get it back on track, but that didn't work. Frankly, I enjoyed the discussion that erupted. I do agree however that that same discussion could be moved to the Poetry Discussion board, and perhaps should. Because it is interesting to all poets.

The problem however is, what exactly is a digression, and when does it stop being relevant to the poem in question? It's a very blurry boundary.

October 10th, 2020, 01:11 PM
Do you mean bounderies of interpretation of imagery as, surely, the imagery in a poem is fixed and immutable and only subject to interpretation when it comes to "discussion," or as often seems to be the case nowadays, psychological dissection; something to which I object; to which end, I wrote a poem about an afternoon in Tuscany.

Lots of: "Oh, when were you in Tuscany? Did you vistit..."

No I didn't - I haven't been within 1,300 Km of Tuscany, and that was when flying from Malta to Cyprus in 1954. Sometimes a poem is just a poem, a work of imagination...

TL Murphy
October 12th, 2020, 06:27 AM
I don’t think psychological dissection is necessarily a digression from the poem. Any poem exposes the poet’s psyche to some extent and part of helping the poet find ways to improve the poem is to help the poet navigate their own psyche by offering our own interpretations of the poet’s intention. Granted, it gets tricky because you want to talk about the poem, not the poet, but the poet always reveals something of him/her self and the discerning reader will pick up on that. The careful critic can limit their review to the text and offer the poet personal insights at the same time. There are a number of poets on this forum who are quite skilled at that. Like anything else, critique takes practice to master.

October 12th, 2020, 08:20 AM

This just happened to you on your poem in Metaphor 3, about talking to the dead. Do you remember how you handled it. I thought you did quite well. I scrutinized it because I didn't want anything to blow up. It's the problem here that's being discussed, but you handled it with your own poem quite well and I didn't have to intercede at all. I see nothing wrong with what you did concerning others psychoanalyzing the poem in question. You just ask everyone politely on thread to stop that you weren't interested in that part of the discussion as the writer. Then the topic was changed.

I think that if the writer owns the poem it's their thread as well, and they should be able to personally suggest what they feel about their needs discussed within the thread. This is just being helpful to the critic. If they doesn't like where discussion is going on the boards; they should be able to politely discuss that as a relevancy to their poem's thread and any changes that might be made. It is then a relevant issue on those boards of that particular thread in question. Beside breaking down a poem by trying to get inside the poets head instead of the poet's poem is a tad out of line. Such questions would have to be carefully worded.

Robbie reaches a point sometimes that she removes the poem from the thread. This is a little overboard. But it's still her poem to do with as she wishes. If the discussion isn't taking the writer's thoughts with the poem somewhere it's no longer an active thread.

a poet friend
RH Peat

October 18th, 2020, 01:25 AM
Awright, here's an image:

. . .and within the depth of that blue thought
emerged in my mind stark memories of those
markers which summon me
below where blind Prophets help me see . . . .

Reader 1: "What the hell is a 'blue' thought? I love blue sky. To me its's an open, joyful image." Reader 2: "I hate anything blue. It signals depression and death?" Reader 3: "I think of New Orleans and music." Ok, let us take the last one: this reader-as-critic goes on at some length about his great experiences in New Orleans, bounces his experience back to the 'blue thought'. Then gets into the relationship between colour and the blues as music, then into certain blues songs with 'blue' in the title, then into Etta James and her interpretive style, then into the blues as the origin of jazz 'bands' . . . at some point in this ever-distancing process, brakes need to be applied. The OP is utterly lost.

I see this thread as an opportunity to guide each other as to when that 'point' has come. And I strongly agree that the poet must participate in their own thread. If discussion starts to become its own justification and is no longer contributing to the poet's bearing on their own poem, the discussion has become merely indulgent as far as that poem is concerned And this is where the poet (or a Mentor) must step in and say thanks but you guys are too far out there for me and I really need to focus on my poem. The broader discussion can move to an appropriate forum.