TiaTalk











{Fri 16 February 2007}   Poetry’s Potential
I am so excited to have found, via Very Like a Whale, this exquisitely expressed post called “Defining Difficulty in Poetry” by Reginald Shepherd.

I highly recommend this post, but I do wonder about the impact of declaring that “poetry is difficult”! That is what so many of its potential readers fear. Of course, this is due to a basic assumption that it ought not to be; that somehow poetry, uniquely among the art forms, should not use techniques, devices, materials and skills that require knowledge and mastery to achieve or comprehend its effects. Stephen Fry suggests in The Ode Less Travelled that most people believe that because words are a universal currency, art made from them should be instantly, universally accessible:

“Unlike musical notation, paint or clay, language is inside every one of us. For free. We are all proficient at it. We already have the palette, the paints and the instruments. We don’t have to go and buy any reserved materials. Poetry is made of the same stuff you are reading now, the same stuff you use to order pizza over the phone, the same stuff you yell at your parents and children, whisper in your lover’s ear and shove into an e-mail, text or birthday card. It is common to us all. Is that why we resent being told that there is a technique to its highest expression, poetry? I cannot ski, so I would like to be shown how to. I cannot paint, so I would value some lessons. But I can speak and write, so do not waste my time telling me that I need lessons in poetry, which is, after all, no more than emotional writing, with or without the odd rhyme. Isn’t it?”

Like Mr Fry, I say No! Poetry is so much more than that. Poetry can be narrative and is usually (but not exclusively) emotional, yes, but it also uses visual and musical forms, as well as semantic suggestions which, in the best poems, enhance their meaning. It paints pictures and caresses or startles the ear. It engages the intellect and the imagination as well as the emotions.

Besides language, the poet must have something of the visual artist, the musician and the philosopher in her. The poet-artist appreciates the form of words, sentences and lines, and the value of negative space, for shaping a thought. The poet-musician revels in the sounds of words and letters, composing melodies from them, and feels the pulse of speech, drawing it out to make its many possible rhythms audible and compelling. The poet-philosopher understands the force of rational argument and the epistemological limbo in which truth eternally seeks a home, the subjective impulse toward individuation and the objective need for civil cooperation, the power of verbal accuracy and the pleasurable mysteries of contextual ambiguity—the thought-tangents that may open whole new worlds or parallel universes.

Poems written by such poets are worthy of “payment” for one’s enjoyment of them. People quite readily pay hard-earned cash for art gallery entrance fees or concert tickets when artists they value are showing their work. Could they not be encouraged to spend a little time learning the tools of poetry appreciation, which costs very little financially for something very rewarding?

Perhaps, to invite such readers to engage with all of poetry’s potential, rather than fearing it, some alternative semantics might be in order. Rather than referring to it as “difficult”, could we choose words like “challenging, intricate, profound, complex, sophisticated, rich, essential (of or relating to essence), multi-layered, nourishing, fertile, verdant, intriguing, fascinating, mysterious, stimulating…”?



{Mon 22 January 2007}   in the rosegarden
in the rosegarden

where will i go?
will i find home?
and if i wander without a home,
what will i give to the world?

i’m
drinking roses,
longing to be with longing,
not drawing back
from their deep white scent;

longing to let them pour
their wide, hurtful beauty
into me;
to stay, stay in swollen softness;

let the cupped hands of my mind
contain the full, firm, rounded,
layer-upon-layer-petalled
perfumed richness
that pours into my weeping.

open, open,
searching heart,
open wide your mouth:
tongue, taste of longing,
yes, yes, of longing;
drink deep;
scent sweet.



{Tue 16 January 2007}   True Colours
True Colours

It startles me that you should be
So disappointed in my poem
That you’d even mail my home
To tell me that you don’t agree!

The kind of poetry I wrote
Is not the kind you’d like to see?
Oh fie! Oh my! Oh, dearie me!
A rising lump still gags my throat:

For failing you will make me blue,
Or green with envy; red with shame!
But soon I’m pale and wan again
—The proper shade for poets true.

Having no countenance but mine,
I can but try my lines to rhyme.



{Thu 26 October 2006}   Double Signals

Double Signals

O false God!
You have betrayed us.
Betrayer, betrayer, betrayer!

See the man who dances between tables,
Who swirls between clay pots,
Whose soul is dry, is dry for trying,
While his beauty fades.

See my friend who screams what he cannot say,
Whose lips pull tight over his power,
Who kills his own words,
While his music rages.

You, betrayer, you have done this.
Power of our minds, construct of our childhoods, moulder of our futures,
You made us yearn, seek, believe, hold true,
While you eroded our selves in your service.

Still we dance, sing, speak an ideal
that was never ours and cannot be.



et cetera