Sunday, October 19, 2008

On Poetry

I personally cannot read/understand poetry without being told by human or annotation what I'm supposed to be seeing. Without help, I might as well be reading a rock wall. I don't think it's a lack of intelligence or knowledge; I would guess it's something like riding a unicycle - quite difficult and without obvious benefit beyond the skill itself. I have noticed that I use a lot (too much) of metaphor in my own writing, which is probably just a rookie writing error, so I think I have the capacity to read poetry, but lack something crucial (training, persistence, imagination - I dunno).

I'm somewhat of a hermit, and most of my family is either non-literate or non-communicative, but I can only recall one person in my adult life that spoke of an interest in poetry and I don't how extensive her interest was. For most Americans it's teevee, movies and popular music, which is a large part of why I'm the aforementioned hermit. I'm to the point where the noise has died down enough for me to receive the signal, but I still don't know how to process it.

Which brings me to my final point. Poetry should probably not be taught to most kids. It almost seems like it's designed to turn them off. The esoteric seems like gibberish and the accessible is either trite (e.g. rock lyrics) or doggerel. I think that
Seuss and Silverstein are popular because they were illustrated, which helps focus the attention on a sufficiently small piece of the universe for the imagination to work with. See also greeting cards. I think this may be key to popularizing it. Good poetry stands alone, but most people need help with it. There are also a lot of graphic artists (and musicians) who are also not making any money, so it shouldn't be hard to find collaboration if the poet isn't too concerned about purity.

I'm going to have to stick to short non-fiction myself. I have a lot of ideas, but none are original, I'm afraid. Anecdote; I recently got a phone call from a girl I went to high-school with that still has some of my poems, which I mercifully don't remember, that I had given her. She asked me why I quit writing, and I told her that when I found out there were four billion people in the world I came to doubt my uniqueness.

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