Monday, August 28, 2006


Is fucking dead. It's very sad to me, actually. What most people consider poetry now is exactly the opposite of everything it was intended to be. Here's what I mean...

I was just reading an article that was probably written in about 1576, although it was published in 1592. It was written by Sir Philip Sidney and was called The Defense of Poesy. In it, he said something very beautiful and thought provoking.

"Now therein all sciences is our poet the monarch. For he doth not only show the way, but giveth so sweet a prospect into the way, as will entice any man to enter into it. Nay, he doth, as if your journey should lie through a fair vineyard, at the first give you a cluster of grapes, that full of taste, you may long to pass further. He beggineth not with obscure definitions, which must blur the margin with interpretations, and load the memory with doubtfulness; but he cometh to you with words set in delightful proportion, either accompanied with, or prepared for, the well enchanting skill of music; and pretending no more doth intend the winning of the mind from wickedness to virtue."

If you break that passage apart, I believe, you can understand what poetry used to mean, and how this meaning has become hopelessly lost in the 'me' generation of poetry (I'll describe what I mean by that shortly). Firstly, he describes poetry as a science. Science is clearly about posing an initial question, and then taking steps to reach a solution. Therefore, if poetry is meant to be a science it should not be approached by the poet as a cathardic excercise. It should be approached as a mature way to sort through questions or life problems the writer may have. It should not end until the problem is resolved, or at least is made less cloudy, or takes on a new meaning. The 'me' generation of poetry has brutally slaughtered poetry, and what remains is a shallow, personal reflection which means nothing to anyone except the person who wrote it. What I mean by 'me' poetry is any poetry which has no purpose other than to release emotions. I am not saying that poetry shouldn't be used for this purpose in some capacity. Not at all! Poetry is an excellent tool for this. What I am saying however, is that the poet should never forget that it is their duty as an artist to "not only show the way, but to give so sweet a prospect into the way as will entice any man to enter it." Always remember, if it is inner turmoil you wish to relinquish with your poetry, that it should just as equally about creativity. If someone writes a poem that doesn't explore writing conventions, use interesting language, pays attention to a rhyme scheme or structure scheme, or tell a comprehensible story to the reader (unless it is meant to be interpretive), the "poet" has accomplished no more than a person who releases their frustration by beating up their pillow.

The next part of the passage, "He beginneth not with obscure definitions... the well enchanting skill of music." refers to the duty of the poet to meet eye to eye with their audience. To not take on a godlike attitude toward their subject, but to be inclusive and embrace the art of story telling. Many of today's poetry- if it is not a childish excercise in morbid purging, is a pompous and pretentious tool of pseudo intellectuals. No good writer should ever try to isolate or off put their audience by cluttering their work with obscure notions and terms with no explanations. If you are going to do that, you should never venture outside of a coffee house, because that isn't how your work is going to have any impact on the real world. Pretension is the ultimate sin of the intellectual. It is what isolates them, and keeps them down. It is fine to use sophisticated language but you must write in a presently understood vernacular! Nothing turns me off more than reading a poem using conjunctions like 'thou' and 'hither' and then finding out it was published in 2005. If you think you have something to say, say it understandably or else the only people who will have any type of reaction are people who already probably think a similar way, and the goal of the poet should be to elevate everyone.

"and pretending no more doth intend the winning of the mind from wickedness to virtue" Poets are people who have the ability to both perceive the world around them in a complex way, and have the sensitivity it requires to express it creatively. The rest of the world can benefit from this, so let them! Teach a lesson, impart your values.

This is what poetry should be. Please save it!


Blogger Colonel said...

You could not be more right. The reason for the corruption of poetry deserves attention though. It seems that the corruption of the art of poetry has itself become a form of art. Much of it, I believe, is because a lot of poetry was inaccessible to people. The poetry of Shakespeare, or the Rennaissance, is written in such a way that many people today would not understand it. Similarly, many of the greatest "verbal artists" of the twentieth century, such as James Joyce, for example, are so confusing that most people would not understand it. Artistic expression becomes relatively empty when it is inaccessable; people can neither relate to it or create it in a manner that would fit with the status quo. Such is part of the mentality of the Disiillusionment period, post World War I. The rise of abstract art, such as Jackson Pollock, were a social critique not only of the previous state of society but of previous states of artistic expression. From this frame of analysis, the current state of "abuse of art" could be called "post disillusionment era" art. It rejects traditional styles of artistic expression but is almost completely devoid of any form of meaningful originality or creativity. Perhaps as a culture we are long overdue for a twenty first cenury Rennaissance. If we are, it will be one for the record books.

2:29 PM  
Blogger Colonel said...

Oh, and...

There you are! I found you!

2:30 PM  

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