The "Rules" of Poetry
Take a seat while I ramble about poetry.
Poetry (especially writing it) is a neat thing. Unfortunately, most of what’s published today is pretty much shrugged off by society, the way much of modern art is. (not that I mind the shrugging off of modern art, personally)
…wait, wait… before we continue, let me define what kind of modern art I’m talking about, because I’m going to reference it a couple times. I’m not talking about cool modern art, like giant, well-posed metallic spiders that actually look like something (in fact, let’s call that “Abstract Art”, not the much spat-upon “Modern Art”)… but I mean like REAL modern art, such as paintings of… uhh… something splattered with something else, and a giant shovel stuck in it. You know… modern art… like my own offensive masterpiece, called “Dog Poop In Central Park”:
(I’m not even going to link to the full-size version, because YOU GET IT)
So, like my shake-n-bake Sistine Chapel here, poetry is always just kind of at the back of the room, so to speak, regarded with the same kind of uncertainty and “distancing” as modern art. Everyone who doesn’t actually read poetry suspects, subconsciously, that it must all be written by society’s weirdos and funny-hat-and-glasses wearers (the guys we assume clap together all the modern art). And since poetry books are way overpriced (seriously, even if I really LIKE poetry, I’m not going to pay as much as a normal book for it. And last time I was at Barnes & Noble, I was reminded why I use the internet, instead of buying hardcover non-fiction books (which I would prefer, except that they’re priced like gold))… wait, let me reboot that sentence: And since poetry books are way overpriced, even those who are curious aren’t going to do anything more than flip through a few pages, then put it down (so that they can go do the famous “innocent stroll through the ‘Love & Sexuality’” section. I swear, they strategically place that right in front of the art-books wall, where half the teenagers in the store always have have to go get something. Its location makes no sense, aside from that huge financial incentive. Also, aside from the teenager traffic, it’s also the most visually secluded spot in the store, so people don’t feel afraid to stop and snoop).
The ideal scenario – and what gets many of poetry’s biggest fans into it – is the “finding the old, good-smelling poetry book at grandma and grandpa’s house”, and reading it just because it’s there.
Seriously, if bookstores want to make money with this kind of thing, I think they need to send every house a FREE poetry book – one as casual and basic as can be; nothing “modern” and overblown – just to get people INTO the idea. If it’s too expensive to do something like that (even though I’m sure it would pay for itself), they could find a non-intrusive way to put ads in it or something, and put as the “dedicated to” line on the first page: “Sorry about the ads. They’re the only way to get this to you, without having our shareholders come and slash our tires, and key our cars. And sue us.”
Something like that (for any book genre) is also a drastic stab into the world of TV, and book-sellers NEED IT. (actually, the WORLD needs it, because books in general are such a lesser evil than the filth on TV)
Some may complain that a book boom would cause more forests to be cleared, but I’m of the impression that it no longer matters how many forests are cleared, because logging no longer clears forests. It just thins them, in a way that (when done right) is even more healthy for the environment than letting them run wild.
Of course, the best thing EVER would be linking every 4-cornered surface in a house to a computer, so you can dictate what enters your eyes with the same power that a computer user has.
I seem to have drifted. What was I talking about? Oh, poetry.
See, there was a time when writing poetry was fun… fun for more than the few who wrote it 100% freely. It was a time before rules, formulas, and school-teachers who gave bad grades if sonnets didn’t contain exactly 14 lines, with 10 syllables each… before kids would spend 5 minutes writing and rewriting lines of a single haiku, trying to make their statements fit the 5-7-5 syllable rule… In short, there was a time before people forgot that free-flowing expression reigned infinitely supreme to appeasing the god of formula.
Because these are not those times, we live in a world where there are two distinct classes of poetry-writers… I call them: Poets, and Poeticians.
First, we have the Poet. He tries to gracefully string together thoughts and words in a way that is both tasteful and unique to the mind. Freedom to speak outside of formality is his guiding spirit, and in order to express his thoughts and desires, he merely pulls back the curtains of his mind, and lets the words lift off, like a flock of birds.
Then there’s the Poetician. Like the POET, he wants to express his ideas freely… but, like the MATHEMATICIAN, those ideas are constricted by rules and formulas, which can turn the process into a lengthy, tedious chore. By the time the poetician has written down 3 lines, his feeling of soaring freely has often vanished entirely, and he has to struggle to scrape together more sentences that still reflect his original idea.
Let me show what I’m talking about. First, you have the Poet’s approach:
the man walks lonely roads
the trees are frozen pedestrians of the forest city
notice… poetry flows freely
–Time taken to write this: 25 seconds
–How I feel about it: pure satisfaction. I said it exactly the way I wanted.
Then there’s the Poetician’s approach, following strict-Haiku’s 5-7-5 syllable rule:
haiku says have five
syllables, then seven, then
five. chore to express
–Time taken to write this: 3 minutes… all just trying to make what I wanted to say “fit”.
(It would have taken longer if I actually tried to make it sound good.)
Easily, you can guess what the issue is here, especially when you see how the poet would have said the above:
haiku says have syllables of five, seven, five
is THIS a chore to express?
20 seconds, satisfaction…
Let’s try it.
…and for those who don’t know, syllables are the… umm… segments of a word. If you tap or clap out a word, you can “feel” how many syllables it has. Example: “Bob” has one. “Bobo” has two (bo-bo). Banana has three (ba-na-na).
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