Here's the deal: for someone who reads a lot and ostensibly uses words to convey meaning I really couldn't tell you what makes a good poem or a bad poem with any authority. Plays and novels are more my thing. Not that I could tell you what makes a good play or a bad play with any authority but my University education is there for me to at least be able to successfully pretend. If I get the degree I can even pretend and some people may even feel obligated to listen even if I'm talking out of my ass.
But I digress so let's get back to poetry. Namely why I care. Well, I didn't used, to but I'm dating someone who has another date/relationship/partner (we're poly, it's complicated) who is a professional poet. This fascinated me, so I tried to learn more but someone's writing isn't something that can be adequately explained in casual conversation if you're unfamiliar with the entire structure. Try explaining what you're doing with your novel to people who haven't read any books and you'll see what I mean.
The funny thing is I used to write poetry. In Middle School, sure, but I was pretty religious about it. I even did a reading for a talent show and people said it was pretty good. Still I tend to remember trying to make my writing sound as 'cool' as possible without it really meaning much. In that way, at least, I'm sure I captured the Middle School experience perfectly. In any case I decided to take an Intro Course on Poetry writing to try to approach this noble art form from the mature and healthy stance of a party-going, college student, with grapefruit flavored vodka always in his fridge.
Anyway here's a fun thing from the class:
Napped half the day
And this is a famous Haiku writer Lady's and Gentlemen. His name is Issa and he understands everything I want from my life.
Another from Buson:
His Holiness the Abbot
In the withered fields.
Buson was best known for the objective quality of his writing. Make of that what you will.
I'm aware I'm only quoting the funny ones but I wish I knew why they were revered. Is it the form? the spontaneity at which they were composed? The message? In terms of message these to me sound like cute little ditties but not full blown things weighted with hidden meaning. That's not necessarily a bad thing though. I don't always agree with the implications of my favorite poems. Here's one from horror novelist/painter/movie director Clive Barker:
Brother Plato - right or wrong?
Says the tribe where I belong,
Is a family of souls in two,
Me a half - another, you.
Let's stay together, one tonight,
And prove our brother Plato right.
(p.s. I'm not sure why it's doing that. or making my text weird here for that matter. Just highlight it I guess)
I don't believe in monogamy (at least not for everyone) so having a 'family of souls in two' is a little lost on me. Still there's something about the poem, it's rhythm maybe, that makes you feel like it's telling an Objective Truth (something else I don't believe in). Is this a good poem? I dunno. He only gave it out in an interview nearly 15 years ago while talking about something mostly unrelated. Maybe I only like it because it's about sex.
That being said though I am baffled by Howl by Alan Ginsberg and absolutely loathe Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman, and these are very sexual poems and I am assured that these are both incredibly great triumphant ones at that. Worse yet, these are both Bisexual writers so I feel like I should be more supportive about anything that's written to try to turn a non-straight audience on but I just can't. Howl is is rambling and nonsensical and Leaves of Grass is rambling nonsensical and pretensious.
But I guess I'm one to talk.
I don't know I know I like some people. Geoffrey Nutter is great. He's some dude I'm reading for class and he has a way of making you feel the natural-ness of cityscapes. So is Seamus Heaney. If you're 22 and below, he's the dude who translated the copy of Beowulf you were forced to read. When Neil Gaiman deigns to write poetry he's pretty good too. I guess what I like is that some poetry can be so simple, so elegant, and yet say volumes in the least amount of words possible.
Anyway here's the first poem I wrote for my poetry class. The goal is to come back to it and rip it to shreds because I've suddenly discovered it's ass:
a tree will fall in the forest and no one will be around.
one day she woke up and
there were no more
Monsters, under her bed.
her wish had been granted
the rose colored sunrise
raced her sprinting shadow because
she had run to tell Mummy
tell Mummy, Tell Dada
that this morning's wake
had brought the death of insomnia
a morning for mourning
the loss of the Monsters
except all children are heartless
(herself no exception)
laughing at the end of their nightmares
when all life is precious
ad all termination breeds consequence
her Mummy was
so was her Dada
the house breathed silently
and it's maw she could suddenly see
in the new light
very old scars.
can a child be a tree?
and when you carve a heart
because you think you love
and love inviolate, immortal,
does it leave a mark?
these are the questions.
her wish had been granted
there were no Monsters under
and a young girl wept.
certain that no could hear her
but she didn't yet notice the sun.