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What Poetry Is -- and Is Not
Posted by: Marian-NYC (---.nyc1.dsl.speakeasy.net)
Date: January 10, 2005 05:53PM

"… before we continue any further, I want to stress that POETRY IS NOT ABOUT SELF-EXPRESSION. I don't know where this outright falsehood began (probably with the acceptance of the "Confessional Poets," which I'll be writing about...), but it's an outright bald-faced lie. If you want to express yourself, there are plenty of media with which to do so - send a postcard, letter, e-mail, instant message, journal writing, etc. So I'll repeat: poetry is NOT (primarily) a means of self-expression. And to the small extent that it is, a poet's self-expression is usually reserved for how a poem is written (back to technique) and is not the basis for a poem itself. You can't avoid self-expression, but it should be a necessary symptom of writing, not a goal. …"


If you enjoyed that, read the entire PLAGIARIST article:

Jough Dempsey
“What Hell is Poetry?”
[www.plagiarist.com]


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Re: What Poetry Is -- and Is Not
Posted by: lg (---.ca.charter.com)
Date: January 10, 2005 07:17PM

Marian, I think I get what you're talking about, but just for the record, let me say that for most of us "self-expression" is inseparable from the art form variously known as "poetry". But the key point here is that it is also, oh, so, so much more than that.

Some opposing views:

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Because You Asked about the Line between Prose and Poetry
by Howard Nemerov

Sparrows were feeding in a freezing drizzle
That while you watched turned into pieces of snow
Riding a gradient invisible
From silver aslant to random, white, and slow.

There came a moment that you couldn't tell.
And then they clearly flew instead of fell.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Eating Poetry
by Mark Strand

Ink runs from the corners of my mouth.
There is no happiness like mine.
I have been eating poetry.

The librarian does not believe what she sees.
Her eyes are sad
and she walks with her hands in her dress.

The poems are gone.
The light is dim.
The dogs are on the basement stairs and coming up.

Their eyeballs roll,
their blond legs bum like brush.
The poor librarian begins to stamp her feet and weep.

She does not understand.
When I get on my knees and lick her hand,
she screams.

I am a new man.
I snarl at her and bark.
I romp with joy in the bookish dark.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
The Thought Fox
by Ted Hughes

I imagine this midnight moment's forest:
Something else is alive
Besides the clock's loneliness
And this blank page where my fingers move.

Through the window I see no star:
Something more near
Though deeper within darkness
Is entering the loneliness:

Cold, delicately as the dark snow,
A fox's nose touches twig, leaf;
Two eyes serve a movement, that now
And again now, and now, and now

Sets neat prints into the snow
Between trees, and warily a lame
Shadow lags by stump and in hollow
Of a body that is bold to come

Across clearings, an eye,
A widening deepening greenness,
Brilliantly, concentratedly,
Coming about its own business

Till, with sudden sharp hot stink of fox
It enters the dark hole of the head.
The window is starless still; the clock ticks,
The page is printed.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

A Loaf of Poetry
by Naoshi Koriyama

you mix
the dough
of experience
with
the yeast
of inspiration
and knead it well
with love
and pound it
with all your might
and then
leave it
until
it puffs out big
with its own inner force
and then
knead it again
and
shape it
into a round form
and bake it
in the oven
of your heart

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Notes on the Art of Poetry
by Dylan Thomas

I could never have dreamt that there were such goings-on
in the world between the covers of books,
such sandstorms and ice blasts of words,,,
such staggering peace, such enormous laughter,
such and so many blinding bright lights,, ,
splashing all over the pages
in a million bits and pieces
all of which were words, words, words,
and each of which were alive forever
in its own delight and glory and oddity and light.


------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Poet's Obligation
by Pablo Neruda

To whoever is not listening to the sea
this Friday morning, to whoever is cooped up
in house or office, factory or woman
or street or mine or harsh prison cell;
to him I come, and, without speaking or looking,
I arrive and open the door of his prison,
and a vibration starts up, vague and insistent,
a great fragment of thunder sets in motion
the rumble of the planet and the foam,
the raucous rivers of the ocean flood,
the star vibrates swiftly in its corona,
and the sea is beating, dying and continuing.

So, drawn on by my destiny,
I ceaselessly must listen to and keep
the sea's lamenting in my awareness,
I must feel the crash of the hard water
and gather it up in a perpetual cup
so that, wherever those in prison may be,
wherever they suffer the autumn's castigation,
I may be there with an errant wave,
I may move, passing through windows,
and hearing me, eyes will glance upward
saying "How can I reach the sea?"
And I shall broadcast, saying nothing,
the starry echoes of the wave,
a breaking up of foam and quicksand,
a rustling of salt withdrawing,
the grey cry of the sea-birds on the coast.

So, through me, freedom and the sea
will make their answer to the shuttered heart.

(Translated from the Spanish by Alastair Reid)

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

There are more divergent views on the nature of poetry here:

[io.uwinnipeg.ca] />

Les



Post Edited (01-11-05 15:22)


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Re: What Poetry Is -- and Is Not
Posted by: lg (---.ca.charter.com)
Date: January 10, 2005 07:50PM

What!!!! You mean it's not ALL ABOUT ME!!!

Well I never... I'm going over to the PROSE archives.


Les


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Re: What Poetry Is -- and Is Not
Posted by: JohnnySansCulo (---.nycmny83.covad.net)
Date: January 11, 2005 10:54AM

Hmmmm....the PROSE archives ! Now THAT would be interesting, if everyones work on User Submitted were to be transformed.......oh my, the possibilities !


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Re: What Poetry Is -- and Is Not
Posted by: joseph r. torelli (---.dyn.optonline.net)
Date: January 11, 2005 05:21PM

I'm sorry, but I will never accept that a lot of what passes as poetry today is actually poetry. As I've contended on this forum before, it is actually possible to write beautiful, moving, breathtaking, stunning (choose your own adjective) prose, just call it what it is. Simply because someone chooses to capitalize each new line in a document, or develops some random, inexplicable pattern of indentation doesn't make what they write poetry. And, really, there's nothing wrong with writing beautiful prose.

It seems as if some prose writers feel inadequate - as if prose is somehow inferior; so, they insist on calling their creations poetry. What nonsense! A brilliantly written novel, short story, or essay can have as much of an emotional impact on a reader as a beautifully constructed poem. A skilled reader will accept that. So, really, there's no need to try to fool us by changing the label.

JoeT


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Re: What Poetry Is -- and Is Not
Posted by: Marian-NYC (---.nyc1.dsl.speakeasy.net)
Date: January 11, 2005 06:21PM

Joseph: I accept everything except your apology.

LG: That wasn't me talking, but thanks for all those great poems you posted.

Joseph again: I wouldn't like the job of separating BAD poems from things that are NOT poems, but if your criteria are perfectly clear, I think you could do it. However, the absence of widely agreed criteria means that sometimes a person who can't express himself in plain prose, thinks it will be easier to do so in poetry. But alas: (1) it isn't, and (2) See Dempsey quote at the top of this thread.


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Re: What Poetry Is -- and Is Not
Posted by: joseph r. torelli (---.dyn.optonline.net)
Date: January 11, 2005 09:18PM

Marian-NYC wrote: "I wouldn't like the job of separating BAD poems from things that are NOT poems," to which I say, "AMEN!" It's not about sitting in judgment of anyone's writing, or having a need to force-fit each piece of writing into some rigidly defined category. I'm really not that anal. But it isn't easy to compose a beautiful poem, and it's just as difficult to create beautiful prose. Calling prose 'poetry' slights both the poet and the writer. We just shouldn't do it.

JoeT


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Re: What Poetry Is -- and Is Not
Posted by: ns (---.bng.vsnl.net.in)
Date: January 11, 2005 11:34PM

Is Jough pronounced "yuf"?


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Re: What Poetry Is -- and Is Not
Posted by: lg (---.ca.charter.com)
Date: January 12, 2005 01:27AM

Is Jough pronounced "yuf"?

I think it's pronounced, "joe".



Les



Post Edited (01-12-05 01:17)


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Re: What Poetry Is -- and Is Not
Posted by: drpeternsz (---.client.comcast.net)
Date: January 12, 2005 06:26AM

rough though.



Post Edited (01-13-05 01:24)


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Re: What Poetry Is -- and Is Not
Posted by: JohnnySansCulo (---.nycmny83.covad.net)
Date: January 12, 2005 11:03AM

so, if someone says "Blough Me", do you bluff or puff?


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Re: What Poetry Is -- and Is Not
Posted by: lg (---.ca.charter.com)
Date: January 12, 2005 01:29PM

Depends on whether you're playing poker, or running from Popeye.


Les



Post Edited (01-12-05 16:15)


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Re: What Poetry Is -- and Is Not
Posted by: drpeternsz (---.client.comcast.net)
Date: January 13, 2005 02:23AM

Marian:

Sometimes I do not label my writing.
sometimes I understand that there really is no limit at all to what can appear in a poem.
After I've re-read the Cantos for instance.
Poetry is open.

Anyone can write bad poetry.
I do that often enough.
Poetry often expresses something,even the self or soul or pysche or collective subconscious.

Dewey says art is expression. Poetry is art, sometimes.
Blathering is blathering.
self expression in poetry happens.

A person's needs partly determine if s/he writes confessional poetry.
Robet Lowell is a great poet to me who taught many of us much about poetry and life.

Taste can be developed, one way or another.
taste and opinion and judgement seem to be similar.
Anyone can learn to use good judgement, by her/his own light.
some people are too shy to share their genitalia in public.
others think that is self expression.
what do I know. I look in the mirror when I walk passed the mirror. ugh.

I think those involved in self expression as poetry sometimes forget that Homer was a liar to Plato. that is, poets write fiction!

Wallace Stevens said: Poetry is the supreme fiction.

I think poetry is a good place to lie about yourself.

I express myself by hugging my friends (and an occasional stranger) not by expressing my feeling in my poems.

I love Sylvia Plath's poetry

Go figure.

love,

Peter


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Re: What Poetry Is -- and Is Not
Posted by: JohnnySansCulo (---.dyn.optonline.net)
Date: January 13, 2005 02:33AM

"You can't avoid self-expression, but it should be a necessary symptom of writing, not a goal. ?"

Any creative work is self-expression


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Re: What Poetry Is -- and Is Not
Posted by: lg (---.ca.charter.com)
Date: January 13, 2005 03:24AM

Poetry is a slippery pig...with or without the mud.


Poetry is not a treatise about anything.
---Les


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Re: What Poetry Is -- and Is Not
Posted by: joseph r. torelli (---.dyn.optonline.net)
Date: January 13, 2005 04:52PM

Bad writing is bad writing...period. I just wish there wasn't so much bad prose masquerading as poetry. It reflects poorly on true poets.

JoeT


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Re: What Poetry Is -- and Is Not
Posted by: WY Smokey (---.tritel.net)
Date: January 13, 2005 08:00PM

For me and others poetry is rhyme and cadence. If you go the the Lost Poetry quotations you will find the the items most often requested will have rhyme and meter( I think that is the word) as these are the attributes that make a fragment of memory stay in one's mind. Even the forced, constructed rhymes of Ogden Nash.
But in the end it is one's preference and I for one won't spend much effort in reading a lot of what passes as poetry.


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Re: What Poetry Is -- and Is Not
Posted by: JohnnySansCulo (---.dyn.optonline.net)
Date: January 13, 2005 09:03PM

I agree with WY Smokey, and refer to Frost's comment about playing tennis without a net


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Re: What Poetry Is -- and Is Not
Posted by: drpeternsz (---.client.comcast.net)
Date: January 14, 2005 05:23AM

Johnny,

My literary grudge against the pseudo-New Eglander Frost is too ingrained for me to respond well to him, even when he is clever. The fact that my three most favorite poets are Emily Dickinson, Wallace Stevens and Ezra Pound shound tell you what I think of the whole question of rimed meters as a standard for what poetry is or is not. In other words, I prefer good writing to mechanical standards, if that is not exactly circular reasoning in this case . . . the question of self-expression falls within the circle of what poets like Pound, Stevens, and Dickinson accomplished in the face of mediocre poetry.

Peter



Post Edited (01-14-05 04:57)


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Re: What Poetry Is -- and Is Not
Posted by: Hugh Clary (---.denver-05rh15-16rt.co.dial-access.att.net)
Date: January 14, 2005 11:56AM

Magic. It's gotta have magic.


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Re: What Poetry Is -- and Is Not
Posted by: Marian-NYC (---.nyc1.dsl.speakeasy.net)
Date: January 14, 2005 01:13PM


Dempsey does have the humility to say (later in the essay) that NOBODY HAS SUCCEEDED IN DEFINING WHAT POETRY IS.

When he says that POETRY IS NOT ABOUT SELF-EXPRESSION, I think he means that self-expression is not a necessary or defining factor in poetry. You could say the same thing about dance: well and good if you are able to "express yourself" through dance, but no amount of self-expression will, in and of itself, make good dance--as defined by those who appreciate dance.

Or here's another angle: If pouring out your feelings is the purpose of what you're doing, then "prose with line breaks" will do just fine.

Perhaps Jough (Joff, Jeff, Juff, or Joo) Dempsey has had too much of what I call love-me-love-my-poetry. That's where someone leaks emotion all over a piece of paper and then says, "What do you think of my poem?" with enormous eyes brimming with tears. What they really want is compassion, not readership.

Anyway, that's probably why I responded so enthusiastically to the paragraph quoted at the top of this thread.


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Re: What Poetry Is -- and Is Not
Posted by: drpeternsz (---.client.comcast.net)
Date: January 14, 2005 02:02PM

Amen to that, Hugh.

Peter



Post Edited (01-14-05 13:03)


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Re: What Poetry Is -- and Is Not
Posted by: lg (Moderator)
Date: September 27, 2005 04:06AM

bump


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Re: What Poetry Is -- and Is Not
Posted by: Veronika (192.168.128.---)
Date: September 27, 2005 06:20AM

Interesting read. Thanks for the bump, Les.

Here is another view on poetry:

"THE OBJECTIVE in writing is, to reveal. It is not to teach, not to advertise, not to sell, not even to communicate (for that needs two) but to reveal, which needs no other than the man himself. Not even, after all, to invent except that to reveal one must reveal something, not nothing-even though that would be better. Reveal what? That which is inside the man. That is why the "stream of consciousness" idea was recently so correct and will be so again in another ten years more or less: it revealed . . . heaven knows what it revealed, at least it was properly directed. It put aside "composition," empty as "perspective" in painting. It went to the basis of the matter, it wanted to let out something even if it didn't know whatthat was its weakness, that it didn't know what. But it was properly aimed toward revelation, without let, without impost; it wanted to open up the hide." ( W.C. Williams )

Personally I think there are at least as many definitions of poetry as there are poets. But I think Hugh says it best: "Magic. It's gotta have magic."


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Re: What Poetry Is -- and Is Not
Posted by: Desi (Moderator)
Date: September 27, 2005 10:27AM

"well and good if you are able to "express yourself" through dance, but no amount of self-expression will, in and of itself, make good dance--as defined by those who appreciate dance."

I really like this example. Any Good dancer knows it takes hours and hours of training (and he has to have the skill to begin with) to make it look easy, fluent and beautiful for an audience. Usually, the easier it looks, the harder the dancer worked.

The same goes for horseback riding for example. Ever watched british dressage? It seems oh so easy. But it really isn't.

And I can know. I tried all three, and failed miserably on all three accounts ;-)


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