The Nature of Poetry
I guess I could have written, the essential quality of poetry or
something equally austere, but I've been basically thinking, "What makes a
poem?" I believe my previous sentence is not a poem, but I also
don't feel that a poem must rhyme or be overly structured.
But perhaps most poems announce themselves as poems because of a certain
quality of sound and form. You know what I mean, right?
When you hear a poem, it doesn't sound like a typical sentence. It makes
you stop and listen, and maybe even think. My definition of a poem is
almost a definition of what it isn't. If it isn't the predictable,
mumblings of a stream of words written for a six-grader, then it just might
be a poem.
This same quality can be applied to my second characteristic … the
quality of the form. We are used to seeing a "paragraph" (whether it has
been indented or not) so often, that if we see words arranged in a
different form … it just might … perhaps … hopefully … be a poem.
So, if poetry is defined by the characteristics of formless form and
unregulated sound, then perhaps we need to write it that way.
At least, that is the idea that I got from reading this article on
Pentastitch It, by Robert Hudson on his WorkingPoet web site.
The idea is to first, "open yourself to every experience you have in
the course of a day" and then immediately, "commit it to memory, and
write it down as soon as possible"… a poem of five lines.
You really need to read the entire article …
But I've never been good at memorizing poems … even my own. I realize
that a poem can't improve you if it isn't memorized, but I see to have a
knack for only remembering poems that are so sing-songy and insipid…
like the poetic verses from my daughter's Barney videos. But it seems
like a good idea, that I'm going to have to try it.
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