Author Topic: the "What makes something poetry?" discussion  (Read 15293 times)

Offline Amie

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the "What makes something poetry?" discussion
« on: October 20, 2007, 04:39:11 AM »
This has come up a few times before, but rather than search for an bump old threads, I thought I'd post it here.

It does come up occasionally, a poem is posted and the comment "this isn't poetry" is made.  I've made the comment myself on occasion (although I think I tend to say something waffley like, "This isn't what most people consider to be poetry" and then put in my usual caveat that I don't care what you call something, all that matters to me is whether or not I enjoyed reading it).

So, what do you all think?  What do you think is an essential for poetry?

Some think rhymes - I think definitely not, although I love musical poems with skilful rhymes.

Most say sensory engagement - but I have occasionally come across quite abstract poems that really made me think and ponder, so perhaps it's not essential (for me anyway)

I'd love to make it a given that a poem is written for the reader and not the writer - but the fact is that some people do seem to have a knack of writing very engaging I-poems.

I do definitely think that poetry should be multi-layered - that it should say more than just the words on the page.  But that at the moment is the only essential I can think of.  And some might disagree with me on that too :)

Anyone care to discuss?
"You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait, be quiet still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet." - Kafka

Jeremy

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Re: the "What makes something poetry?" discussion
« Reply #1 on: October 20, 2007, 11:39:38 AM »
It's poetry if it has line breaks.
Nope.

It's poetry is someone says it is.
Nope, though it's closer.

It's poetry if someone insults it.
Bingo.

Offline Amie

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Re: the "What makes something poetry?" discussion
« Reply #2 on: October 20, 2007, 11:42:26 AM »
I should perhaps clarify - this post isn't meant as a contradiction to anyone who's ever posted the comment "this isn't poetry" on this board.  I'm just genuinely curious.  Sometimes someone will say, "this is real poetry!" to something I find a bit dull or even bad, other times I'll think something is quirky and fun and see it get a comment like "this prose with line breaks, not poetry" (more on other boards than this one, to be fair).

I just wanted to get the discussion going - what do you think makes something poetry or not?  What are your "must haves"?
"You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait, be quiet still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet." - Kafka

Offline Amie

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Re: the "What makes something poetry?" discussion
« Reply #3 on: October 20, 2007, 11:43:01 AM »
It's poetry if someone insults it.
Bingo.

Well then, everything must be poetry because you can find someone to insult just about anything.
"You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait, be quiet still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet." - Kafka

Jeremy

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Re: the "What makes something poetry?" discussion
« Reply #4 on: October 20, 2007, 11:45:42 AM »
Everything is poetry, then. I've heard people say some weird things about prose. Not just the affectionate, This is true poetry, man, well written.

But, alas, I think it's more to do with the author. If they think it's poetry, and it looks even a little bit like something that's come before it, then it must be.

However, poetry doesn't like the word Must, so it's all relative.

Offline eric

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Re: the "What makes something poetry?" discussion
« Reply #5 on: October 20, 2007, 11:56:37 AM »
I think it's more productive to think in terms of good poetry or bad poetry.  Poetry as a discipline is so amorphous it's hard to get our heads around.  The definition that sticks in my mind is that a poem is an arrangement of words that evokes an emotion or emotions different than what is stated on the paper.  So, sure, I agree with your one essential.  But some people write things that are just one layer thick and call them poems all the time, even though technically they're not--and sometimes these can be argued to bring up feelings or thoughts beyond themselves anyway.  It's hard to draw the line, and in the long run it doesn't matter. 

On the other hand, disgusting displays of verbal vomit can spew forth from otherwise fine poets. We have seen this at least since Sappho (although she was better at it), so it's no new phenomenon.  I think any fair assessment of this stuff is that it's poetry all right, but that it's bad, bad, bad.  There are quirky elements in some of this, but the frequent lack of perspective is tiresome.  Still, I would by no means say this is not poetry.


Offline Amie

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Re: the "What makes something poetry?" discussion
« Reply #6 on: October 20, 2007, 11:59:40 AM »
repeats, this is not meant to be a discussion of whether Jeremy's last piece was or wasn't poetry.

Not wanting to stifle free speech if that's what y'all want to talk about, I just wanted to clarify that that isn't what I meant to debate by posting this thread.  Perhaps I should have waited a bit before posting this - it just resparked the question in my head and I thought it might provoke some interesting discussion.
"You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait, be quiet still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet." - Kafka

Jeremy

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Re: the "What makes something poetry?" discussion
« Reply #7 on: October 20, 2007, 12:00:38 PM »
It's all about ego, then. I've said it to others, but, when I refer to Poetry sometimes, I only mean the good poetry.

Such as, the difference between a poem and poetry. Like prose and fiction. I can write good prose -- currently, I cannot write good fiction.

"bad, bad, bad"

Well.

Offline Allie

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Re: the "What makes something poetry?" discussion
« Reply #8 on: October 20, 2007, 12:01:55 PM »
I'm confused by your statement, Jeremy. The 'alas' suggests that you don't think something is poetry just because the author thinks it is, and yet you then say that 'it's all relative.'

Whatever you meant, I don't think it's relative. On the surface it may seem to be, in that someone may read more than the first lines of a poem because of being drawn to it in some way. But deep down a poem will be saying something in the only way it can be said, otherwise why not simply write what you want to say in prose?

We all at some time have nightmare, drink-ridden, mentally jumbled thoughts to which only we are privy. But if we want others to understand us and appreciate those thoughts that are precious to us, then we have to couch them in a manner that will be apprehensible by those we wish to inform, entertain, reach, or whatever is our purpose in writing.  

To me poetry is more than an indulgence, it is also a responsibility. We have a responsibility to ourselves to describe our mental experience as accurately as possible. A poem may seem to be distasteful to the reader, but so long as it touches him or her in an authentic way, a way that reveals our experience to him in its totality, it will be a poem. If it is merely distasteful, then the effort has been wasted.
 

Jeremy

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Re: the "What makes something poetry?" discussion
« Reply #9 on: October 20, 2007, 12:04:35 PM »
Relative;

to intention. As you say, it's about intention.

I read your poetry, love, and I think it's poor. Does that mean you've failed? By your statement, then yes.

Such a blanket isn't good, though. The truest poets wrote for themselves before anyone else, and come luck, someone else liked it.

Jeremy

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Re: the "What makes something poetry?" discussion
« Reply #10 on: October 20, 2007, 12:07:18 PM »
Example.

Limerick. If it has these breaks, it's poetry. Does it have to make sense in the least? Sound good? Evoke emotion? No.

Because it's a limerick.

Free verse, something different, and thus far, no one's bothered to say it.

This is poetry
cuz I say
so.

Technically, it is.

people who say something isn't poetry, are being rude, probably stupid. Too lazy to say It's not Good rather than It just Ain't.

Now, are we finished?

Offline Amie

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Re: the "What makes something poetry?" discussion
« Reply #11 on: October 20, 2007, 12:09:59 PM »
The truest poets wrote for themselves before anyone else, and come luck, someone else liked it.

I'm not sure that's a universally true statement.  It's surely true for some poets.  Harohalola for example has said that he writes for himself, and hopes that it will move others as well - and certainly many do appreciate his poems.  Charles Olsen (who was considered a visionary at the time) as well, claimed to write only for himself.  But equally I think a lot of extremely talented poets are motivated by wanting to understand how they can affect (move, inspire, entertain, what have you) others - certainly that is the impression I get whenever I read interviews with some of my favourite poets.  I think it's rarer for someone to write a good poem when they discount their audience.  not impossible, but less likely.
"You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait, be quiet still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet." - Kafka

Jeremy

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Re: the "What makes something poetry?" discussion
« Reply #12 on: October 20, 2007, 12:14:26 PM »
Alright, but the people who do that (Success or not); wouldn't they have the purest motivation to write what you think is poetry (As in, you, not just anyone) Such as, the emotion?

I don't write with a thematic emotion in mind, usually. Most of my stuff is fueled by sonics.

Is it not poetry for it? Well, sonics is a part of it. I mean, Jabberwocky was a poem. It had strophes, breaks, sounds, and a title. It even (Tell allie this) provoked an emotion of indignation, that someone would write such nonsense. Since then, though, I've seen it as poetry.

Offline Allie

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Re: the "What makes something poetry?" discussion
« Reply #13 on: October 20, 2007, 12:24:32 PM »


Yes, if I set out to reach people with my poetry, to have them experience what I'm feeling, then it is a failure for me if they don't experience this.

Of course, if I claim to write only for myself, then it doesn't matter that others don't experience what I'm experiencing, so all my poems will be successful and I will be a genius. That's the safest way to go. :)

« Last Edit: October 20, 2007, 02:29:16 PM by Allie »

Offline Mark H

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Re: the "What makes something poetry?" discussion
« Reply #14 on: October 20, 2007, 06:37:39 PM »
Whatís this, write it for themselves bollocks? Surely we would never know if they did. If you want to write something for yourself, do so then keep it in your pocket. The end.

If you publish, in any format, you are an attention seeker just like me! And if you are an attention seeker then you have one of two motives:

1)   to entertain

or
 
2)   to show how clever you are

There is not enough of 1 and too much of 2 in my view.

Donít get me wrong on this, Just because most people donít get something it does not mean it is in category 2; you may just have a very small audience. It is all about the writerís motivation.

What was the question again?  :-\

Citabria
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