Showing posts with label Bad Poetry. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Bad Poetry. Show all posts

Friday, December 11, 2009

What we talked about

The death of a loved one is not something that one just "gets over", as if there were an expiration date on grief.Yes, one moves on with their life and tries to have new experiences and adventures, but poets, like anyone else, get older, and the longer view on their life and relations comes to the for. Poetry will tend to cease being the bright and chatty record of one's impulses, leavened with fast wit and snappy references, and will become more meditative, slower, a more considered rumination on those who've are gone yet whose presence remains felt and which influences the tone and direction of the living. It's hardly a matter of getting mileage from a tragedy as it is a species of thinking-out-loud. We speak ourselves into being with others around us to confirm our life in the physical world as well to confront the inescapable knowledge of our end, and poets are the ones writing their testaments that they were here once and that they lived and mattered in a world that is soon enough over run with another generation impatient to destroy or ignore what was here only scant years before so they may erect their premature monuments to themselves and their cuteness.We survived our foolishness and quick readings, a poet writes, we lived here and mattered to a community of friends and enemies in ways that no novel or epic production can capture, and we wish you the same luck, the chance to live long enough in this world you seek to fashion after your own image so you may write about your regrets, your failures, the things you didn't get around to doing.
Despair isn't the default position for poets to take as they get older; as I think is plain here, poets will in general treat their subject matter with more consideration, more nuance, more acuity as they age. The host of emotions, whether despair, elation, sadness, celebration, aren't likely to alter, but the treatments are bound to be richer, deeper, darker. One has aged and one has experienced many more things since they were in their twenties, and convincingly casting off the same flippant riffs one did in their fifties as they had while a college freshman is a hard act to pull off, emphasis on "act". One grows up, if they're lucky, and acts their age. Acting one's age doesn't necessarily mean one becomes a crotchety old geezer yelling at kids to get off his (or her) lawn; those character traits are formed long before the onset of old age. But what I think is a given is that an aging poet would be inclined to be more thoughtful as he or she writes. And why shouldn't they be. They have more experience to write about and to make sense of.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Twitter poetry

The commercial has a Twitter addict gleefully thumbing his message, "I am sitting on the porch." It seemed to me, momentarily, we might enter a time of New Brevity, with the language being composed less of phrases that build their way to more complex meanings and more by lexical equivalents of shrugs, sighs, head gestures, rolled eyes. The limits on the number of characters you could use for the tweet you had in mind forced you to boil your idea down to a point where even essence is seared away, and only the proverbial grunts of need remain. It would, it seem, be a potential source of making one's recognizable language do interesting things, the irony being that one begins with a coherent series of things to say but who, made to observe limits they cannot modify, are made to reduce their communications into something akin to tea leaf readings. Read between the lines, fill in the blanks, assume the Tweeter hadn't made a thumb-inclined typo and, in fact, meant something significant with an odd string of visual glottal clicks. Someone came up with the idea here, where an endless stream of Tweets is amassed, stanza style, in what reads like Modernist poetry feeding on its own armor-plated tail. There was a rule applied to the otherwise random nature of the project: each line, from different tweets, had to rhyme. A sample from today
digg this stuck downstairs... at least i have computer, TV, food, and potty!!! Mind pelicans and dropped cell phones when driving your Bugatti... gay fags put it on twilight and changed the whole song in the process. This class is becoming more and more pointless as the weeks progress. I'm about to go to the gym with my sister and brother.. Got lunch on my top so had to nip out and buy another. praising God for my life and the life of others Robin Williams and Bono look like brothers. I have a twin, and she's bad at everything. Just ate breakfast.. and i cant taste anything!! Tim McCarver is making my ears bleed and my brain hurt You might say I'm such a flirt, lipstick on my neck and shirt. you're such a mystery, i just want to stand and stare. i can't wait to go home today and smell some new air. Just woke up and I'm still thinking of you. Fuck my life. Now where did I put my hockey mask and butcher knife? Im so tired. I'll take the walk and clear my head and Star Wars was fun Awesome. I'll budget and rearrange my room and I may get one. is pumped to see what Jesus has in store for my life and my band. Good morning everyone! Got a day of fun and craziness planned!
In The American Grain, the lingua franca William Carlos Williams had faith in the metronome-smashing, multi-headed parlance. Endless lines of concern, emphasis, interest, and obsession coming at us through the air, joining up with other odd phrases and fresh banalities that give everyone who wants one a voice to spend their two cents as they please, the only limit being 140 characters at a time. Our collective conscious, it seems, seems to be something that is now ruled by an impatient twelve-year-old with remote control. Not that this is an original idea for poetry, visual art, or writing in general--William Burroughs did as much with his cut-up method, his slicing up of various texts, his own and others, and reassembling them in striking phrase combinations that would, despite their nonsequitur essence, forced you to consider the implications; it was something of a peek into a hell you denied being afraid of. The Twitter aesthetic, or the lack of it, is that now anyone can play and do so fearlessly, unafraid of the swirling materialistic signifiers that threaten to distract and dilute their ability to ask for a glass of water at the coffee shop and also at what the results of the jerking language combinations suggest. They suggest nothing and only reflect on the emptiness at the heart of a personality that hasn't anything worthwhile to do. Hell has been redefined as a life without Twitter, without Facebook, without a cellphone to broadcast one's face and quirks across the receiving universe,

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Note on a bad poem

Someone with whom I've argued with for years on Slate's Poems Fray forum some months ago posted an "original" "poem" , requesting , without qualification, any and all crtical comments. The poem was a cryptic attempt to merge science and math into a presentable metaphorical system, the result being, I thought, muddled, lecturing and undermined by the author's determination to make a sweeping generalization about the imprecise nature of existence and our limited capacity to know it precisely. Not a bad premise for a life's writing, of course, but execution is everything; the poetry still has to be good. The poem is here. My response is below. What follows in the thread is the author tripping over himself with backsliding and quease-inducing equivication.

The idea of imagining what machines might dream about , if they were sentient, has been done before, and the punch line as to whether they "dream of electronic sheep" is itself rather well known and branded by a specific writer, Philip K.Dick. His novel is "Do Androids Dream of Electronic Sheep", which was the book on which Ridley Scott's movie Blade Runner was based. Dick's title is an ironic reference to the plot, about self-aware androids violently considering the nature of their existence. Your use, I'm afraid, lacks irony and does not advance on the original idea, which is what an inspired borrowing should do.
The problem with taking a phrase or title so closely identified with a famous writer is that you are obliged to use the borrowing as a springboard to an entirely original work of your own, inspired by but very different from the inspirational source. Hemingway borrowed the phrase "for whom the bell tolls" John Donne for his book on the Spanish Civil War, and didn't merely insert it into a work at face value, for decorative purposes. The title made a suitable counterpoint for his succinct, gripping narrative of men trying to maintain "grace under pressure".

What you have here is not a poem, but a series of questions that are flat and rather ordinary bits of poesy one finds in many poetry workshops blue penciled off the page. You don't seem to be writing about anything; your passive tone is something you perhaps think provides your writing with a lyric sway and a spiritual lilt, but poetry , by the sorts of poets we discuss here, even the ones some of us don't particularly enjoy, have a tougher language. They are interesting to read at least in so far as they , for the most part, appear to be attempting to crystallize the best language for their experience, and the ideas that follow suit.

No ideas but in things.--William Carlos Williams wrote that and it's excellent advice to anyone trying to write poems . Your problem is that you want to write about abstract things, metaphysical things, mystical things, and desire to join the farther reaches of scientific hypothesising with dreamier theological daydreaming but you ignore the world of things, which is our senses can measure and experience with certainty. You rarely begin with the material, you rarely convey a theme that might be based on actual experience, you are hardly ever convincing in any emotion you suggest chiefly, I believe, because you start with a skewed idea of what a poem should be and tailor your writing to suit the template you've adopted.

I think you should junk the poem and try to write a poem about something that is solid, has density, is something a reader would recognize, and try not to insert an editorializing cliche or a vacuous "summing up" that turns you efforts into post cards and photo captions. You seem unable to get away from the tired phrase, the dog eared adage, the trite truism; you need to try very, very hard to transcend your worst habits as someone attempting to write poems. At present , they seem intractable.