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Lecture On Poetry

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  #1  
Old 09-10-2013, 09:17 AM
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Default Lecture On Poetry


I am so grateful I never had to teach a class on poetry. The writing of it, I mean.

People do not want to learn how to write good poetry because poetry is the most personal of the writing arts. Anything is possible in poetry, so people believe they can write anything and call it poetry - therein lies the rub.

I beg you to leave this lecture now and go to the sticky thread above called Reference: Punctuation in Poetry. The second paragraph is so crucial I'll retype it here in boldface:

While some modern poetry has no punctuation at all, most poetry is punctuated the same as a running sentence. If you choose to use sentence punctuation, using sentence case (capitalizing starts of sentences rather than the start of every line) will make things easier on readers.

This is where I loose you because you don't want to listen. The reason you don't listen is because you don't want to improve. What you want to do is wallow in self-indulgence. "Ah, poetry!" says your reptile brain. "A form I can conquer in...oh...thirty-five minutes!"

For those of you remaining, read the paragraph again. It gives you two options:*

1. No punctuation whatsoever.
2. Standard punctuation.

These are your choices. I'll return to this platform should anyone respond.

* Don't confuse line breaks with punctuation. Two different things.
.


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Old 09-20-2013, 01:04 AM
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Poetry for the most part is about personnel feelings in words and the correct use of punctuation is probably down to the individuals ability to use it. How people perceive a piece because it lacks correct grammar can have them dismissing it as lightweight but like anything people have different abilities and I read the words before I look at the construction of the poem.
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Old 09-20-2013, 03:29 PM
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Originally Posted by escorial View Post
I read the words before I look at the construction of the poem.
Thank you, escoral - much appreciated!

: = )

What I hope to read is straightforward description of reality as it exists. When writing chases some form at the expense of depicting reality, I rebel. I want poets to meet and describe reality, not form. When reality and form emerge as one, this, then, is a perfect poem: precious and rare. To get there, I want form to emerge from reality, not vice versa.

(More reality, less form.)

Thanks again,

Lance
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Old 09-22-2013, 04:28 PM
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Gee, if all anyone was looking at was punctuation in poetry, than the art of poetry would crumble. A poem to me is a stream of thought constructed in the written word. You don't necessarily need punctuation for that. What about haikus, limericks and the wonderful world of free verse? Those are just some examples of poems I've seen without punctuation.

"What I hope to read is straightforward description of reality as it exists."

Description is good. Concrete images are vital to a poem, but they are not the only thing you need. A poem needs depth and should be layered in thought. If you flat out wrote nothing but straightforward descriptions of reality as it exists, yet nothing else, what would be the meaning to that? How is that considered a poem?

The truest way to poetry is layer and depth, with a balance of concrete images and internal thought. Not just one. Not just the other.

You mentioned something about not being able to hide in poetry and not being able to fake it. If it's a good poem, there will be hidden meaning to it. A poem should NOT be flat out, here it is. It should be well constructed of several meanings. You want a 3 dimensional feel to it. You want people to interpret your poem any way they want and have it mean something different to everyone. And many times, poets think of images that are not there as they exist in reality, but how they view it. They could be at the beach and writing a poem about being in Alaska, for all we know. Does that mean they're faking it? Does that make it less real? No. Not at all.

A poem doesn't always have to be strictly confined to good punctuation and grammar and straightforward imagery. If it's a good poem, it would break free of that somehow. Unleash itself how it's supposed to be unleashed. Sure it should be refined as well, but not confined either.
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Old 09-23-2013, 10:37 AM
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Thank you, Lmc. Appreciate your kind contribution to this thread!

Over many years of writing my own stuff, I learned the punctuation options open to my own poetry are:

1. Punctuate correctly.
2. No punctuation at all.

Having discovered this through practice (rather than being taught the idea), I was pleased to read the author of the "Punctuation" section here offers the same opinion.

Writing consists of at least two phases: generating raw material ("writing") and correcting or re-writing the raw material ("editing"). In my own practice it's essential to separate the two functions.

When it comes to generating raw material, anything that helps put words on paper is welcomed and encouraged: the original material need not even make any sense!

Sample: MY AUTOMATIC WRITING
http://randomfilm.com/poems/39others.gif

So I'm for doing *anything* during the initial stage of writing. Whatever it takes.

EDITING

Editing is a different matter: my view is the function of editing (re-writing) is to make the raw material more comprehensible to others.

(By which I mean to say that if certain raw material is gibberish, it must be shown to the reader: "This is gibberish.")

My background is theater; in that field EVERYTHING POSSIBLE IS DONE to make a plawright's words comprehensible to the audience. Diction, for example, is used to make sentences clear. Likewise "projection" - amplifying one's voice so people in the cheap seats can hear and understand what is said on stage.

This, for me, is the function of editing in poetry: to clarify meaning and enhance the writerly authority of the author.

(If one employs unintended misspellings or incorrect or partial punctuation, writerly authority and reading comprehension both suffer.)
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Old 09-23-2013, 02:32 PM
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I would agree, for punctuation, it's either all or nothing.

And I also agree with the last bit too, unless you're intentionally misspelling something, it shows poor grammar.

But I understand what you're trying to get at here. If the poet does it with intent or not, I think anyone with decent knowledge of English will notice the difference between the two.

One way it could look fresh and experimental (if it's done well) and the other way it just looks sloppy (especially if there's inconsistency.)
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Old 09-23-2013, 05:29 PM
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Here's the thing: language is a system. Words are part of the system and so is punctuation. Punctuation helps the listener understand what is being said by the writer: that is why punctuation exists.

As mentioned, anything one types to generate raw material is great! No problem. But then one must decide whether to use punctuation to aid reader comprehension or not.

What I see all the time is writers (of "poetry") using inconsistent puctuation of their own invention. For example, a poet will refuse to capitalize a sentence, but will freely use commas to set off clauses and the like. It's a pick and choose approach to punctuation which, generally speaking, does not aid in reader comprehension, but confuses it.

My view is this. If a writer will type out her poetry as ordinary prose, this will reveal if she is making any sense or not. Frequently, she's not: babbling, incomplete sentences, etc. If a writer can't compose a standard prose sentence with correct punctuation...then just how good a poet can he be?

(Poets are supposed to be the masters of a language, not the fools.)

Many emerging poets do not want to analyze their writing in light of standard grammar. Why? Because such analysis would reveal the writing is poorly constructed and makes no real sense.

There is an important principle nobody wants to discuss: SELF-IMPOSED LIMITS PROMOTE FREEDOM. It seems to be a contradiction in terms, but it works. Throwing in everything including the kitchen skink generally creates an impenatrible (sp?) mess. Absolute freedom equals absolute anarchy. Whereas applying certain restrictions forces clarity of thought.

(We are working within a system, after all: a system of language.)

One restriction to employ is standard grammar. Using standard grammar forces us to express ourselves clearly; avoiding standard grammar generates opacity.

I am for clarity in writing. If we can't make our scribblings comprehensible to others, then why write?

: = )

P.S. I'm home from vacation...great to hear from you!
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Old 09-23-2013, 05:44 PM
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Originally Posted by Lmc71775 View Post

One way it could look fresh and experimental (if it's done well))....
In theater we work with theatrical conventions. Theatrical conventions are modes of expression which become standardized in a given era, but which also change over time.

For example, if you look at film acting from the silent era it is much different from the film acting we see today. Silent film acting consisted of various body signs the actors made to indicate a particular emotion, e.g. forearm placed to forehead denoted anguish or confusion.

Film acting today is, generally speaking, more subtle: the addition of sound to the movies changed the acting convention.

Here is my main point. If we simply parrot current convention our artwork will likely be pallid and stale. Conversely, if we throw away convention entirely no one will understand what we are saying and our attempt at "newness" will fail.

Genius comes from the artist who understands convention and masters it...then adds a new wrinkle heretofore unseen. The great artist does not abandon convention altogther, but rather uses it to bring the audience along to a new, unexpected form or expression.

It's like this in all the arts: music, dance, painting, sculpture...writing. Picasso could draw a standard nude before he went on to break the convention of his day.

In like manner, a successful poet will know exactly how to write a conventional sentence before pushing her reader into or toward a different realm.

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Old 09-24-2013, 04:50 AM
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Well, I don't see language as a system. If you look up "system" in the thesaurus, some of the words that come up are "organization" and "orderliness" and "conformity"...conformity=obedience, restriction...and so on. There's no restriction to language. Language can also be gibberish. Orderliness, we all know language can be disorderly.

Literature, the written expression...or written language, can also be disorderly depending on the type of literature, whether it be dairy notes, poetry, short stories, articles, essays...etc.

To me, poetry more less knows no bounds. Whether you're picking and choosing...punctuation...to make it sound? Mmm. The way you want?

The cat ran up the hill. (or)

The cat
ran
up the hill

then back again. (Using line breaks and stanzas also plays a big part in how it sounds.)

So not only can poetry be unpunct, and misspelled,
it can be torn apart and unconventionally structured as well.

It's funny, Lance. I'll tell ya a big fat secret. When I wrote poetry. I wrote it the way I wanted, just like this, line breaking, punc'in and no punc'in...spellin and misspellin...(I would revise, sure) but ultimately I wrote it the way I wanted. There was a time there when I was submitting pretty much every poem I wrote. And there came a time when magazines and journals were accepting pretty much every poem I wrote. There really wasn't any challenge for me, so I moved to short stories and eventually novel writing.

And man, oh, man, Lance. Let me tell ya, I hada work my ass off on getting my spelling and punctuation right. AND I still have problems to this day. But what does that tell you? In poetry it's more widely accepted to write a more unstructured piece of writing. But when it comes to novel writing, writing whimsical like that won't get you far. UNLESS you're writing it in verse. And even then, I don't see that widely accepted by publishers.
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Old 09-24-2013, 08:06 AM
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Originally Posted by Lmc71775 View Post
Whether you're picking and choosing...punctuation...to make it sound? Mmm. The way you want?
Precisely. My background is theatre, I was a playwright. Punctuation tells the performer not only what the words are intended to mean, but also how they should be read. This is point one.

Point two is writerly authority, which is the ability of a writer to convince his reader that he knows what he's doing: that he, the writer, can be trusted. That if/when there's a mistake of spelling or grammar it's an intentional effect and not just an overlooked error.

If there is any form where the writing must be controlled and precise, it's poetry. Control and precision are what make poetry worth reading.

Lmc, excluding E.E. Cummings, can you offer even one famous poem which demonstrates a disregard for proper punctuation? I'd love to see such a creature and discuss.

Best,

Lance
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Old 09-24-2013, 01:18 PM
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You quoted me on the very part I was literally using punctuation as an example. That was meant to be clever, a rhetorical question if you will. Guess it went over like a lead balloon.

And I can try to find a "famous poem" that has it but it wouldn't be from a recent poet. Most famous poetry is from poets that are long dead and gone. Modern poetry isn't studied in such a manner that would make it hugely famous. Poetry is a dying sport and makes pretty much zero money so not many are purchasing it like the next big thing. With the huge mountain loads of it online, it's pretty hard for anything newer to really stand out as popular or famous.

The reason I mention this is because I've seen it done much more so in modern poetry then anything. BUT that doesn't mean it isn't out there from years ago either. I will try to do a search and see what I can find.
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Old 09-24-2013, 02:36 PM
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Don't put yourself out, it's not important.

When I look at famous poems from Whitman to Eliot to Shakespeare, they are properly punctuated. (Even though standards of what constitutes proper punctuation have changed.)

Regarding money-making with writing, it's no longer my concern. I wrote advertising professionally for over 20 years and would never do it again: there are far easier ways to earn a living than by writing...whatever kind of writing it might be.

Enjoying our conversation - thank you!
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Old 09-24-2013, 04:47 PM
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Although Ginsberg used punctuation
a full stop was as important as a foreskin,
now d.a.levy, there was a guy, the first
punk, some would say. By the way
e.e.cummings should be
written in lower case like him. Then there’s
Bukowski, the darling of the disaffected
internet dreamers. He’d fight yer for a beer
yet for a comma: why bother. But from
Beats to punk
there’s John Cooper Clarke, rhyming for
junk on Beesley Street.

So this is new. I think not. Russian poets
have been doing this since pre 1920s,
it’s what cummings discovered on active service
no doubt felt secure that the US wouldn’t
publish Soviet verse, and for the UK establishment
it just didn’t cut the mustard
and so the story goes …



Sorry hun, not my usual style and this is certainly not something I would normally do; answer a post this way, but I was bored.



xDrew
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Old 09-24-2013, 05:22 PM
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"there are far easier ways to earn a living than by writing...whatever kind of writing it might be"

Oh, Lance, how right you are! With the ecomony the way it is and jobs being so scarce as they are now, a lot of people turn to writing, thinking they can provide income that way. It's extremely difficult earning a living at writing, especially freelance and novel writing. I remember thinking this at one time, boy I was wrong. It wasn't until my fourth novel that I was making decent money.

I just brought it up because there's a lot of poets just starting out thinking they will get monetary value out of it. Out of the 6 straight years I was writng poetry, I think I made a total of 100 dollars. It was another reason I stopped and started a different writing career.

OK, off the mark I think on that.

Drew thank you so much for coming by and sharing that input with us. I'm not good on naming names, but I know it's out there. I think you bring up a good point on poets of different countries too. I think that plays a part in all this too.

And I'm enjoying our convo too, Lance. Hope your vacation is going well.
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Old 09-24-2013, 05:46 PM
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Originally Posted by iDrew View Post
By the way
e.e.cummings should be
written in lower case like him.
Not according to Wiki:

E. E. CUMMINGS
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/E._E._C...capitalization

Section 3.4

Cummings's publishers and others have sometimes echoed the unconventional orthography in his poetry by writing his name in lowercase and without periods (full stops), but normal orthography (uppercase and full stops) is supported by scholarship, and preferred by publishers today.[33] Cummings himself used both the lowercase and capitalized versions, though he most often signed his name with capitals.[33]

The use of lowercase for his initials was popularized in part by the title of some books, particularly in the 1960s, printing his name in lower case on the cover and spine. In the preface to E. E. Cummings: the growth of a writer by Norman Friedman, critic Harry T. Moore notes "He [Cummings] had his name put legally into lower case, and in his later books the titles and his name were always in lower case."[34] According to Cummings's widow, however, this is incorrect.[33] She wrote to Friedman: "you should not have allowed H. Moore to make such a stupid & childish statement about Cummings & his signature." On February 27, 1951, Cummings wrote to his French translator D. Jon Grossman that he preferred the use of upper case for the particular edition they were working on.[35] One Cummings scholar believes that on the rare occasions Cummings signed his name in all lowercase, he may have intended it as a gesture of humility, not as an indication that it was the preferred orthography for others to use.[33]

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Old 09-24-2013, 05:59 PM
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Originally Posted by Lmc71775 View Post
Hope your vacation is going well.
We returned home yesterday after a week on Catalina Island. Lori floats on the bay in her little inflated boat while I snorkel and snap pictures:

Entering The Forest
http://randomfilm.com/photos7/entering_forest.jpg

Lmc, I have only two basic skills: writing and performing. Both began at an early age. When acting lost its lustre I continued with the writing, professionally and otherwise.

I'm retired now and will never write on assignment again!

: = )

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Old 11-25-2013, 11:08 AM
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I'm reading "The Ode Less Travelled" by Stephen Fry. Just came across a paragraph which, if followed, would eliminate a huge percentage of the poorly-written poetry out there:

Write in contemporary English, avoiding archaic 'poetical' vocabulary, word order inversions, unnecessary filler words like 'did' and 'so' in tortured constructions of this kind:

The swain did stand 'midst
yonder sward so green
Then heard I wide the vastly
portals ope


.
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Old 11-25-2013, 11:24 AM
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It's a book I totally recommend to anyone at any level. Easy read too. Now you've mentioned it, I'm even tempted to reread again as I wait for my new Margaret Atwood to arrive from Amazon.

xDrew
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Old 11-29-2013, 09:36 AM
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poetry is words about emotions and good or bad poetry is left for us all to judge on many levels but for me if someone takes the time to write a piece and put it out there for critique...it's all good.
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Old 11-29-2013, 10:10 AM
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Originally Posted by escorial View Post
...good or bad poetry is left for us all to judge...it's all good.
This is not actually true. You are a promising writer and if you have a real interest in poetry you'd find Stephen Fry's book of interest, I think. ("The Ode Less Travelled")

Here's an excellent short essay about why constraints in art improve it:

DR. SEUSS' GREATEST WORK
http://www.businessinsider.com/the-w...t-work-2013-11

.
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Old 11-29-2013, 10:26 AM
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I do not know I think a poet does not lead the way he or she opens them instead.
in other words he or she experiments with is not in order to escape the obvious. he has to if he is to delve into the complexity of the unobvious.
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Old 11-29-2013, 10:36 AM
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Interesting article LR..amazing stories like that..I've never looked in a Dr Seuss book but I know of them.

When I say good or bad poetry it's all good... I was meaning if someone out there takes the time to write a poem and show it, I admire them for trying regardless of their ability.
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Old 11-29-2013, 10:54 AM
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Originally Posted by escorial View Post
I was meaning if someone out there takes the time to write a poem and show it, I admire them for trying regardless of their ability.
A nice sentiment, but my concern is you. I think you have talent and want to encourage you to develop it.

Have you seen my free writing? Here it is:

YOU AND 39 OTHERS
http://randomfilm.com/poems/39others.gif

For me, writing comes in two parts: 1. Total Freedom 2. Total Control

The poem I did this morning resulted from both: after years of practice the two come together. It's not for nothing this morning's poem was intentionally written in near-identical two-line stanzas. That was the discipline which led to the strong finish at the end.

Best to you,

Lance
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Old 11-29-2013, 11:28 AM
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  WritersBeat.com > Write Here > Poetry > Nine and Sixty Ways – Poetry Tools and Lessons


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