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.