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Passions in Poetry

Reading Poetry

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Brad
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since 08-20-99
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Jejudo, South Korea


0 posted 09-25-1999 12:01 PM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

Ron has an article somewhere around here that argues that poetry is dead. Well, obviously it's not dead but why the perception?

At another forum, I met someone who wrote a poem and then called poetry 'bullshit' (I actually said what I thought were some nice things but got into a name calling battle with this guy after I responded to that 'bullshit' comment). Why write a poem and then denigrate the whole form?

Again at another forum, I asked who was your favorite poet and got some good responses (learned about some new poets that I didn't know about) but I also got some wierd responses:

My favorite poet is myself (and I don't think she was being facetious).

I don't read poetry; I just write the stuff.

Does anybody have any ideas?

I don't understand the thinking here.

Brad
Poet deVine
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1 posted 09-25-1999 02:00 PM       View Profile for Poet deVine   Email Poet deVine   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Poet deVine

The article was written about the poetry "scene" in LA. I felt after reading it that the writer exposed the truth: poetry is not dead. Although I may not have the time in this day and age to sit and read poetry (except here), I still have my favorites. I have a bookcase here in my home office filled with a variety of books on poetry. If I am looking for inspiration, I pull out one of my books. Reading a classic like "If" by Rudyard Kipling may inspire me or it may just cleanse my 'poetic palate'.

Is this what you were aiming for Brad?
Brad
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2 posted 09-26-1999 12:42 AM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

Poet Devine,
That's part of it (like I know what I was aiming for?) But, I was also wondering why people don't read more poetry (you have multi-volume fantasy sagas and 800 page spy thrillers on the best seller list so I find it hard to believe that time is a factor just a choice on what to do with that time.)

I have three ideas:

1. Educators, somewhere along the line, teach that poetry is hard thereby making some simple and enjoyable poems seem more difficult than the actually are.

2. The 'riddle' theory of poetics. Any particular poem has a specific, hidden meaning that the reader must 'discover' in order to be satisfied.

3. (This may only be for men) -- a general view that poetry is somehow feminine and to be seen reading poetry is 'weak'. Even worse, someone may actually question your sexual orientation. You're being too sensitive. Of course, if you've ever read poetry, one has to realize the sheer variety already present but I'm talking about a more general (and perhaps mythical view) of what poetry is.

Does anybody feel 'strange' or even feel looked 'down upon' for reading or writing poetry?

Of course, there is the other extreme as well.

Just some thoughts,
Brad

Poet deVine
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3 posted 09-26-1999 01:07 AM       View Profile for Poet deVine   Email Poet deVine   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Poet deVine

I do believe the 'fear of poetry' begins in school. I'd like to see 'poetry appreciation' along with 'music appreciation'.

Though I am female, I am chastised for reading and writing poetry! My friends(?) don't want to hear about my latest poem. I don't think it's gender-specific though I'm sure men would be teased if found reading Byron instead of Stephen King!

Brad
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4 posted 09-27-1999 03:31 AM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

Okay, so it's not a masculine or feminine thing (which always seemed kind of strange to me anyway).

How about an aversion to high culture?

Poetry, of course, doesn't always have to be from or deal with high culture; it doesn't always have to be difficult. Still, I wonder if it has to do with the American (only?) knee-jerk reaction to people attempting that is generally associated with 'high culture'. A sort of 'Why do you think you're so wonderful that you can write poetry?' attitude.

For example, I don't have much interest in ballet or opera (unless you mean rock opera); yet people who are interested in it seem totally enthralled by the two forms. Why I never got interested in them is simple enough. I never went; I would watch five minutes on PBS, get bored, and watch something else. Of course, I never studied it as well. So, does poetry have to be studied to be appreciated?

On the other hand, many people are still entralled by the lyrics in music, "Great words, Man, great words." Is music with a strong beat an invitation into the power of words?

But I'm still sadly disappointed with the words when I actually look at them as a poem. I've had conversations about the Doors where we both loved the lyrics to the songs but when it came to his poetry, my buddy found the poetry somehow lacking (personally, I think he's an okay, but not great, poet).

Well, it seems I've gotten sidetracked. I'll have to come back later and to the 'high culture' thing.

Brad
Poet deVine
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5 posted 09-27-1999 10:51 AM       View Profile for Poet deVine   Email Poet deVine   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Poet deVine

If you look at the beginnings of poetry you will see that it was never aimed at 'high culture'..it was a way to chronicle an event (thus Beowulf and Canterbury Tales). Before the age of electricity and radio and TV, reading was an acceptable form of 'self entertainment'. And since it's easy to get novels to read, poetry is pushed aside. Perhaps that has something to do with it?
Brad
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6 posted 09-29-1999 03:04 AM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

Okay, but why novels and not poetry? I think the usual answer is escapism. In a novel you don't have to think, you are simply led along a set path by the author (not always true, even in popular literature). Don't get me wrong. I love reading novels but I wonder if those rolled eyes you see when it comes to poetry might be some of these things:

1. An unstated, felt accusation that if you write poetry, you think you are better person than I am. Well, you're wrong -- they are saying with their eyes.

2. An unstated fear of thinking. A poem is supposed to be difficult and boring (as Ron so aptly pointed out) and I'd rather read a thousand page horror or romance novel than read a five minute poem and spend fifteen minutes on reflection. I'm leaving aside for the moment, people who don't read at all.

3. A very real fear of inadequacy. That one's personal thoughts and feelings are somehow not the 'right' ones; a fear of moving in a different or new direction and ultimately the inability to trust oneself. I remember offering someone a Kurt Vonnegut novel and he wouldn't even look at it. Too difficult, he said. Kurt Vonnegut is a difficult writer? No, but he's considered a literary writer and therefore must be difficult.

Ironically, those of us who read and write poetry have the same problems. I see it all the time (and am guilty of any and all of the above at sometime in my life).

Thus, if I can bring this back to where we started, it is the perception of poetry that is its downfall. It doesn't matter if it's easy, mindless escapism (and those are here just as much as complex, 'deep' poetry is). It doesn't matter if a poem is 'good' or 'bad' -- people don't read poetry because they already know they won't like it.

Is this the fault of education? Partially.

But I also think it's the fault of poets.

Did that just to leave you hanging (gee, I hope your not getting bored).

Brad
JP
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7 posted 10-01-1999 09:47 PM       View Profile for JP   Email JP   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit JP's Home Page   View IP for JP

Okay Brad, as for the "I don't read poetry, I just write the stuff" comment..... what's wrong with that?

Okay, okay, I know that I am bordering on heresy but seriously....

I consider myself an adequate poet, I like some of the works I write quite a bit, and I feel I have a... 'knack' for putting ideas into verse (if anyone disagrees with my assessment I beg you to share your thoughts with me).

However, I never really enjoyed reading poetry. Since coming to this place of creative esctacy (and another poetry page or two) I have developed a taste for this form of expression, but trust me... reading poetic works is not an overwhelming passion for me. Now I read a poem with an extremely critical eye, as I am not prone to pass on an obligatory "nice poem" when perusing these forums..

Long story short (too late for that I guess) I don't think you have to be a avid restaurant patron to be a good cook.

------------------
Yesterday is ash, tomorrow is smoke; only today does the fire burn.
JP

Brad
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8 posted 10-02-1999 08:50 AM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

Whether or not you can be a 'good' poet and never read other poetry, I'll leave for another time. My question to you, JP, is why DON'T you read professional poetry?

What do you read and why?

Brad

JP
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9 posted 10-02-1999 09:05 PM       View Profile for JP   Email JP   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit JP's Home Page   View IP for JP

Mostly I read text books, journals, stuff for work and the like. When time allows, which is a rarity, I will pick up a novel - horror, sci-fi, fantasy usually - to read for pleasure.

As for why I don't read professioal poetry... I guess it just doesn't thrill me that much. I've found, through discussions with Red Letter, that life's demands coupled with my own difficulties in keeping my mind focused on one thing for any length of time has robbed me of the beauty of art and literature.

I never learned the skill of art appreciation, I was never taught how to sit and look at a work of art and analyze its subtleties and the nuances of its form. The same with poetry... Now I am faced with teaching myself the skill of appreciation and balancing that skill development with an increasingly demanding schedule - It is commonly said that one should stop and smell the roses, perhaps I will be able to take that advice someday and bless myself with the beauty this world has to offer.

------------------
Yesterday is ash, tomorrow is smoke; only today does the fire burn.
JP

Brad
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10 posted 10-03-1999 04:34 AM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

I read a lot of science fiction as well (big Gene Wolfe and Samuel Delaney fan. Also Ursula LeGuin). Horror and fantasy, less so, but occasionally. I also read 'classics' and modern literary forms -- reading Pynchon's "Vineland" at the moment. I admit, he can be a difficult read at times but I wonder if the difficulty might have something to do with the enjoyment.

Anyway, back to poetry. Why not poetry? I don't have any answers here. I'm just curious. Poetry in many of its forms is easier and faster to read than a novel but perhaps it doesn't have the character satisfaction you're looking for? Perhaps it doesn't have a narrative line strong enough to satisfy you? 'Escapism' is an often enough heard term. Is poetry too close to the real world?

I'm not joking around here. I really would like to know your answer. Just wondering why you would rather read a five hundred page novel instead of spending a few hours reading poetry. I read those novels too but I find variety to be very important in my reading. I usually jump from 'serious fiction' to more standard stuff, to non-fiction, to poetry (well, it's not that clean.) and back again.

Brad
Ron
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11 posted 10-03-1999 06:17 AM       View Profile for Ron   Email Ron   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Ron's Home Page   View IP for Ron

If it's in English, I'll read it (including cereal boxes when nothing else is available). I enjoy math and science, especially the physical sciences, and obviously I read a lot of computer related books. I read about writing, at least when I can find an author I respect. I like philosophy and psychology, though I find both closer to astrology than astronomy. I could go on, I suppose, because there are really very few subjects I find boring. Shoot, I even got interested in cook books a few years backÖ

I read between two and three novels a week (that's what dinner is really for, ya know), with a fairly strong emphasis on SF and fantasy. (There are few authors in those genre I haven't read, but Gene Wolfe is one of those few. Delaney is good, LeGuin is not.) I've read most of the horror authors, but discovered the books I really enjoyed weren't horror, but SF in disguise. I tend to find an author I enjoy, such as I recently discovered John Grisham, and then devour everything they've written. Then I go looking for a new author.

Now, having said all that, I'll admit there are two areas where I spend far less time. I won't say I don't read poetry, because I do. Here, of course. And when I was putting together the Classics section at the main site, I lived an breathed poetry for most of six weeks. The best I could narrow my favorites to were 888 poems, which I guess says something about discernment. But I rarely take poetry to dinner with me. Nor do I read much short fiction. And I suspect the reasons for those two short-comings are likely the same: there is an absorption level in novels and books that is lacking in shorter materials. I'm making generalities, of course (because we could all name exceptions - and, indeed Brad, you already did), but the satisfaction of poetry is much different from the satisfaction of a good novel. Poetry, when it's good, gives us a tiny slice of human existence. An important slice, to be sure, and one with a beauty lacking in almost any other form. But a novel, when it's good, gives us not only the whole pie, but often the orchard where the fruit was grown as well. We don't just learn about the human condition. We experience the human condition. Yes, poetry can do that, too. But how often does it?
Brad
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12 posted 10-03-1999 04:33 PM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

Ron,
Nothing wrong with cook books. I know a couple buddies I meet here and sometimes all we do is trade ideas on cooking here. Don't get me wrong. Korean food is great! But if you're from anywhere near a major city in North America, a little more variety is something of a necessity. Of course, when I was back in the States, I had kimchee withdrawal (boy, do I have an addictive personality ).

When I wrote LeGuin, I was thinking of The Dispossessed (and maybe The Lathe of Heaven although that's more like Phil Dick warmed over) -- a book I will defend on a number of different grounds. One of the best political science fiction novels around.

Gene Wolfe -- The Book of the New Sun (many people call it science fantasy whatever that means). But, he is consistently, probably, until I change my mind again my favorite science fiction writer (unless you consider Gabriel Garcia Marquez or Haruki Murakami to be science fiction writers).

Anyway, back to poetry (maybe we should just start another thread trading good reads?). The absorbtion level is indeed very different but (and I read a lot of short fiction as well so this may just be a difference between the two of us) there are things you can do in a poem (and occasionally in short prose) that can't be done in a novel. But I've got to go now.

I'll be back,
Brad
Brad
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13 posted 10-07-1999 07:31 AM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

One reason I like to read poetry.

One of the things poetry, as opposed to other art forms,can do is create an immediate 'double effect' on the reader (I just made that term up. I hope it makes sense). For example, at the moment you are reading this you weren't conscious that you were reading (now you are or I hope so) this. You probably forgot that it's on a computer screen and weren't too concerned with that irritating humming sound that comes from that fan that's keeping me cool at the moment (okay, maybe you don't have a fan).

Now it's very difficult, for me, to read carefully and be aware that I'm looking at a computer screen at the same moment. I can usually switch back and forth pretty quickly but not simultaneously. Poetry can do the same thing.

By the use of alternate phrasings, it brings you to the understanding that you are reading. It can also allow you to see multiple meanings at once, so that in a short time you can be playing with several different types of meaning. I find this thrilling.

At the moment (well, not exactly), I'm reading a short story by Robert Reed who is, in my opinion, a very strong science fiction storyteller. It's good and easy (of course, anything after Pynchon is easy). He pulls me right a long and usually he has some twist or slight movement at the end that makes me enjoy his work. But, before I can really think and dwell on the story, I have to finish it (Of course, I can dwell and brood before finishing it but somehow that doesn't satisfy me). Furthermore, I almost always feel tied down to one version of the story. He's told me what to think, more or less, and it's very satisfying. But, in poetry, I can make up my own story to fit. I can dwell on multiple levels of meaning in ten or twenty minutes. I enjoy this.

I really don't worry about being right, about guessing if I got what the writer was intending. I just make up my own ideas that were triggered by the poem. Thus, each new poem has the potential to lead me in a different direction and I like that.

Of course, what I'm describing is what I would call a good poem but it's something to look for. What I would call a 'bad' poem is one that doesn't get me anywhere, that tells me something I already know or already heard.

Amazingly enough this almost has a physical effect on my brain; I feel something is happening inside there (as strange as it might seem that my brain actually works). There's a Dylan Thomas quote around here somewhere that describes the same thing. I have never received this feeling from a short story or a novel. The effects and feelings are different and, I would argue, not as immediate.

So, has anybody else had similar responses to poetry or am I sounding a little strange here?

Brad
JP
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14 posted 10-09-1999 02:46 PM       View Profile for JP   Email JP   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit JP's Home Page   View IP for JP

Absorbtion level? I like that Ron. I think it hits the nail on the head - so to speak. In fiction, I prefer series novels Brian Lumley's "Necroscope" series, Ann Rice's Vampire Chronicles, etc.

Nothing brings me down more than to devour a great book and have nothing to follow it and feed my hunger. That, I suppose is the reason for my book to poetry preference.

The one thing I find about poetry that makes it not something I sit around for hours reading is (God, I know a lot people are going to despise me for this) its inanity. I do not enjoy reading a poem that has no depth.

A well crafted peice in a structured form is nice to read, I can appreciate the beauty of its structure, but if it has no 'voice', nothing to say... it just doesn't do it for me.

The thing is... I can sit at my computer for a few hours reading everything on the forums and enjoy it. But I cannot find the urge to sit down with Walt Whitman or Sylvia Plath and read for hours..... whoa! An epiphany! I know why now! It is the stream of consciousness! A novel provides a focus on a theme and maintains that focus for however long it takes me to read the book. A collection of poems requires constant shift of thought and continual interruption of consciousness! My god! That's it!

I am now a happy man.....

------------------
Yesterday is ash, tomorrow is smoke; only today does the fire burn.
JP

Brad
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Posts 5896
Jejudo, South Korea


15 posted 10-10-1999 03:09 AM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

I very rarely sit around and read poetry for two hours; I prefer twenty minutes and just a few poems that make me pause and self-reflect.

I think it is true that very few poems actually reach out and 'grab' you. If a movie is a novel then a poem is a music video and if you've ever watched music videos for a long time, your mind has a tendency to become numb. Maybe try reading a poem a day? Actually, after about reading and commenting on three or four poems here, I'm usually 'shot' and have to get away from it.

But the quick fix works for me and I'm rewarded.

Brad

Munda
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16 posted 10-10-1999 11:12 AM       View Profile for Munda   Email Munda   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Munda's Home Page   View IP for Munda

Brad,

I can no longer resist the urge to answer your question: "What do you read and why ?", especially after reading the rest of this discussion.
I used to read anything that came at hand, but these days my preferences are:
fantasy, the occasional informative book on whatever my mind is interested in that particular moment, and of course..... poetry.
Most of the time I will reach for a Fantasy novel, as it requires no real effort from my mind. Itís a nice distraction from the real world and Iíll just read whatever theyíve written down. It really asks nothing more from me than to absorb whatever is there, and therefore easily forgotten aswell.
However, good poetry and prose do ask more of me than merely read.
It is an invitation to philosophize, to get in touch with my true self, and once on my mind, will stay there for at least a couple of hours, sometimes days.
I love to read R.M. Rilke, but always find I cannot read this any longer than half an hour, even in my own language (yes, English is not my native language). After that my mind is so filled with feelings, I have to think about it, let the feelings flow, explore all possibilities, and yes, sometimes it teaches me something new. Gives me a new and better view on life, my own feelings and something to work with, so whenever I read poetry or prose, it is time I need most. Maybe it is best compared to music. I may have the radio on most of the time, but like most people, will not know whatever song is on and will only really listen whenever thereís something of my interest. I also love classical music, but need time for this too, as Iíll enjoy it more when I really listen to the music, to be part of, to float away on the music... to the unknown......to get in touch with my true self.
So yes, maybe poetry is too close to the real world for a lot of people, as all they really want is to relax in words, as an escape from reality, and do not find it a challange to discover and explore their true self, maybe are even afraid of it.
Letís face it. Itís one of the hardest things in life: to look at yourself and see who and what you truly are, even the bad qualities, and to accept. : ) I always found it a challange and hope Iíll always keep an open mind, for thereís always room for improvement, and poetry does exactly that for me.

Munda
Brad
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Posts 5896
Jejudo, South Korea


17 posted 10-17-1999 11:43 AM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

Munda,
Just wanted to say I like Rilke as well (and still need to read a lot more than I have of his poetry). I want to talk about Tom Disch (who is a poet in the new formalist crowd and also a science fiction writer) who argues that we need to adopt more visual techniques (TV and movies) into our poetry because that is the current world.

What do people think?

Brad
Munda
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since 10-08-1999
Posts 3629
The Hague, The Netherlands


18 posted 10-17-1999 08:01 PM       View Profile for Munda   Email Munda   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Munda's Home Page   View IP for Munda

Tom Dish ? Sorry, I am not familiar (yet) with this one, but I can't see how visual techniques will improve poetry. I like to read without any kind of "adds". I'd feel it will prevent my mind to have it's own thoughts, images, philosophies, dreams, feelings. Gosh, I think I'm just a dreamer who loves to let the mind fly free to wherever it wants to go.
On the other hand, if it's makes more people read poetry, why not ? As long as I am allowed to read without. ; )
 
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