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Rules of Good Poetry
Posted by: Joshua Gage (---.ucc.ie)
Date: December 17, 2000 11:04AM

Just trying to get a discussion going here...

So, what are people's rules for good poetry out there, i.e., when you read a poem, how do you say "This is a good poem." What makes the poem good?

Also, sort of on the same topic, what is everybody's favourite poem?


Re: Rules of Good Poetry
Posted by: Dark Shadows (---.orlando-t.navipath.net)
Date: December 17, 2000 01:12PM

I like poetry when it has something to say. When it's not just a bunch of words thrown together. My favorite poem it If by robert kipling, and robert frost's "two roads divereged in a yellow wood."
what about you? What is your favorite?


Re: Rules of Good Poetry
Posted by: Bryan (---.dial.maqs.net)
Date: December 17, 2000 09:33PM

GROW  OLD  ALONG  WITH  ME
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


If I am to grow old,
I wish with all of my heart to do so gracefully as I walk along life\'s path with you.

If I am to discover the true beauty of life,
I pray that I will partake of this beauty with you by my side.

If I am to travel a path of fulfilling my destiny in life,
then I hope from the deepest, most inner part of my being,
that the path I travel will always be wide enough for you to walk along beside me
for I would not want to experience these joys without you.

And if upon occasion, the path narrows slightly,
and there is only room for one of us at a time
please know that I will follow you
trusting that you would never lead me where it wasn\'t safe
that you would never take me to places where I cannot grow
that while you lead,
you would be incapable of doing anything that would deter me from what is right for me,
or for us, and the love which we share.

And, should I be the one to temporarily walk out in front along our path,
please know that I will always be sensitive to your needs
I will always travel the paths of encouragement and enlightenment
I will never lead you into harm\'s way
and although I may be in front,
I shall always hold my hand out to you,
so that we are never far apart in our travels.

Grow old along with me, the best is yet to be Joshua Gage wrote:


Re: Rules of Good Poetry
Posted by: Chesil (---.neo.rr.com)
Date: December 17, 2000 10:48PM

That surely is a how long is a piece of string type of question!

I like to start with the sound of a poem, how good it feels to recite and how the words flow when spoken aloud. That, for me, is the beginning. The poem doesn't have to have rhyme but I best enjoy those that do have a sense of rhythm rather than discordancy. Then I may think about meaning and how well the language expresses the meaning.

Choosing a favorite is difficult. For a long poem, I think I would have to choose Elegy Written In a Country Churchyard by Thomas Gray which is both good to read and has layers of meaning. For a shorter poem and for pure enjoyment of reading aloud, I just love this work by Byron.

The Destruction of Sennacherib
I.

The Assyrian came down like the wolf on the fold,
And his cohorts were gleaming in purple and gold;
And the sheen of their spears was like stars on the sea,
When the blue wave rolls nightly on deep Galilee.
Like the leaves of the forest when Summer is green,
That host with their banners at sunset were seen:
Like the leaves of the forest when Autumn hath blown,
That host on the morrow lay withered and strown.

II.

For the Angel of Death spread his wings on the blast,
And breathed in the face of the foe as he pass'd,
And the eyes of the sleepers wax'd deadly and chill,
And their hearts but once heaved, and for ever grew still!
And there lay the steed with his nostril all wide,
But through it there roll'd not the breath of his pride;
And the foam of his gasping lay white on the turf,
And cold as the spray of the rock-beating surf.

III.

And there lay the rider distorted and pale,
With the dew on his brow, and the rust on his mail:
And the tents were all silent, the banners alone,
The lances unlifted, the trumpets unblown.
And the widows of Ashur are load in their wail,
And the idols are broke in the temple of Baal;
And the might of the Gentile, unsmote by the sword,
Hath melted like snow in the glance of the Lord!



Chesil


Re: Rules of Good Poetry
Posted by: Pat Hathaway (209.102.88.---)
Date: December 18, 2000 11:18PM

Well, here's something by John Fredrick Nims: "The nature of poetry follows from our own human nature. The main divisions are organized as we ourself are. Human experience begins when the senses give us images of ourself or of the world outside. These images arouse emotions, which (with their images) we express in words, which are physically produced and have sound, which comes to our ear riding the air on waves of rhythm. The whole process, from the beginning, is fostered and overseen by an organizing mind, acting with the common sense of our everyday life, even when dealing with the uncommon sense of dreams or visions. In a good poem the elements work together as a unit."

To paraphrase, if it works, it's good.

I like to see a poem on the page. And I like Hopkins and Thomas for their kind of wild but ultimately controlled use of words/images. Can't choose just one poem or poet. Can there be a good poem, or a poem at all, without images? Dunno. Doesn't seem like it.


Re: Rules of Good Poetry
Posted by: Peter (---.host.btclick.com)
Date: December 19, 2000 03:38PM

I hate to be pedantic, but being a 'fan' of his - it's RUDYARD Kipling. His parents named him after an English beauty spot called Rudyard Lake in Staffordshire.

'If' came out No 1 in a poll a couple of years back for the nation's favourite poem. It was so overwhelmingly so that in the following year they changed the rules to give other poems a chance!!

Peter


Re: Rules of Good Poetry
Posted by: Peter (---.host.btclick.com)
Date: December 19, 2000 03:49PM

Joshua

I hire myself out as a speaker - and my topic is poetry. I find that there is no one 'favourite' - whatever that is supposed to mean! - but that I find that. because of 30 years dramatic activities on my part, that my audiences can appreciate the wide range I give them. They always say that they had never really got to grips with it, but that the sound of it being read aloud makes sense for the first time. There are many poets - Kipling being but one, and Shakespeare of course another - whose words are meant to be heard for their rhythm, their meaning, their beauty.

In my own humble way I try my best to provide that. And my own favourite? Can't name one - but 'The Highwayman'; 'The Soldier' (Rupert Brooke); 'Seven Ages of Man' (AYLI); 'Welsh Incident' (Robert Graves); 'I Remember' (Thomas Hood) .... oh but there are too many! And as for 'Rules' - should art of any kind have such things?

Regards Peter


Re: Rules of Good Poetry
Posted by: Chesil (---.neo.rr.com)
Date: December 19, 2000 03:58PM

Pedantry is fine by me Peter - as I will now demonstrate!

I seem to recall that If was the most popular poem but that in the foreword to the book, pride of place was given to Do Not Stand At My Grave and Weep on the basis that after the story and poem were broadcast the BBC had some 30,000 requests for copies - rather more than had voted for If.

You are, of course, completely correct Peter - I just thought that I would add a footnote. It would be hard to claim great technical merit for the poem but both, I think, demonstrate that public affection is for accessible poetry that has meaning in everyday lives - I think this is often borne out by the requests here for forgotten poems, they rarely come for excerpts from Virgil.

Chesil


Re: Rules of Good Poetry
Posted by: Joshua Gage (---.ucc.ie)
Date: December 20, 2000 06:59AM

>I find that there is no one 'favourite' - whatever that is supposed to mean!

Favourite, i.e., if you had every poem ever written in the world on paper in a library, and you knew exactly where each one was, and there was a fire, and you could only grab one, which one would you grab sort of thing...It's a hard question, I admit, but it's a fun question, I think...and a provoking one, too.

And as for 'Rules' - should art of any kind have such things?

Not rules, perhaps I chose the wrong word, but guidelines perhaps. In other words, when you read a poem, based on what do you say "This is a good poem" or "This is a bad poem." There has to be some sort of personal deciding factor, and it's that factor, or factors, perhaps, that I'm really looking for. Imagery and rhythm seem to be the biggies, which I can sort of agree with, though some of the worlds best poems are indeed rhythm-less. I find it amusing, though, that almost nobody has said anything after 1950. (I'm not exactly sure when "Welsh Incident" was first out, so I'm not going to say "nobody." However, Graves is probably the only modern poet listed.) For all intents and purposes, the only other freeverse named, outside of your Graves, and technically Shakespeare, has been in Bryan's post.

So, I think I'm wondering what the general concensus is on "modern" poets. I think the reason I'm asking this is because my two favourite (I can't choose just one, either, so I guess it was an unfair question. But we all seem to agree that it's quite hard.) poems would be "If you were to teach a creative writing course, what would you tell them" (Not the exact title, but close enough for jazz. It's in the book "Love Is a Dog from Hell," if anyone wants to be a pal and look it up for me! I'm in Ireland for the year, so I don't have any of my books here.) by Charles Bukowski, or "America" by Allen Ginsberg. After that, my other favs would include things by Kerouac, Burroughs, d.a. levy, Tony Medina, Steven Jesse Bernstein, Joan Larkin, Maggie Estep, Billy Childish...the list goes on. But I would have to admit, were I to make an anthology of favourite works, I probably wouldn't include too many pre-20th century poets. I would have to say the same goes for a lot of my friends.

Now, I understand that this is a classical poetry site, and results are going to be a bit skewed. Also, I'm not on some Artaud kick, saying that all classical poetry is hideous and only good for kindling, or what not. Obviously, these poems are famous because they're good in one way or another. However, I am amazed at some of the results. I would, myself, never have chosen Kipling, and yet he seems to extremely popular. Of course, I would like to think that the conversation will go beyond the six of us, so maybe I'm commenting too early.

On sort of a side note (maybe this should be a different topic--you tell me...), since rhythm, imagery, meter, etc are, as of now, the major "rules" or "guidelines" for good poetry, why is it that so many amateur poets are cranking out imageless freeverse by the ton. For example, of all the recent poetry posted on this site for critique (which I've noticed get very few critiques...Can anybody explain that to me?), I can think of one, maybe two that were rhymed, metered, etc. The same goes for imagery. Are English teacher's failing future poetic generations, aiming more for meaning and interpritation, and less on actuall critique? Please comment.


Re: Rules of Good Poetry
Posted by: Chesil (---.neo.rr.com)
Date: December 20, 2000 11:23AM

You ask some tough questions Joshua!

I like plenty of stuff after 1950, most of it still has excellent rhythm even though it doesn't rhyme. I like Plath and just so nobody can accuse me of taking sides I like Ted Hughes too. I can recall being read some of Ted's early stuff way way back in school by an especially advanced English Lit teacher - probably around 1961 when I was seven. She also had us reading Animal Farm which fact continues to amaze me. Right up to date I have several volumes by the likes of John Ashbery and John Kinsella as well as more obvious works by Seamus Heaney.

I am interested, however, that some of the world's best poems are rhythm-less - which are you choosing?

In the fire, if you hadn't specified poetry, I would have been extremely tempted to put down Under Milk Wood which I never tire of reading, or of listening to both the Burton version and the Hopkins version.

I really blame Eliot as he really didn't care for work that he thought was too simple (Thomas Hardy was a particular victim I seem to recall) and Eliot was and continues to be very influential.

Peter referred to a poll done by an English Arts TV show and it was interesting that there was very little in that 100 by a living poet - I think Jenny Joseph was top and she could hardly be termed a radical poet. I haven't seen anything equivalent in the US yet but I suspect it would follow the same line. The public tend to like rhymed verse - easier to remember? - which is probably why modern poets are unlikely to sell out an edition in a day, unlike Byron for example. That doesn't make Byron better than John Ashbery. It does suggest, however, that modern poets have moved far from what the public like to read. It is still possible, however, for exceptional work to get in the best seller lists (in the UK at least) and Birthday Letters by Hughes and Heaney's revised translation of Beowulf both fall into that category and neither could be called easily read or accessible works.

The show did another poll on 20th century poetry. Being a British program, you would expect a British bias and that is what you get - no Beat poets here, no Jack Kerouac or Bukowski or Ginsberg. Plath makes it though as does Maya Angelou though the most chosen poets were Philip Larkin and John Betjeman. Again not too much radicalism although an excerpt from Waste Land did manage to scrape in towards the end.

I don't know how representative the voters were of the public at large. The fact that they actually watch a TV arts show may suggest better than average knowledge and awareness - which makes the absence of Ezra Pound and William Carlos Williams etc., the more surprising?

Modern teachers do their best to instil a love of poetry in their pupils. I get emails from some and know that they work extremely hard in tough circumstances - it is much harder to grip a child's imagination with reading anything today than when I was at school and I have admiration for them. I do, however, detect the influence of Eliot et al in the teacher training schools and universities. Poetry can't be easy or it is of insufficient intellectual value. Maybe that is why Blake is a regular topic here and Byron isn't?

There has only been one vote for Kipling in this discussion so far, so you may not yet be swimming against the tide Joshua. Voted for the wrong poem (although I confess to having it on my website), in my extremely humble opinion, I far prefer The Conundrum of the Workshops.

Finally, as for critique requests. I tend not to do them as few indicate any depth of thought put in by the student and it is not for me to provide a quick fix for homework. I will also always shy away from critiques of works such as the Rime of the Ancient Mariner or Kubla Khan, for example, as I consider that whoever set the homework hasn't thought enough about the poems themselves - how can you critique Mariner in something as short as a standard essay?

Enough - I have rambled far too widely and lengthily.

Chesil


Re: Rules of Good Poetry
Posted by: Joshua Gage (---.ucc.ie)
Date: December 20, 2000 02:37PM

Chesil wrote:


You ask some tough questions Joshua!

Isn't that the job of artists???

I like plenty of stuff after 1950, most of it still has
excellent rhythm even though it doesn't rhyme. I like Plath
and just so nobody can accuse me of taking sides I like Ted
Hughes too. Right up to date I have several volumes by the likes of John
Ashbery and John Kinsella as well as more obvious works by
Seamus Heaney.

Excellent. Still, a lot of these poets would be considered "Formalists" in one way or another.

I am interested, however, that some of the world's best poems
are rhythm-less - which are you choosing?

Jack Kerouacs "Mexico City Blues" is one example. d.a. levy's "Cleveland Undercovers" is another. Matt Cook's stuff is almost along the lines of a monologue, as is Beau Sia's. And of course there's always Whitman and Eliot.

In the fire, if you hadn't specified poetry, I would have
been extremely tempted to put down Under Milk Wood which I
never tire of reading, or of listening to both the Burton
version and the Hopkins version.

I would say that Under Milk Wood is a lot more poetic than it is dramatic. Personal opinion, of course.

I really blame Eliot as he really didn't care for work that
he thought was too simple (Thomas Hardy was a particular
victim I seem to recall) and Eliot was and continues to be
very influential.

I agree. However, a lot of poetry is much more accessable than Eliot's, and yet that's what keeps coming up in classes. I think this is what confuses me. Kids are handed a copy of "The Waste Land" or Blake and told "This is poetry" before they're dealt something simple like Donne or Shakespeare or Plath or Hughes or whoever, and this turns them off from poetry. That, or they think they have to be confusing when they write, and so we get crappy amateur verse thick with emotion and adjectives, but no concrete images.

Peter referred to a poll done by an English Arts TV show and
it was interesting that there was very little in that 100 by
a living poet - I think Jenny Joseph was top and she could
hardly be termed a radical poet. I haven't seen anything
equivalent in the US yet but I suspect it would follow the
same line. The public tend to like rhymed verse - easier to
remember?

I dunno'...Robert Pinski's Poem Project produced a lot of unrhymed stuff. I think Matt Cook was one of the poets a lot of people suprisingly picked.

which is probably why modern poets are unlikely
to sell out an edition in a day, unlike Byron for example.

Sell out an edition period.

That doesn't make Byron better than John Ashbery. It does
suggest, however, that modern poets have moved far from what
the public like to read.

What about the lack of soul argument?

It is still possible, however, for exceptional work to get in the best seller lists (in >the UK at least) and Birthday Letters by Hughes and Heaney's revised
translation of Beowulf both fall into that category and
neither could be called easily read or accessible works.

Yes, but one could make the argument that these poets are selling based on their name now more than their work. I would like to see Heaney do a "Bachman Book" experament, and see what happens.

And as for best sellers, in the U.S. the only poetry book to recently make a Best Seller list was "Nights Without Armor" by Jewel. Need I say more? Bukowski'll sell, but that's a pretty specific market. It keeps Black Sparrow alive, though.Billy Collins will do readings, and blow people away, and yet almost nobody has heard of him. He's also one of Amazon's best selling poets, and still he hasn't hit a bestseller list.

The show did another poll on 20th century poetry. Being a
British program, you would expect a British bias and that is
what you get - no Beat poets here, no Jack Kerouac or
Bukowski or Ginsberg.

Why is that? I mean, arguably Ginsberg revolutionized poetry. Hands down. Why is it that very few people over here have heard or read him, and when they have, it's his more modern works, and not something awe-inspiring like "Howl."

Plath makes it though as does Maya Angelou though the most chosen poets >were Philip Larkin and John Betjeman. Again not too much radicalism although >an excerpt from Waste Land did manage to scrape in towards the end.

And if Waste Land is the mosr radical, you know the list is in trouble.

I don't know how representative the voters were of the public
at large. The fact that they actually watch a TV arts show
may suggest better than average knowledge and awareness -
which makes the absence of Ezra Pound and William Carlos
Williams etc., the more surprising?

Is this top 100 list somewhere on the 'net? I'd really like to see it.

Modern teachers do their best to instil a love of poetry in
their pupils. I get emails from some and know that they work
extremely hard in tough circumstances - it is much harder to
grip a child's imagination with reading anything today than
when I was at school and I have admiration for them.

I have admiration for them, but I'm also wary of some of their teaching approaches. It's like my argument against "Catcher in the Rye." Everything doesn't have to be a metaphor for something great and profound...maybe it's just a good story. From the requests in this forum, I would say that that's what teachers are going for, and they're choking students on extremely obtuse poems, i.e. Blake, before they can settle comfortably into poetry.

I do, however, detect the influence of Eliot et al in the teacher
training schools and universities. Poetry can't be easy or it
is of insufficient intellectual value.

Why can't it be easy? I mean, Shakespeare's sonnets are quite simple poems to understand, but their rhythm, meter, imagery, etc. all make them worth reading. However, there's little room for interpritation in them.

There has only been one vote for Kipling in this discussion
so far, so you may not yet be swimming against the tide
Joshua. Voted for the wrong poem (although I confess to
having it on my website), in my extremely humble opinion, I
far prefer The Conundrum of the Workshops.

I was taking Peter's "vote" into account, as well, making it 2 out of 6, or 33% of voters.

Finally, as for critique requests. I tend not to do them as
few indicate any depth of thought put in by the student and
it is not for me to provide a quick fix for homework.

Nonono...I'm talking about amateur poets who submit their work to the list and ask for critiques. I totally understand not doing a students work for them. I try to avoid stuff like this, unless it's more of a "who is he talking about" sort of thing, like in Yeat's "September 1913" that, in my opinion, the teacher should've explained to the student to start with.

Why do people always confuse what I mean when I say this? Am I not phrasing this properly???


Re: Rules of Good Poetry
Posted by: Chesil (---.neo.rr.com)
Date: December 20, 2000 04:54PM

Joshua wrote:

I am interested, however, that some of the world's best poems
are rhythm-less - which are you choosing?

Jack Kerouacs "Mexico City Blues" is one example. d.a. levy's "Cleveland >Undercovers" is another. Matt Cook's stuff is almost along the lines of a >monologue, as is Beau Sia's. And of course there's always Whitman and Eliot.

Interesting. Not really what I would rank as worlds best poetry - but I am sure you already guessed that smiling smiley

I really blame Eliot as he really didn't care for work that
he thought was too simple (Thomas Hardy was a particular
victim I seem to recall) and Eliot was and continues to be
very influential.

I agree. However, a lot of poetry is much more accessable than Eliot's, and yet >that's what keeps coming up in classes. I think this is what confuses me. Kids >are handed a copy of "The Waste Land" or Blake and told "This is poetry" before >they're dealt something simple like Donne or Shakespeare or Plath or Hughes or >whoever, and this turns them off from poetry. That, or they think they have to be >confusing when they write, and so we get crappy amateur verse thick with >emotion and adjectives, but no concrete images.

I suspect poetry intellectualism in the same way that an unmade bed or sheep guts can be considered for the Turner Prize in art. Actually, it isn't art but people are frightened to say so in case they appear insufficiently intellectual. In the same way, anything that is not horribly complex in poetry is not sufficiently intellectually challenging. Interestingly, I have heard many folk complain bitterly that Donne is too complex - I suspect that comes from some of the descriptions of the metaphysical poets rather than from reading the poetry itself.

I dunno'...Robert Pinski's Poem Project produced a lot of unrhymed stuff. I think >Matt Cook was one of the poets a lot of people suprisingly picked.

I see If is in this collection too. Only 18,000 votes cast for the collection as a whole though - even less representative than the UK one. Sad indictment of the interest on both sides of the Atlantic.

That doesn't make Byron better than John Ashbery. It does
suggest, however, that modern poets have moved far from what
the public like to read.

What about the lack of soul argument?

What about it? How many people read the latest Stephen King and never get close to anything more complex? What people want in their lives is instant gratification and they don't want to work at it - this is a sweeping generalisation of course and there are many that do take the trouble to read complex work but they are a fairly small minority. What am I arguing...ok, that popular culture has moved one way and the Eliot school of poetry has moved the other. To have influence, it has to have relevance which is why in UK soap operas there is an amazingly high incidence of AIDS (for example) so that there is education as well as entertainment.

Much of modern poetry has lost the ability to entertain more than a modest few readers. Is this a bad thing? It wouldn't be if there was a middle way to bridge the gap between Valentine card poetry and Ginsberg or Ashbery but there doesn't seem to be enough in that middle ground and those that are, Carol Ann Duffy perhaps, are not taken seriously enough by the literary establishment.

It is still possible, however, for exceptional work to get in the best seller lists (in >>the UK at least) and Birthday Letters by Hughes and Heaney's revised
translation of Beowulf both fall into that category and
neither could be called easily read or accessible works.

Yes, but one could make the argument that these poets are selling based on >their name now more than their work. I would like to see Heaney do a "Bachman >Book" experament, and see what happens.

I don't recall anything else of Heaney's making the best seller list, so I am not sure that it was sold on the back of that - it could be that it sold well as it won the Whitbread prize. Hughes received massive critical acclaim for Birthday Letters in a way that rarely happens for a volume of poems - probably the first such since his translation of Ovid's Metamorphoses which also sold well. Mainstream critics rarely bother with poetry so few volumes get publicity. If you want to get a critical assessment of Collins, you have to get the TLS (they didn't like his last volume)in the UK and the American Poetry Review in the US. You may get something in the Atlantic Review but not too much in the Sunday Times and nothing at all in USA Today or The Sun in the UK.

The show did another poll on 20th century poetry. Being a
British program, you would expect a British bias and that is
what you get - no Beat poets here, no Jack Kerouac or
Bukowski or Ginsberg.

Why is that? I mean, arguably Ginsberg revolutionized poetry. Hands down. Why >is it that very few people over here have heard or read him, and when they have, >it's his more modern works, and not something awe-inspiring like "Howl."

I think it is just like music - some takes off in both countries but a lot doesn't. I also suspect it is little taught in the UK.

Is this top 100 list somewhere on the 'net? I'd really like to see it.

Not that I can see but I'll tap it out and post it.

Modern teachers do their best to instil a love of poetry in
their pupils. I get emails from some and know that they work
extremely hard in tough circumstances - it is much harder to
grip a child's imagination with reading anything today than
when I was at school and I have admiration for them.

I have admiration for them, but I'm also wary of some of their teaching >approaches. It's like my argument against "Catcher in the Rye." Everything >doesn't have to be a metaphor for something great and profound...maybe it's just >a good story. From the requests in this forum, I would say that that's what >teachers are going for, and they're choking students on extremely obtuse >poems, i.e. Blake, before they can settle comfortably into poetry.

I can but agree. Catch the imagination with poems such as If or Sea Fever and their kind and then onwards through Plath and Hughes to Blake, Coleridge and Ginsberg


I do, however, detect the influence of Eliot et al in the teacher
training schools and universities. Poetry can't be easy or it
is of insufficient intellectual value.

Why can't it be easy? I mean, Shakespeare's sonnets are quite simple poems to >understand, but their rhythm, meter, imagery, etc. all make them worth reading. >However, there's little room for interpritation in them.

There I think you catch the problem - the critique has overcome the poetry.

Nonono...I'm talking about amateur poets who submit their work to the list and >ask for critiques. I totally understand not doing a students work for them. I try to >avoid stuff like this, unless it's more of a "who is he talking about" sort of thing, >like in Yeat's "September 1913" that, in my opinion, the teacher should've >explained to the student to start with.

I run an online zine and get enough opportunity for critiques when receiving work there - though I will admit that the extent of critique will depend on the degree to which I think the poet is serious about their work. I receive an alarmingly high number where the bio starts - I don't read poetry as I don't wish to be influenced. I have received some pretty unpleasant email from some people when I have provided a critique which I always strive to be gentle with. Most appreciate the trouble though.

I also get a worryingly high number who think that poetry.com is a good place to be published.

Why do people always confuse what I mean when I say this? Am I not phrasing >this properly???

It is just that most posts on the board are requests for critiques of Kubla Khan or Dover Beach so my thoughts immediately turn to that form of critique.

Chesil


Re: Rules of Good Poetry
Posted by: Pat Hathaway (209.102.88.---)
Date: December 20, 2000 11:32PM

Josh, you are a tough taskmaster! If you're looking for poems/poets after 1950, I'd have to add Carolyn Kizer, Kenneth O. Hanson, Theodore Roethke, Adrienne Rich, Robert Bly, David Wagoner, William Stafford, Richard Hugo, James Dickey, Denise Levertov and Robert Creeley--and these are added to an already extensive list I did a few days ago. Yoicks!

A good poem has a kind of vivid intensity or maybe vivid compression that makes me catch my breath.

Couple of examples that are really injured and made less by being taken from their poems--
Stafford "...an important scene
acted in stone for the little selves
at the flute end of consequences."

Roethke "We think by feeling. What is there to know?"
..."Of those so close beside me, which are you?"

You were clear when you asked why there weren't many responses to requests for critique of new poems posted here. My own feeling is that there isn't much point in spending my time, energy and ability, such as it is, working for someone who really just wants to get past a particularly emotional moment and has selected this forum as a place to talk about it. I can certainly sympathize with the various traumas we all experience, but they aren't necessarily poetry. Sometimes they're just reactions, and poetry is known as a venue for expressing strong feeling.


Re: Rules of Good Poetry
Posted by: Joshua Gage (---.ucc.ie)
Date: December 21, 2000 12:07PM

Chesil wrote:


Interesting. Not really what I would rank as worlds best
poetry - but I am sure you already guessed that smiling smiley

I dunno'...d.a. levy's "Cleveland Undercovers" is definately in my top ten. Some of Kerouac's Blues, (Mexico City, San Francisco, etc.) or at least some of the choruses are quite excellent as well.

I suspect poetry intellectualism in the same way that an
unmade bed or sheep guts can be considered for the Turner
Prize in art. Actually, it isn't art but people are
frightened to say so in case they appear insufficiently
intellectual. In the same way, anything that is not horribly
complex in poetry is not sufficiently intellectually
challenging.

Why should it be intellectually challenging?

Interestingly, I have heard many folk complain
bitterly that Donne is too complex - I suspect that comes
from some of the descriptions of the metaphysical poets
rather than from reading the poetry itself.

The only thing complex about Donne is some of his spelling.

I dunno'...Robert Pinski's Poem Project produced a lot of
unrhymed stuff. I think >Matt Cook was one of the poets a lot
of people suprisingly picked.

I see If is in this collection too. Only 18,000 votes cast
for the collection as a whole though - even less
representative than the UK one. Sad indictment of the
interest on both sides of the Atlantic.

Indeed.

That doesn't make Byron better than John Ashbery. It does
suggest, however, that modern poets have moved far from what
the public like to read.

What about the lack of soul argument?

What about it? How many people read the latest Stephen King
and never get close to anything more complex?

Stephen King nothing. How about John Grisham and Tom Claney? They're the downfall of Western Civilization. Stephen King at least pulls of Bachman experements.

What people want in their lives is instant gratification and they don't
want to work at it - this is a sweeping generalisation of
course and there are many that do take the trouble to read
complex work but they are a fairly small minority. What am I
arguing...ok, that popular culture has moved one way and the
Eliot school of poetry has moved the other.

But what about Slam Poetry and stuff like that? Isn't that a way to bring poetry back into the pop culture mainstream?

To have influence, it has to have relevance which is why in UK soap
operas there is an amazingly high incidence of AIDS (for
example) so that there is education as well as entertainment.

Why can't poetry be accessable, have relevance, and still be considered good?

Much of modern poetry has lost the ability to entertain more
than a modest few readers. Is this a bad thing? It wouldn't
be if there was a middle way to bridge the gap between
Valentine card poetry and Ginsberg or Ashbery but there
doesn't seem to be enough in that middle ground and those
that are, Carol Ann Duffy perhaps, are not taken seriously
enough by the literary establishment.

So, any suggestions on how we get them to be considered more?

It is still possible, however, for exceptional work to get
in the best seller lists (in >>the UK at least) and Birthday
Letters by Hughes and Heaney's revised
translation of Beowulf both fall into that category and
neither could be called easily read or accessible works.

Yes, but one could make the argument that these poets are
selling based on >their name now more than their work. I
would like to see Heaney do a "Bachman >Book" experament, and
see what happens.

I don't recall anything else of Heaney's making the best
seller list, so I am not sure that it was sold on the back of
that - it could be that it sold well as it won the Whitbread
prize.

Maybe not best seller list, but a lot of people--people who don't or wouldn't normally read poetry, have read Heaney. Perhaps because of the Whitbread prize, or the Nobel Prize, but possably because of the instant gratification in his work. I think if people followed Heaney's example, and wrote more poetry that was good, but that also could instantly gratify people, we'd be set. However, why is it that Heaney isn't taught in schools and Blake is? Perhaps in the U.K. things are different, but in the U.S., this seems to be the case.

Hughes received massive critical acclaim for Birthday
Letters in a way that rarely happens for a volume of poems -
probably the first such since his translation of Ovid's
Metamorphoses which also sold well. Mainstream critics rarely
bother with poetry so few volumes get publicity.

Why is that?

If you want to get a critical assessment of Collins, you have to get the
TLS (they didn't like his last volume)

A lot of people didn't.

in the UK and the American Poetry Review in the US. You may get something in
the Atlantic Review but not too much in the Sunday Times and
nothing at all in USA Today or The Sun in the UK.

Again, how do you think we could go about changing that?

Why is that? I mean, arguably Ginsberg revolutionized
poetry. Hands down. Why >is it that very few people over here
have heard or read him, and when they have, >it's his more
modern works, and not something awe-inspiring like "Howl."

I think it is just like music - some takes off in both
countries but a lot doesn't. I also suspect it is little
taught in the UK.

I understand where you're coming from, but I'm still wondering WHY this is. I mean, why hasn't Ginsberg--a very accessable poet compared with Blake and Eliot--taken off?

Is this top 100 list somewhere on the 'net? I'd really like
to see it.

Not that I can see but I'll tap it out and post it.

Thanks. I'd like to read it.

I can but agree. Catch the imagination with poems such as If
or Sea Fever and their kind and then onwards through Plath
and Hughes to Blake, Coleridge and Ginsberg

So why don't teachers do this?

I do, however, detect the influence of Eliot et al in the
teacher
training schools and universities. Poetry can't be easy or
it
is of insufficient intellectual value.

Why can't it be easy? I mean, Shakespeare's sonnets are
quite simple poems to >understand, but their rhythm, meter,
imagery, etc. all make them worth reading. >However, there's
little room for interpritation in them.

There I think you catch the problem - the critique has
overcome the poetry.

I'm confused...explain this further, please.

Nonono...I'm talking about amateur poets who submit their
work to the list and >ask for critiques. I totally understand
not doing a students work for them. I try to >avoid stuff
like this, unless it's more of a "who is he talking about"
sort of thing, >like in Yeat's "September 1913" that, in my
opinion, the teacher should've >explained to the student to
start with.

I run an online zine and get enough opportunity for critiques
when receiving work there - though I will admit that the
extent of critique will depend on the degree to which I think
the poet is serious about their work.

What's the addie for your 'zine?

I receive an alarmingly high number where the bio starts - I don't read poetry as I
don't wish to be influenced.

You've got to be kidding. I've met one person like that, and her poetry was awful. What do you say to people like that?

I have received some pretty unpleasant email from some people when I have > provided a critique which I always strive to be gentle with.

Did these people ask for critique? I assume they did, or it wouldn't have been given, but I find sometimes that people submit things, and don't really want critique, they just want it in print.

Most appreciate the trouble though.

I would assume so.

I also get a worryingly high number who think that poetry.com
is a good place to be published.

Really? This, too, is distressing.

Why do people always confuse what I mean when I say this? Am
I not phrasing >this properly???

It is just that most posts on the board are requests for
critiques of Kubla Khan or Dover Beach so my thoughts
immediately turn to that form of critique.

Understood. I just wanted to make sure I wasn't saying something wrong.


Re: Rules of Good Poetry
Posted by: Joshua Gage (---.ucc.ie)
Date: December 21, 2000 12:11PM

Pat Hathaway wrote:


Josh, you are a tough taskmaster!

Thank you!

If you're looking for poems/poets after 1950, I'd have to add Carolyn Kizer,
Kenneth O. Hanson, Theodore Roethke, Adrienne Rich, Robert
Bly, David Wagoner, William Stafford, Richard Hugo, James
Dickey, Denise Levertov and Robert Creeley--and these are
added to an already extensive list I did a few days ago.
Yoicks!

Good stuff there, though.

A good poem has a kind of vivid intensity or maybe vivid
compression that makes me catch my breath.

Interesting. I like the idea of a physical response. It's like that Dickenson quote about losing her head.

Couple of examples that are really injured and made less by
being taken from their poems--
Stafford "...an important scene
acted in stone for the little selves
at the flute end of consequences."

Roethke "We think by feeling. What is there to know?"
..."Of those so close beside me, which are you?"

You were clear when you asked why there weren't many
responses to requests for critique of new poems posted here.
My own feeling is that there isn't much point in spending my
time, energy and ability, such as it is, working for someone
who really just wants to get past a particularly emotional
moment and has selected this forum as a place to talk about
it.

Even if they put it in a "poem?"

I can certainly sympathize with the various traumas we
all experience, but they aren't necessarily poetry.

Indeed, however, with some proper critique, perhaps they could become poetry.

Sometimes they're just reactions, and poetry is known as a
venue for expressing strong feeling.


Re: Rules of Good Poetry
Posted by: Chesil (---.neo.rr.com)
Date: December 21, 2000 12:57PM

Joshua wrote:

I dunno'...d.a. levy's "Cleveland Undercovers" is definately in my top ten.
Some of Kerouac's Blues, (Mexico City, San Francisco, etc.) or at least some
of the choruses are quite excellent as well.

Just personal taste – I wouldn’t argue that they are meritorious, just that they wouldn’t enter my top ten – consider me a fuddy duddy traditionalist for the most part.

In the same way, anything that is not horribly
complex in poetry is not sufficiently intellectually
challenging.

Why should it be intellectually challenging?

I don’t argue that it should, I am arguing that there is an influential cadre that does believe that.

What people want in their lives is instant gratification and they don't
want to work at it - this is a sweeping generalisation of
course and there are many that do take the trouble to read
complex work but they are a fairly small minority. What am I
arguing...ok, that popular culture has moved one way and the
Eliot school of poetry has moved the other.

But what about Slam Poetry and stuff like that? Isn't that a way to bring
poetry back into the pop culture mainstream?

Yes it is and I welcome the advent of it – it remains a minority interest though. I wouldn’t want it to turn into some sort of poetry karaoke show but now and then I wish they would read more than their own stuff. Interest in poetry is one thing but it would be good to generate interest beyond personal performance.

Much of modern poetry has lost the ability to entertain more
than a modest few readers. Is this a bad thing? It wouldn't
be if there was a middle way to bridge the gap between
Valentine card poetry and Ginsberg or Ashbery but there
doesn't seem to be enough in that middle ground and those
that are, Carol Ann Duffy perhaps, are not taken seriously
enough by the literary establishment.

So, any suggestions on how we get them to be considered more?

Have them taught in school more.

Maybe not best seller list, but a lot of people--people who don't or
wouldn't normally read poetry, have read Heaney. Perhaps because of the
Whitbread prize, or the Nobel Prize, but possably because of the instant
gratification in his work. I think if people followed Heaney's example, and
wrote more poetry that was good, but that also could instantly gratify
people, we'd be set. However, why is it that Heaney isn't taught in schools
and Blake is? Perhaps in the U.K. things are different, but in the U.S.,
this seems to be the case.

Maybe Heaney is just too recent. I was taught Hughes at school and he was still making his nme.

Hughes received massive critical acclaim for Birthday
Letters in a way that rarely happens for a volume of poems -
probably the first such since his translation of Ovid's
Metamorphoses which also sold well. Mainstream critics rarely
bother with poetry so few volumes get publicity.

Why is that?

Catch 22 maybe? They don’t think there is popular interest but if they don’t do their part to generate it there won’t be popular interest.

If you want to get a critical assessment of Collins, you have to get the
TLS (they didn't like his last volume)

A lot of people didn't.

I have had one piece only read to me and heard a recording of him reciting another at a poetfest in NJ. Not enough time to determine how well I liked it. I want to read more though.

in the UK and the American Poetry Review in the US. You may get something in
the Atlantic Review but not too much in the Sunday Times and
nothing at all in USA Today or The Sun in the UK.

Again, how do you think we could go about changing that?

Persuade them that they would sell more newspapers by including it. Whether that would be true is open to question.

I understand where you're coming from, but I'm still wondering WHY this is.
I mean, why hasn't Ginsberg--a very accessable poet compared with Blake and
Eliot--taken off?

Image possibly. Very American and very not British which may suggest a lack of relevance? I don’t know, just pushing out a possibility.

I can but agree. Catch the imagination with poems such as If
or Sea Fever and their kind and then onwards through Plath
and Hughes to Blake, Coleridge and Ginsberg

So why don't teachers do this?

Maybe they do – maybe it is the difficulty of persuading the Playstation generation that there is merit in any poetry that is difficult. A teacher’s view would be most interesting. There was a brief thread with an Inner City (Tottenham, London) teacher a while ago here who was talking about the Kipling piece A Smuggler’s Song. She mentioned offline to me that she was using that work and the Noyes poem The Highwayman in the literacy hour that the she ran. Both extremely accessible pieces that are easy to read and tell a story. Peter may have a far better perspective on this.


There I think you catch the problem - the critique has
overcome the poetry.

I'm confused...explain this further, please.

What I meant was that the critique essay carries more importance than simple appreciation of the poem.

What's the addie for your 'zine?

You can access from:

[www.poetrywebring.org] />
I receive an alarmingly high number where the bio starts - I don't readpoetry as I
don't wish to be influenced.

You've got to be kidding. I've met one person like that, and her poetry was
awful. What do you say to people like that?

I try to point out that most poetry tutorials would include a substantial amount of classic poetry and that they do so for a reason.

I also get a worryingly high number who think that poetry.com
is a good place to be published.

Really? This, too, is distressing.

Absolutely really. It leaves me with a dilemma of whether to point out the problem with poetry.com. I was a semi-finalist there too with:

Two Red Socks

I used to have two red socks,
Now I just have one
And I don't know
Where the other one's gone.

Did the other go out one night
To try and find some fun?
Or did it go down the pipe
To leave one all alone?

I used to have two red socks,
Now I just have one.
I do wish I knew
Where the other has gone!

There used to be a competition run somewhere to actually have a poem turned down but I don’t think it was ever won.


Re: Rules of Good Poetry
Posted by: Peter (---.host.btclick.com)
Date: December 21, 2000 04:28PM

Joshua

Joshua

You've certainly started something now!! It does, of course, cover an enormous range.
I find that there are any number of quotable quotes about poetry - not least a 'pre-20th
century poet named John Keats who stated his own feelings about poetry.

(1) We hate poetry which has a palpable design upon us - and if we do not agree,
seems to put its hand into its breeches pocket. Poetry should be great and unobtrusive,
a thing which enters into one's soul, and does not startle or amaze it with itself, but
with its subject

(2) Poetry should surprise by a fine excess, and not by singularity; it should strike the
reader as a wording of his own highest thoughts, and appear almost a remembrance.
Its touches of beauty should never be half-way, thereby making the reader breathless,
instead of content. The rise, the progress, the setting of imagery should, like the sun,
come natural to him.

As for rhythm, Ezra Pound (ah! 20th century) gave a warning in 1934 - Music begins
to atrophy when it departs too far from the dance, ..... poetry begins to atrophy when it
gets too far from music.

I was interested in your list of 'modern poets', although seven were unknown to me.
The Oxford Companion to 20th Century Poetry in English, when discussing the
US/English dichotomy in poetry says 'Maybe American poets need fifty years of
freedom from English constraints. And maybe the English need a break from having to
affirm their Englishness .....' Again, it quotes Helen Vendler's introduction to her
Contemporary American Poetry: it will be 'able to extend its charm only to those who
genuinely know the American language - by now a language separate in accent,
intonation, discourse and lexicon, from English'! Perhaps that is why you - and your
friends - wouldn't include too many pre-20th century poets? - and goes some way to
explaining the Kipling thing? And even then there are the 'cross-overs' - Ezra Pound,
TS Eliot and WH Auden. The latter two are in Chesil's list of Fave Poems.

Here in UK we have a radio programme where each interviewee is asked to name one
item (apart from the Bible and Shakespeare) they would take with them if they were
shipwrecked on a desert island. Your 'fun question' is a little like that! Since a great
many poets publish anthologies of their work, I would like to cheat a little and take one
of those - and, because I look upon them as old friends, always wanting to see them
again - I'd then have to choose which one. I've already mentioned Kipling; others
might be John Betjeman (a one-time Poet Laureate); or (agreeing with Chesil) Dylan
Thomas. I really couldn't just take one poem and leave all the others to perish!!!!
One of our largest booksellers can show two whole shelves marked poetry - a far cry
from only a few years ago - many of which are anthologies, many of which contain a
mixture of pre- and in-20th Century poetry.

I'm not absolutely sure that this IS a 'classical poetry site' - or, if it is, the range of
'classic' is pretty wide! I seem to remember that children's verse, monologues, and
others of the 'lower orders'(!!) have been discussed. Finally, haikus are all the rage at
the moment - and that prompts the view that perhaps 'foreign' work (as opposed to 'English' -
US or English!) are among 'every poem ever written in the world'. Omar Khayyam
springs to mind ....

Finally, although the discussion has moved on to critiques and other such esoteric
matters, I find that, when reading to my audiences - both male and female, mainly
retired folk - that our enjoyment of all manner of poetry stems from one particular
thing, touched upon by Keats: 'a wording of his own highest thoughts, and appear
almost a remembrance .... ' Indeed, I preface my readings with that very word.
Comments at the end so very often centre on the fact that 'I never liked poetry at school,
but now ......'

Keep up the discussion!! Maybe we could turn it into rhyme?

Peter


Re: Rules of Good Poetry
Posted by: Chesil (---.neo.rr.com)
Date: December 21, 2000 05:45PM

Keats knew what he was talking about too!

The list is from the book The Nation's Favourite Twentieth Century Poems which was from a poll on the BBC program Bookworm rather than a list of my particular choices - though there would be some overlap so far as Dylan Thomas is concerned. I was surprised that And Death Shall Have No Dominion was not ahead of some of the others - I think I would rank it ahead of the villanelle.


Re: Rules of Good Poetry
Posted by: Dark Shadows (---.orlando-t.navipath.net)
Date: December 22, 2000 11:24PM

I didn't even notice that I had put it as robert kipling. I wrote that quite late, but it's still no excuse. Thanks for pointing it out!
Dark ShadowsPeter wrote:


I hate to be pedantic, but being a 'fan' of his - it's
RUDYARD Kipling. His parents named him after an English
beauty spot called Rudyard Lake in Staffordshire.

'If' came out No 1 in a poll a couple of years back for the
nation's favourite poem. It was so overwhelmingly so that in
the following year they changed the rules to give other poems
a chance!!

Peter


Re: Rules of Good Poetry
Posted by: Julie (---.tnt4.long-beach.ca.da.uu.net)
Date: December 26, 2000 10:51PM

Joshua,
If a poem touches me in a significant way, I, of course, consider it. Whether "good" or not is beside the point. However, I must be of an old, and perhaps a dying, school because one of my favorite poems, which I have not seen on this discussion board yet, is "The Raven" by Edgar Allan Poe. I have memorized and presented it as a one-act, one-person play. Although "The Raven" is a lengthy poem, short poems, such as Sandburg's "Fog," are pure delight: "The fog comes on little cat feet. It sits looking over harbour and city on silent haunches, and then moves on." Without doubt, Robert Frost's "The Road Not Taken" and "Stopping By The Woods On A Snowy Evening" are two poems that will live lovingly in hearts forever. e.e. cummings makes my mind sing with "anyone lived in a pretty how town" as well as "maggie, millie, molly, and may." One more I'd like to add is "In Flanders Fields" by Major John McCrae. It is said to have been written on the WWI battlefield by this doctor who, after tending to the wounded for two straight weeks, sat down and wrote it in very short order. The poppies only grew because their seeds germinated after the ground had been tilled (although the tilling was done through bombing). Many times knowledge of the origin of a poem brings it into clearer focus for us.


Re: Rules of Good Poetry
Posted by: Chesil (---.neo.rr.com)
Date: December 27, 2000 12:00AM

Julie,

There is an excellent reason why The Raven gets few mentions on the board here - Poe himself wrote an excellent essay on the composition of it which gives the game away so far as setting it for English Lit questions is concerned! This also confirms your final statement regarding the origin helping to clarify - understanding how Poe crafted the poem does enable a better understanding.


Re: Rules of Good Poetry
Posted by: lg (---.ca.charter.com)
Date: October 23, 2004 04:06AM

Bump, for Hugh.

Les


Re: Rules of Good Poetry
Posted by: peternsz (---.client.comcast.net)
Date: October 23, 2004 04:30AM

Judgement of good poetry and rule designating activities are not the same kinds of behavior for me. Generally, if it can be reduceed to a rule, it is not judgement. I am pretty sure thing should not be turned into a rule for other people judgeing peoty.

:-)
Peter
:->


Re: Rules of Good Poetry
Posted by: Hugh Clary (---.denver-03rh15rt.co.dial-access.att.net)
Date: October 23, 2004 08:25PM

Bump, for Hugh.

Thanks, Les. I don't remember reading this thread before, but I do remember Pat Hathaway. I wonder what she thinks of anthony/misanthropy, being from a northern clime, that is.


Re: Rules of Good Poetry
Posted by: peternsz (---.client.comcast.net)
Date: October 23, 2004 10:37PM

Agrree.

Yet for those not just venting amorohous vibration or just stuffing syllables into forms, the effect to interpret and articulate critical interpretation is both itself pleasant and inspiring. Some of these "neophyte" writers get the analytic and imaginative juices running. Even the more serious of the new writer dserve an extra effort. I wouldn't be here if I didn't want to be.

I like it that you value your time. Many of the rest of us also are "on the meter."

avanti,

Peter


Re: Rules of Good Poetry
Posted by: JustJack (12.46.184.---)
Date: October 24, 2004 10:33AM

Man!

They sure did go ON about poetry back in the twentieth century!


Jack


Re: Rules of Good Poetry
Posted by: peternsz (---.client.comcast.net)
Date: October 24, 2004 01:15PM

ay yup




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