Saturday, November 7, 2009

Line Breaks Do Not a Poem Make

Listen, I'm never going to claim that I am a good poet. I think I'm okay. I've never really asked anyone's opinion, nor have I ever let people read much of what I've written. Actually, my poetry teacher from second semester said he liked an edited version of this poem, which was published in the Liberal Arts Anthology last spring. But he may have been lying. Regardless, I don't know if I'm a good poet or not. But I do know one thing: poetry is not a bunch of sentences with line breaks. Nor can you hide run on sentences with line breaks. Poems have a rhythm and beat, and I don't know why people think this means that poems have to rhyme. Rhyming poems are harder because you end up trying to force syllables in places they don't belong. This is a really good rhyming poem. Good luck trying to imitate that in any way. Anyways, don't write really long sentences 'cause it's tiring*. Just as a general rule. Keep that shit short. Concise. Done.

I just really have to get this off my chest.

Like, this is not
a poem because
I split my sentence
into 5 lines
where angels
come down from heaven
and I go off
on tangents
and say random things
that might have something to do
with my topic

and then start new stanzas
for no reason
banana
now I have to
bring this back around
to make this
make sense
can you tell
that I'm making this up
as I go along?
This is not a poem.

Riese has feelings about poetry in school:

I read this essay about how teaching literature in school is ruining it. I think a teacher wrote it. I can't remember. Most teachers in most schools in America are making kids hate books by treating literature like a Periodic Table, especially poetry.

Poetry is a gift and a skill. It's one of the hardest things to do well. Luckily, 'cause there's only a tiny poetry market, so it's a good thing we only have maybe 100 living poets who truly deserve a book of their stuff to be read by lots of people right now.

So making kids memorize poetry is boring. Making kids get pop-quizzed on what record album Holden Caulfield bought his sister is boring, and it misses the very best part of learning and reading poetry and really any kind of literature, which is reacting to it however you want -- rudderless and hopeful -- and I don't have an answer for how to give someone a grade on their emotional response to a work of literature. But I think making kids write poetry is a huge mistake. Let them discover it on their own if they must and if they must than they will. Otherwise they'll just associate poetry with the experience of sucking at something. Poetry will feel miserable to them and it has to feel not like that, it has to feel like the opposite of misery.

Back to me, Emily: Also telling having exercises where kids have to write poetry and you tell them to just write whatever is in their heart/what they feel is no good. Poetry has feelings, yes, but so does your fucking diary.

"If you cannot be a poet, be the poem." - David Carradine

*Unless you can pull it off.**
** but you probably can't.

3 comments:

Mellie said...

I believe I am in love with you. *grin*

saint modesto said...

That's very sweet of you to say! But the question is, can you write a poem?

Mellie said...

Oh god no. Except for a few exceptions, I don't believe anyone should write poetry after the age of 25 (which I blew by 3 years ago). I envy your talent. I just write novels about lesbians and zombies. *laugh*