Sunday, August 22, 2010

In Defense of Poetry

Walking Man picked a bone with me a few days ago (gently, as always) about a comment I'd made regarding what I was writing offline--and apologizing for only posting poetry over the next few weeks or months.

He had a right to question my statement, wondering why I felt poetry was some lesser form of writing, and so here is my apology. Understand that I truly adore poetry. Half of the blogs I follow regularly are made up predominately of poetry, and I find my taste for it increases week by week. I have always found poetry more emotionally resonant than most other forms of the written or spoken word (including films), yet my comments were not meant to disparage poetry in the slightest.

They were not even meant to disparage my own poetry, though I have no delusions that my poetry is fantastic. If anything, writing poetry, at least in my case, is the most subconscious of the types of writing I pursue. A phrase usually comes into my mind, slipping in almost without my noticing, and the images and feelings seep in afterwards, until I can pretty much write the thing in a single sitting, without much revision.

Because of its immediacy, I probably don't give my own poetry the same respect I reserve for my novel and play writing. A single novel takes me years (so far), development happens slowly, and it is much harder for me to do. Instead of an intense session bent over my laptop, poetry feels like a breath of sunlight, a warm bath, something short, blissful, and complete. A moment.

What's fascinating about poetry is that rereading a poem conjures up that same moment, over and over. Wordsworth's host of daffodils always leaves me happy, while Williams' note about eating plums never fails to create its image and simplicity in my mind, again and again. I also don't get sick of good poetry. I can reread it 100 times and still adore it--or adore it more.

Yet I cannot judge poetry. It either resonates with me or doesn't. Its images stir something inside my mind and heart, or they don't. I cannot criticize it, or edit it, unless the poet has used a regular meter and rhyme scheme, and then my editing only addresses the accuracy of the rhythm.

I suppose, in essence, poetry is both easy and beyond me. It's primal, a part of the most basic form of being.

What is it to you? How does it compare to the other genres?


  1. Poetry is a good thing. I would keep it around. I don't understand much of it but it makes me feel good, mostly, and that should count for something. :)

  2. I like rhyming poetry (but I write for little ones). I like some free verse, but if it gets too deep...but I'm not a deep person, so that makes sense...

  3. I love poetry, it is the freest form of writing I pursue. It is like a fresh breath of air.

  4. I too like to write poetry because it can be an immediate writing 'fix'. In a couple of hours I have written out an idea, complete in itself. I love novels but they take soooo loooong to write. I haven't actually finished one yet. But I have lots of completed short plays and poems.
    And no, I don't understand most poetry either.
    I wonder if poetry will become more popular now that we live in an attention deficit world?

  5. I've never been a huge poetry fan. I don't write it, and I don't read it much. I guess that's because it tends to be in the emotional realm, which doesn't interest me as much as history/philosophy.

  6. I used to write a great deal of poetry but I'm old school that way: rhyme and rhythm. Because of that preference, I find it very challenging to read and appreciate most poetry written, well, otherwise.

    Not saying it's bad, just saying it's not my thing. And because I know I have that prejudice, I rarely comment on it.

    I do appreciate that poetry can convey emotion like nothing else, that it can be intensely powerful, condense a sense or feeling into an almost palpable form. But I don't write it any more.

    In my own personal case, I think, it was a self-teaching tool, even the rhyme and rhythm restrictions I imposed on myself, to better learn language, to appreciate how the sounds of words can emphasize meaning, to communicate emotion effectively--tools (I believe) I carry forward into my storytelling.

    There's nothing wrong with poetry or being a poet, but, in the end, I'm a storyteller.

  7. Relax Max, I gravitate to it because of feeling, too, and therefore I also see why The Mother doesn't like it. It is, for me, one of the most emotional types of reading I do.

    Sharon and Stephanie, I adore rhymed and rhythmic poetry... but when I write it, I invariably get my ironic writing hat on, and it becomes humorous poetry. I actually have a sonnet written to my fat cat, another rhyming poem to my bad hair day, etc. The only poems I've written that are serious and include a regular rhyme and rhythm scheme are to my husband, and I would not post them here.

    Aury and Michelle, I think I fall into your category. The idea of it being a breath of fresh air, and the almost instant release of my writing through this means (compared to novel writing) is quite refreshing!