Friday, May 12, 2017
Thoughts On Writing Poetry In The 21st Century
Years ago, while I was a student at Pensacola Catholic High, the nuns, and Sister Mary Fides, in particular, tried to make sure that I, and my fellow students, understood how to write, and speak, "proper English". Simultaneously, they offered us several works of literature by a wide range of the "best" authors, at least as the literati of the period believed them to be.
I was often confused by the fact that these "best" authors they recommended seemed to ignore, somewhat indiscriminately, the rules of grammar and usage which were being drilled into my head.
The fact that I was an aficionado of poetry, science fiction, westerns, and mystery stories, in addition to a coerced reader of classics, simply made my personal understanding of what and how one "should" write even more muddled. Oddly, however, the writers who seemed to be best at ignoring the rules were often the most interesting, enjoyable, and easiest to read.
My own early attempts at writing were feeble and secret, mainly because I knew that I would be laughed at, or drummed out of English class, for my intemperate, and amateurish attempts to stay within the confines of what the nuns would consider to be "proper English composition". In fact, on at least one occasion, I was lectured by the redoubtable Sister Mary Fides because I had attempted to write a paper in a style imitative of one of my favorite mystery/adventure story writers.
Over the years, I have come to understand the differences that exist between knowing the textbook way of doing things and the way they are actually done.
I have also come to realize that writing for oneself, the intellectuals, and the masses, requires the ability to adapt to the situation.
Obviously, if you wish your work to be praised by the intellectuals, or those who consider themselves to be "experts" on a style of writing, you may have to write at a different level, and in a different manner, than if you want to write for the masses. By the way, if you only wish to please yourself, write as you damn well want to!
A hundred or so years ago, the "masses" and the "intellectuals" were much different from each other in terms of society, but, in terms of readership, not much different. You almost had to be somewhat of an intellectual to enjoy reading, and somewhat of an intellectual to enjoy, and practice, writing. Today, modern marketing and publishing activities, combined with a much larger group of "writers" seems to me to have created wider gaps between the groups with large numbers of people spilling into the gaps from either side.
Poetry was, and still is, somewhat different from most other writing, but even it has become more the interest of the "common" man or woman...both as reader or writer.
It is no longer necessary to rhythmically and logically bind your passages together in what many would consider to be the style of a toothpaste jingle writer. Nor, is it de rigueur to spout stream of consciousness prose to the beat of a bongo drum to be considered a poet...and a good one at that!
In fact, almost any style, any subject, and any approach can find its leaders and followers in today's poetry world. However, despite the appearance of lawlessness in the land of poesy, some absolutes still remain.
Good poetry should be real, not artificially connived and contrived to appear to be...well...good poetry. A computer can create things that rhyme and scan...even a poem, but only the human heart can create poetry. The bar of soap in your bathroom can evoke more than just a sales jingle, but what it evokes will depend on your beliefs, feelings, dreams, hopes, and expectations; most of which should go beyond simply getting your hands clean.
Writing good poetry in the 21st century is almost certainly an easier task than it was two hundred years ago, but, by the same token, it presents the poet with more competitors for the eye and ear of the reader or listener. For this reason, many poets go to extreme lengths, just as the marketers of many other products, to make their poem stand out in the sea of material which the poetry fan of today can choose.
However, in the end, most of the best poems will be those written by those who are driven to write them.
I hope you will check out some more of my poetry, and other writing, at http://ravensong.4t.com.