AN 'ABSTRACT' POEM: WRITING & STUDY


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Thread: AN 'ABSTRACT' POEM: WRITING & STUDY

  1. #1

    AN 'ABSTRACT' POEM: WRITING & STUDY

    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





    ________________________________________________

    "I believe in nothing but the holiness of the heart's affections and the Truth of the imagination". Keats, ​Letters

    "No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main . . . any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind. And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls -- it tolls for thee. " John Donne, Meditation XVII

  2. #2
    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

  3. #3
    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!



    ________________________________________________

    "I believe in nothing but the holiness of the heart's affections and the Truth of the imagination". Keats, ​Letters

    "No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main . . . any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind. And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls -- it tolls for thee. " John Donne, Meditation XVII

  4. #4
    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.
    "If you don't like my peaches, don't shake my tree."

  5. #5
    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.
    Kind regards,
    Hidden Content Katrina
    Hidden Content
    Choreographing Calligraphy


  6. #6
    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.



    ________________________________________________

    "I believe in nothing but the holiness of the heart's affections and the Truth of the imagination". Keats, ​Letters

    "No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main . . . any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind. And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls -- it tolls for thee. " John Donne, Meditation XVII

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by clark View Post
    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.
    "If you don't like my peaches, don't shake my tree."

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