Tuesday, April 21, 2009

If All Poets Are Writers, Are All Writers Poets?

Good poetry is damned hard to write. And the hardest thing about poetry is its subjectivity. What is a brilliant poem to some may be a steaming, abysmal pile of dreck to others. This is true with all writing, but most especially with poetry.

What makes a good poem? There is no real answer. If you read a poem, and it moves you in some way - makes you laugh, or tear up, or float for a moment - then it's good for you. One of my favorite poems is Wallace Stephens' "The Emperor of Ice Cream" ... and I can name at least five people I know personally who find that poem absolute nonsense.

So, since poetry is so very subjective, can anyone write good poetry? I don't believe that's the case. There's something about the rhythm, the flow, the combination of words that has to be just right, and there isn't a lot of space in a poem to capture the feeling you want. But it's that struggle to find the perfect words that makes some poetry truly blaze with emotion.

I don't claim to be a poet. Like many writers I know, I went through a fanciful and deliciously angst-ridden time when I thought I could write brilliant, moving poetry. Fortunately, I realized my milieu lay in novels before it was too late. But I retain a great deal of respect and awe for those who write good poetry. Poets are among the most talented wordsmiths humanity has to offer, and there is no question they craft poems for the sheer love of language.

Occasionally, I continue to play with the idea of writing a poem here and there. Most of it is execrable rubbish fit to make Simon Cowell's head explode. But once in a while I still try to express myself in verse.

Here is the least offensive of my minimal poetic output. You may commence laughing now. :-)


She’s broken
Seven years bad luck
Each time I glimpse the shattered face
You did this,
She accuses me
I can't deny it
Can’t run from it
She follows me everywhere

She’s broken
And in her eyes I see volumes
That I have written…
I have to turn away
From the mirror
Lest she see me
Watching her
Being her,
Pretending that everything is


s.w. vaughn said...

Okay, that's it. I'm really done tweaking this post now. Really and truly.

Somebody take away my admin privileges for the day... LOL

Marta Stephens said...

I'd say yes to your question, "...Are All Writers Poets?" Maybe not in the literal sense, but don't you find as you write that there's a certain beat that makes the words flow? Sometimes a two-syllable word won't do, because a one-syllable word creates a better rhythm.

PS love your poem. Is there anything you haven’t tried? ;)

Marta Stephens said...

Huh??? You're doing just fine! LOL

s.w. vaughn said...

LOL - about the admin privilege, I meant that I've edited this post five or six times since I put it up. :-) I thought Blogger sent a notification out every time a post was edited...

And I agree! There is a certain poetry to most types of writing.

As to things I haven't tried - well, I think I've given everything a shot, and I've figured out that I suck at science fiction, and it's hard to finish a screenplay (I've got one started somewhere). I'm always learning!

Kathryn Magendie said...

Someone asked me "your writing is poetic; can you write good poetry because of that?"

and I said, "No!" because i'm not a poet -- I can create poetic language, but I can't write really good poetry....I admire those who can.

Kim Smith said...

Great poem SW!

Aaron Paul Lazar said...

I loved your poem, SW. Wonderfully deep and insightful. I love that girl in the mirror, by the way...

I try to sprinkle a little bit of poetry in my novels... not too much, and of course it's not "real" poetry, it's just a poetry collection of words or an extra nice scene painting kind of thing. I love doing that and feel as if it's a sweet reward, of sorts. ;o)