Responsibility and Ambiguity - Page 3


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Thread: Responsibility and Ambiguity

  1. #21
    How ironic to finally see someone weigh in on a poetry discussion after weeks of nada , only to read that it's over his head and he has nothing to say. Why, then, did he respond? But now that the subject is raised I see that it was originally posted 11 years ago and has had over 4,000 views but only 20 comments in all that time. It's a good question, though asked in a rambling way. Maybe that makes it difficult to respond to but worth considering none-the-less. I'll skip the spell check part. Surely we can get past that out. But where does the responsibility lie when the poet offers what the reader considers special knowledge? The short answer is: does it serve the poem? As a poet, I do not feel it's my job to make the poem easy to understand. Nor is my job to make the poem difficult to understand. How is the poet to know what the reader's vocabulary is? Or motivation to broaden vocabulary? The poet's job is to write the best poem he or she can. If I fill the poem with obscure references to special knowledge just because I think that will cause the reader to bow down in awe, then I am only serving my ego and not serving the poem. But if the word works poetically, meaning it enhances the whole poem and challenges the status quo, or demands transformation then it is entirely appropriate. There is no hard answer. It all depends on the poem's intent.
    Last edited by TL Murphy; March 12th, 2019 at 03:54 AM.

  2. #22
    I'm reminded of an argument that happened a while back over a poem I'd written that referenced the Kalevala. Some readers were frustrated because they didn't fully understand it, others didn't fully understand it but still liked it, and one person got the references and appreciated it more because of it.

    I think it's really, really hard to find the line between needless obscurity and references/words which enhance a poem. One of my favorite bands, A Hill to Die Upon, are always teetering on this line in their lyrics. Sometimes they write lyrics that are an incoherent mess of references to, like, three different Greek myths, four different Biblical stories, and some WWI poem. It's just too much, especially when doing the extra research doesn't help make the meaning clear. But they also, more often than not, write some genius lyrical poetry like this. These songs wouldn't work without their references to mythology and theology.

    The answer, in my opinion, is not to try to predict what your reader is going to know about, but to ensure that the poem still works artistically without the extra knowledge. To again reference A Hill to Die Upon, I don't have to know that this is referencing Yeats or whatever to appreciate it. I understand it enough for it to interest and trouble me. There is a such thing as a poem that is pleasingly perplexing (I think of Kubla Kahn), but it can be hard to pull off.
    "So long is the way to the unknown, long is the way we have come. . ." ~ Turisas, Five Hundred and One

    "[An artist is] an idiot babbling through town. . .crying, 'Dreams, dreams for sale! Two for a kopek, two for a song; if you won't buy them, just take them for free!'" ~ Michael O' Brien,
    Sophia House

    Christ is risen from the dead,
    trampling on Death by death,
    And on those in the tombs,
    lavishing light.



  3. #23

    Geometric Nonsense

    Being an exceedingly backward writer (literal translator, metaphors are a total mystery to me...I don't understand them, I don't use them...), I write nonsense in classic forms, almost all rhymed. And like a living fractal, themes, core rhymes, and characters intersect. But for all the ridiculousness, there is a solid foundation of origin stories and explanations of the nonsensical phenomena that lend an internal structure to the chaos.

    The names, creatures, and places are pulled from the most mundane things. Idioms like black sheep, whipping boys, scape goats, the speed of light, and slow Tuesdays. I ask odd questions about simple things like what effect removing blue from the colour spectrum would do. Small things that can become systemic. Tides that stop turning and so forth. I draw on folklore, mythology, cliches, turn of phrase, music, book titles, or whatever happens to stick in my head. As a writer, it is my job to make sure the thing I create has form and function. If it sparks an idea or an allegoric parallel in a reader, it has done its job. The content is viable and functioning.

    Does it annoy some readers that everything is not in linear black and white, or speaking metaphors? Occasionally it does, but that is one of the side effects of nonsense. If a reader goes into a piece looking at it from the profound, serious standpoint it can be confounding because it does not conform to a reader's expectations. On the flipside, for readers who are seeking total escape, being able to delve into pure, balanced nonsense can be a heady experience. Some people just like the imagery, others find deeper meaning in the exploits of my exiles, leftovers, and outcasts.

    If it sparks imagination, critical thoughts, or discussions ambiguity has served its purpose. Writers are responsible for their own arguments and making sure that their work can support itself. What the readers find and determine, is their own responsibility.

    Just some thoughts.

    - D.
    Last edited by Darkkin; April 11th, 2019 at 03:25 AM.


  4. #24
    It's certainly worth reading a good poem more than once. Like watching a good film several times. Each time, you get deeper into the work, you see more of what the artist(s) is/are doing and how the pieces fit together in unexpected ways. A good poem can be studied. If people just want to be entertained, there's always the comics. But if you want to be transported, then the work has to rise above convention and common thought. There has to be some mystery in it.

  5. #25
    Mystery is requisite, unnoticed marvels among the seemingly mundane. Part of the reason I make the characters I do. They are a dime a dozen, made of left overs, or are acknowledged scavengers, but they have some other flawed traits that make them just different enough to be individuals. Storytelling 101 hook the reader. Like Alice's White Rabbit, it has to be odd enough to tempt the reader, engaging their curiosity and emotions.


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