Posts tagged ‘Poetry’

Don’t Judge A Poem By Its Poet

A few days ago, I was browsing through the book section of a local thrift store and found a very “loved” copy of the Norton Anthology of Poetry. That night, I cracked it open and started reading in the middle of a long and boring-looking poem, but I gave it a chance and fell in love with it. I turned back a few pages to read it from the beginning, and realized that had I known the author of the poem, I probably wouldn’t have started reading it.

This got me thinking. Do I really judge poems by their author? I think everyone does at least once in their life. Many high school students would probably much rather read Shel Silverstein than Keats, for example. How many things do people miss because of bias and attitude? Far too many.

Poetry is a treasure chest waiting to be delved into, and it’s precious contents are often cast aside because of incorrect judgments and the tendency to rip poetry viciously apart in the pursuit of answers. This reminds me of a poem written by one of my favorite poets, Billy Collins.

Introduction to Poetry
by Billy Collins

I ask them to take a poem
and hold it up to the light
like a color slide

or press an ear against its hive.

I say drop a mouse into a poem
and watch him probe his way out,

or walk inside the poem’s room
and feel the walls for a light switch.

I want them to waterski
across the surface of a poem
waving at the author’s name on the shore.

But all they want to do
is tie the poem to a chair with rope
and torture a confession out of it.

They begin beating it with a hose
to find out what it really means.

There is so much that poetry has to offer if one simply sits back and enjoys it. You’ll be surprised what your taste in poetry is if you read it with an open mind and an empty cup.

So what are you waiting for? Open that dusty collection of poetry and see what treasures are waiting to inspire you!

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What Poetry Isn’t

Poetry is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful and effective literary mediums that exist. In comparison to prose, the boundaries of poetry are very much expanded. However, that’s the kicker; there are still boundaries. Unfortunately, many people today (especially teenagers) have the wrong idea about poetry. Many public schools fail to expose their students to poetry in the correct way, partly by allowing them to write weak poetry.

Growing up, I was primarily exposed to Haikus, simple rhymes, and an occasional sonnet here and there. Needless to say, I never want to see another Haiku again. Unfortunately, I developed an aversion to poetry because I felt it was boring and unimpressive. Honestly, I still feel that way about certain forms of poetry. It wasn’t until my junior year of high school that I really came to know and enjoy good poetry. I was lucky to have Tasha Seegmiller as my teacher, who taught many forms and elements of poetry that I never would have experienced had I not taken the class.

I feel that this is the case of many young people today, who tend to make two very distinct mistakes when approaching poetry.

The first mistake concerns “free verse” poetry. Traditional poetry forms are taught in less depth than they were a hundred years ago, which has triggered a flood of creative writers who don’t quite know what to do. This tends to result in what I like to call “Paragraph Poetry.” This kind of poetry often lacks depth, meaning, and literary value. The term “Paragraph Poetry” comes form the distinct structure of the poem, which seems as if the author wrote a paragraph about how they feel about a certain subject, and then just varied the line length enough to make it classifiable as a poem.

There are those that say “I can write it however I want, that’s what poetry is all about!” Or is it? If one who knows nothing about music bangs on random piano keys, does that make he or she a musician? Does throwing canned soup into a pot make one a chef? Icarus made himself wings; therefore, is he a bird? Certainly not. Slapping words onto a page without rhyme or reason (see what I did there?) does not make one a poet.

Even in “free verse” poetry, there is structure. Free verse simply indicates that a poet had strayed from conventional poetry styles, not that the poet is about to spew a mountain of unorganized word mush at the reader. University professors rarely delight in poetry that follows the “paragraph” format. “Good” poetry usually follows a specific form, evokes feelings and thoughts not expressly written in the poem, and includes literary genius. It is questionable whether what most teenagers write and consider to be poetry is even poetry at all.

This leads us to the second mistake, which involves content. Dr. Todd Petersen once said “Edward Cullen hates your emo poetry.” Although this statement induced many giggles from the class, everyone understood the importance of what it meant. Too often, young people write angsty poetry that is of little value to anyone but themselves. Writing about feelings is wonderful; many of the greatest poems ever written are about sadness, etc. However, there is a fine line between poetry that only communicates “I’m sad and misunderstood” and poetry that does good to the world. There are so many things in the world that are more worthy┬áto write about. It’s important to consider what poetry is all about before flinging unchecked thoughts and feelings onto a page.

This isn’t to say that one cannot write simply for one’s self. It is often very healing to express thoughts and emotions through writing. However, not everything one writes must be shared with an audience; you are what you give to the world.

The Butterfly

Streaks of orange and black
On wings soft as a whisper
Delicate legs clinging to
A solitary twig
With a still-fresh leaf.
Surrounded by clear glass
Of an old jam jar
The outside world,
With its open skies, fresh air,
And so many nectar-filled blossoms,
Perfectly visible beyond the glass.
Captured for the simple sin of beauty.
Trapped in a constant state of longing,
She stretches her wings
And prepares to fly,
Though each attempt is futile.
Days pass, the green leaf withers,
And she folds her wings,
Taking one last look at the
Unattainable pleasures
Beyond the glass prison.