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Passions in Poetry

"I don't get it."

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ChristianSpeaks
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since 05-18-2006
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0 posted 12-22-2006 04:23 PM       View Profile for ChristianSpeaks   Email ChristianSpeaks   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for ChristianSpeaks


I have heard something similair to this statement several times in the last few weeks:

"Well, if you don't get it then that isn't my fault.

If the a reader doesn't understand what is written who is at fault? The writer or the reader?

Question 2: Should we as writers make it our goal to be understood by the reader?

Question 3: Does it matter if the reader understands what we write?

Just a few pre-Christmas questions.

Thanks

CS

And a song that I was writing is left undone.
I don't know why I spend my time
writing songs I can't believe
With words that tear and strain to rhy

Essorant
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since 08-10-2002
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1 posted 12-22-2006 06:53 PM       View Profile for Essorant   Email Essorant   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Essorant's Home Page   View IP for Essorant

quote:
If the a reader doesn't understand what is written who is at fault? The writer or the reader?


It is the poem who is at fault, not we.

ChristianSpeaks
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since 05-18-2006
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2 posted 12-22-2006 07:32 PM       View Profile for ChristianSpeaks   Email ChristianSpeaks   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for ChristianSpeaks

quote:
It is the poem who is at fault, not we.


I should say that the reader and the writer cannot divorce themselves from fault when one is the creater and the other the interpreter. I guess it goes back to the question of:
quote:
Should we as writers make it our goal to be understood by the reader?


I absolutely do not disagree with you, but I wonder if there is a balance and, further, if it matters.

cs
Not A Poet
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since 11-03-1999
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3 posted 12-22-2006 08:29 PM       View Profile for Not A Poet   Email Not A Poet   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Not A Poet's Home Page   View IP for Not A Poet

If the writer writes strictly for personal use then the question, as well as the point moot. If, however, as is more often the case, the writer intends to present something of value or substance to the reader and the reader can find none, then the fault must lie with the writer.

This is not to say that everything one writes must be immediately accepted and adored by everyone. That will never happen. If the written work fails to make its point (be understood and found of value) to the target audience then only the writer can be found at fault for failing to present in a useful manner to that intended audience.

To put it on a more personal level, I may be stupid but if you intende to express something specifically to me in esoteric terms and words not in my limited vocabulary then it surely is your mistake and not mine. You yea, if you wrote something for me and I "don't get it" then it is your fault.

The only case where this may not be true is if you set out initially to write a riddle  



Pete

Never express yourself more clearly than you can think - Niels Bohr
ChristianSpeaks
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4 posted 12-22-2006 08:43 PM       View Profile for ChristianSpeaks   Email ChristianSpeaks   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for ChristianSpeaks

Well put.
serenity blaze
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5 posted 12-22-2006 09:51 PM       View Profile for serenity blaze   Email serenity blaze   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for serenity blaze

Hmmm.

I know a lot of people "don't get it" when I write something.

There are times when I wanted very much to convey a particular point, so I deliberately simplified my layered metaphors, etc., but then, I thought, well isn't it condescending of me as an author to decide the intellectual/empathetical capacity of my readers? But sometimes I still do write very simply--and I'm trying harder to do that, as I admire very much the ability to convey a lot in a few words. I don't want to force my readers into a corral--I like their interprations to play a part as well--like a dance, or making love.

That brings me to another style of writing, that is closer to the term, "slam" poetry, which more like um, stream of consciousness, which sometimes APPEARS to be pointless.

These, though, I really don't care if anyone "gets" it or not. My only goal when I write those (and I do have a goal) is to sweep my readers into my realm, and hopefully, make them forget that they are reading.

My first goal being to shake someone up, and feel, for one moment, what I was feeling as I wrote it.

Then (sometimes) I edit, so that it hopefully makes intellectual sense as well.

None of this is written in stone either, it's just my way of writing.

Hopefully as I find my voice, I find my style, and when I find my style, I hope I don't become so attached to it that I won't dare to stray into other realms.

Reading poetry and poets you like is the best way to begin.

I also believe quite firmly that form poetry, even though most of it is done quite badly. (I shudder when I read olde English, not 'dissing anybody, but only someone like, say Essorant, should use that.) I still think it should be studied, and attempted--it just adds more tools to your writing chest.

And then...smile, I try to eliminate "myself" from the process--which is damned near impossible.

Then I edit myself back in.



I love it though, when I can entice my readers to travel with me and feel.

That is the most satisfying result for me.

My absolute, all time favorite reply is one word:

"Wow."

I like that. Alot.
rachaelfuchsberger
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6 posted 02-21-2007 10:24 PM       View Profile for rachaelfuchsberger   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for rachaelfuchsberger

Whose fault is it?

That depends. Was the piece specifically written for the reader? If so, and the reader doesn't understand it, then the two should work together to create a sense of understanding on both sides. If not, then it's not really anyone's fault. Some people simply cannot understand different types of writing. Others refuse to. In any case, there really is no fault, because a writer's style is thier own, and they're not obligated to change that because one person simply doesn't understand it.

Should we, as writers, make it our goal to be understood by others?
Again, it depends. Are you writing for a specific audience? If so, then yes. If not, then no. If YOU understand what YOU wrote for YOUR own personal reasons, then who cares whether anybody understands it or not?

Does it matter?
Unless it's written to be understood by all, then no, not really. Again if YOU understand what YOU wrote, then your opinion is the only one that really matters. If YOU'RE not satisfied with your own writing, how can you expect anybodyelse to be?

Just throwing in my own two cents.

Rachael

chopsticks
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7 posted 10-23-2007 01:46 PM       View Profile for chopsticks   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for chopsticks

“Well, if you don't get it then that isn't my fault.”

Logically that doesn’t make any sense. If you don't get it , what was the

point in writing it ?

I think it is the writers job to see that you get it, unless you are stupid .

I hate to say this, but a lot of stupid readers don’t get my stuff.

ilsm
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8 posted 04-21-2008 08:55 PM       View Profile for ilsm   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for ilsm

There can be no doubt about it, and there's only one answer: if the reader doesn't "get it", then the writer is at fault.

PROVIDED ALWAYS (as lawyers put it) that the writer knows who his readers are and what they are capable of understanding; thus,

For children, don't patronise, but do recognise their worldy knowledge is less than an adult's.

For a general audience, write in normal day-to-day language.  Avoid conceits.  Don't use difficult language.  Avoid impenetrable allusions.

For an audience with a specific interest, use language and vocabulary appropriate to that interest.  Jargon isn't jargon if used appropriately.  But don't misuse it, or you'll look silly.

For an itellectual audience, the only things to avoid are slack thought, pomposity and plagiarism.

Know your audience and write for them.
Bob K
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9 posted 04-22-2008 01:27 AM       View Profile for Bob K   Email Bob K   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Bob K


     You should always write for yourself, and the text should be clear to you.  Anything you do then is fine.
There are no mistakes, there are no rules and you owe nobody any explanations.

     Should you decide that you wish to write for others you must understand first that others have no reason to wish you to do so.    Why should they care?  They already have enough demands on their time.  If you are lucky enough for somebody to pick up a sheet of paper with your name on it, why shouldn't they put it down immediately for the mistake that it is.

     You must give them something interesting enough to compete with the TV, shoe shopping, food or whatever friends may call.  If they speak English then, it's better you write in English.  Most people are willing to put up with a bit of a mystery, but have a limited level of toleration for confusion.  You must therefore find your own way through that particular maze in a way that is interesting enough to keep the reader reading to find out what comes next and lucid enough not not cause the reader to fling your text at the wall.

     Clearer as a rule seems better unless your language is so powerfully interesting in itself that it will entice people forward on its own. Finnegans Wake for example might be a prime example in prose, though many people can only tolerate very short portions of the text at a time.
Much of Wallace Stevens verse might be an example of similar problems in prose, though many have a much simpler time with his verse than others.  Some of Dylan Thomas, which has been discussed on this web site before may well fall into this category.

     If you can return to your readers a rich reward for the trouble they put in for the effort they put in, then it's a fair trade.  If the stuff satisfies your readers but doesn't satisfy you, it's probably not much different than working construction without the back-break.  It's probably best to make sure that you're satisfied with it before you send it out, then, if it gets published, fine.

     Don't get steamed if other people don't "get it."  They don't have to.  Is there poetry you want to write that you think other people will get?  And are you willing to do what it would take for you to put that on paper?  Some people aren't, you know.  There's no reason they should, either, because they aren't writing for other people now, are they?

     But if you are writing for other people, you need to work to make yourself as understandable as good prose.  I don't mean you have to dumb yourself down; there's plenty of complex literary prose (tried any Gertrude Stein recently?  Tried John Gardner's [i]Grendel[i]]?)  You still need to be clear about what's happening.

     Them's my thoughts for now.
Susan Caldwell
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10 posted 04-22-2008 11:28 AM       View Profile for Susan Caldwell   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Susan Caldwell

Sometimes I write to be understood and sometimes I write what no one understands but me.

I do not hold this against the reader nor should the reader hold it against me.

And when I am the reader and don't understand, I might ask, and maybe I will simply be told that I am not supposed to get it.     

Sometimes we just need to do what we do just for ourselves.  There should be no expectations in either writing or reading poetry.  

"too bad ignorance isn't painful"
~Unknown~

Christopher
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Purgatorial Incarceration


11 posted 04-22-2008 02:36 PM       View Profile for Christopher   Email Christopher   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Christopher

typically, I get upset if too many people get what I wrote; feel as if I didn't do a good enough job.
Essorant
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12 posted 04-22-2008 03:07 PM       View Profile for Essorant   Email Essorant   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Essorant's Home Page   View IP for Essorant

There is a difference between the reader not understanding and the poem not being understandable.  I don't try to write in a way that I think anyone may understand right away, but I write in a way that is understandable.  What isn't understandable is a bunch of obscurity with no sense of direction, focus, or purpose.  What is worse about it is when the author tries to use the "everything is subjective" and "eye of the beholder" to try to cover up the crime and make the reader's imagination colour over it and pretend that the is well written, when it is not much more than a clutter of nonsense.


Susan Caldwell
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13 posted 04-22-2008 03:18 PM       View Profile for Susan Caldwell   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Susan Caldwell

"What is worse about it is when the author tries to use the "everything is subjective" and "eye of the beholder""

Since I am the one that said that (somewhere), I will try not to take offense....even though it made me feel like my personal opinion doesn't matter if someone else(you) think(s) it's crap...

I value your right to your opinion so I am not offended.  

oh and here is where I said it... http://piptalk.com/pip/Forum28/HTML/002277.html
what a coincidence..


"too bad ignorance isn't painful"
~Unknown~
Christopher
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14 posted 04-22-2008 05:23 PM       View Profile for Christopher   Email Christopher   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Christopher

You know the problem I have with the stance you take on these types of issue, Ess? It's the implication that all of us are homogenized versions of each other that perceive everything in a like-same manner. You discount subjectivity as if it's a criminal act that one consciously chooses to perpetrate against another.

I tend toward the opposite side, where it is recognized that each individual has a unique perception [interpretation] of everything they see and hear. This is based on their unique life experiences and personal belief system, and coloUrs all.

To suggest that writing in such a way that you cannot understand is a “crime” (your word), is to state that your interpretation, preferences, and understanding takes precedence over those who think otherwise.

In the matter of poetry, Ess, I don’t respect your opinion enough to allow it to supersede mine. I also know that if I were to allow my reading to take me only in the directions that you prefer, I would be missing out on a lot of poetry that I enjoy – you tend more toward the literal, form-based poetry that typically bores me. Is it wrong that you feel that way? Not a chance – it’s great that you like what you like and that it is (presumably) available to you.

Me, I say spice it up a bit, make me stretch for understanding! Or, failing understanding, do what my ol’ friend Balladeer once said I did to him (paraphrasing): make me feel like I just looked at a piece of art that, though I couldn’t determine what it depicted, made me feel like I just saw something beautiful.

If poetry were only about understanding and form, I think we’d miss much of the heart that goes into it.

That, I think, would be the crime.
chopsticks
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15 posted 04-25-2008 07:57 AM       View Profile for chopsticks   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for chopsticks

If most readers with an IQ around a hundred understand my writing, I think I have done OK. If most readers

don’t, it’s my fault.

I agree with, ilsm.

Seoulair
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16 posted 04-25-2008 02:46 PM       View Profile for Seoulair   Email Seoulair   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Seoulair

Chops, (nice to see your post again. how are you?   )

When readers do not get the poem, I don't think that it is writer's fault. It is like one reads an unknown language.

Every writer has one's own language. Some are easy to understand and some are hard. If a reader really want to understand certain poems of certain poets, then one has to learn and study.
To be a Scholar or not to be a scholar
chopsticks
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17 posted 04-25-2008 06:02 PM       View Profile for chopsticks   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for chopsticks

Hi Seoulair, I’ve understood ever poem I have ever read of yours. I have an IQ of a

hundred, so go figure. You invented the unknown language , and you are good at it.
ilsm
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18 posted 04-25-2008 08:31 PM       View Profile for ilsm   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for ilsm

I think it is perectly fair to say, if you write for yourself, only you need to understand it.  In fact, that's so obvious, it doesn't really need to be said.  After all, you write for yourself and no-one else will see it, or if they do, it's by accident or prying.  You are the target audience.

(Wouldn't it be silly if you wrote something for yourself that you couldn't understand!)

If you publish your work, you have a duty to ensure that your target audience will understand it. A duty: to write in a way that is beneath them or beyond their understanding is equally wrong (I nearly said insulting).

ILSM
chopsticks
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19 posted 04-26-2008 09:14 AM       View Profile for chopsticks   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for chopsticks

" Wouldn't it be silly if you wrote something for yourself that you couldn't understand!)"


That happens to me all the time : I blame myself for when I wrote it and not  when I’m reading it.

Well now Seoulair ,that just about settles this argument .


Seoulair
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20 posted 04-26-2008 11:33 AM       View Profile for Seoulair   Email Seoulair   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Seoulair

I blame myself for when I wrote it and not  when I’m reading it.
Very interesting comment, dear Chops.

Does this mean
1. I don't know what I am writing
or 2. When I tries to write about one thing, it ends up that I wrote something else.(that happens.)

But I really don't believe that a poet has no idea what he was writing.
chopsticks
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21 posted 04-26-2008 12:15 PM       View Profile for chopsticks   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for chopsticks

“ But I really don't believe that a poet has no idea what he was writing. “

Of course, the poet knows exactly what he is writing and thinks it’s the greatest thing

since the sermon on the mount ; but for the reader it could be another thing.

Sir Balladeer explained that to me once.


critical mass
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22 posted 03-26-2009 09:17 PM       View Profile for critical mass   Email critical mass   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for critical mass

I didn't read this entire thread, but this always comes up and the answers are always the same.

The truth is, if I tell a joke among friends that only the friends will understand, then any outsiders are wondering what the hell was so funny.

Poems are like that.

KebiraAmani
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23 posted 04-02-2009 10:14 PM       View Profile for KebiraAmani   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for KebiraAmani

I personally think that if the reader doesn't understand. It is absolutely no one's fault.
Most poems i read to me aren't about the poem itself, but the feelings and thoughts that arise to me from reading it. It's what you take from it. Not what the writer gives you or what you cannot take from it.

To me there is no "understanding" of poems. You either feel it or you don't. You make your own meaning to a poem you read... If i said
"like a changeling within them"
it would mean something different to everyone. Or at least most people.

i don't believe anyone is at fault nor do i believe that someone can not understand a poem.
Amberzlynnc
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since 08-24-2010
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24 posted 11-02-2010 03:51 AM       View Profile for Amberzlynnc   Email Amberzlynnc   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Amberzlynnc's Home Page   View IP for Amberzlynnc

One should write for themselves and no one else. If another does not understand a poem and the writer does... oh well!
 
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