Riverwriter in Wonderland

I just spent several parts of today over at Technorati searching the poetry tags for actual poetry — I’ll never see that day again. I found horrible, exaggerated, cliche-ridden, abstract, redundant, rambling crap everywhere, all under the tag of poetry.
Why is it that everybody who has a feeling about something — or maybe just an awareness of rthyme, and who puts it into words — calls the product of that itch, that convulsion, poetry? It is as if every teenage garage band were suddenly given a hefty recording contract, or every scrawl on an alley wall were presented on a pedstal at Southeby’s.
I think of a poem as something that should engage the reader emotionally or intellectually with a certain persuasion, a certain wit. Poetry is not form nor pose nor pretense; it is elemental truth expressed in a recognizable code — it hits at the DNA level.
I think a person who tries to write a poem should at least be conversant with the subtleties of the syntax of the language appropriated for the task.


Boy oh boy, I got into trouble over that one a few years ago at E-Script, an on-line play writing course: one of the students in the class had almost no writing skills: he confessed that he could not spell and had little ability to construct a sentence. He actually had to explain what he meant, statement by statement. Being familiar with learning disabilities such as aphasia and dyslexia, I suggested that he might consider getting his work proofread by someone before he submitted it. Well! six members of the group castigated me for picking on the poor fellow — the vituperation in their emails was palpable; only one agreed with me and another was neutral. Even the instructor apologized to the “poor fellow” on behalf of the class (me).

Surely, it is self-evident that in order to claim to be an artist, one must first master the rudiments of the art, in this case, spelling, grammar, syntax.

Now, of course I have left myself open to criticism. My blog features what I call poetry. Is it good poetry? Of course, I think some of it is, but I am not the judge of that; however, I will tell you this: after years of study of the language and examples of the work of a wide variety of poets, I try, through process of draft, revision, revision, revision to make the language dense, make every word count, make it work.

I am sure there are many people, perhaps even one of the people who have so disappointed my expectations, who could look at something I have called poetry and show how to make it better, denser, make another word count more, make the poem work better. All I can say is that IMHO and the opinion of others, I have a fairly high degree of skill, finesse and craftsmanship that enables me to do some things with words that many of them cannot.
How can you tell whether I respect your work or not? Just this (and it is very subjective): if I visit your blog and comment, perhaps even comment in what you consider to be a harsh manner, that means I respect your work to some extent. If I visit once and do not comment, well, that silence speaks for itself.

If you read my poetry and wish to comment, please do so — and you do not have to be a poet with a high degree of skill to comment or question, because good poetry should be accessible to anyone with the lobes (as Quark would say) to appreciate it.

End of Screed.

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About riverwriter

Poet, playwright, duplicate bridge player, website designer, cottager, husband, father, grandfather, former athlete, carpenter, computer helper for my friends, theatre designer, backstage polymath, retired teacher of highschool English, drama, art, a baritone singer in a barbershop quartet, who knows what else? wordcurrents is on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/wordcurrents/ Doug also has a Facebook page, "Incognitio", related to his novels.
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