Sunday, May 4, 2008

poetry and other sharp objects

we're starting this month with a poem by lloyd schwartz called "a true poem." you can find it here at the website for the academy of american poets.

whether you did a lot of "extra" poetry writing last month because of napowrimo or whether you write a lot, a lot, a lot of poetry all the time or even if you're only vaguely attached to concept of poetry -- this poem is worth reading over and over. it addresses not only what many of us believe about the truth in poetry (that it can be dangerous and is often painful) but also what many of us contend: that we are compelled to write, sometimes inexplicably and against rational thought.

let's spend some time this week talking about the risks of poetry and the need to write it. in addition, of course, we'll discuss the poem itself. "a true poem" goes beyond telling us about the narrator's tangle with poetry; it wraps us up in it, as well. how does it accomplish this? what is the role of repetition in the piece? what other devices does the poet use? do you read the piece as sarcastic or as a description of genuine struggle?

in about a week, we'll post a prompt based on our discussion. until then, see you in the comments section!

6 comments:

Dale said...

(the first link is a little snaffled)

polkadotwitch said...

thanks, dale. it's fixed now.

Anonymous said...

from Therese--I think this poem is a deliberate exercise in searing irony. According to one book I've read, irony is one of the foremost kinds of figurative language (figurative language being one essential element of all poetry). One definition of irony is: saying something while meaning its opposite. I think that this poem is ironic in this way: the speaker of the poem is saying that he has written a "true" poem and doesn't want to hurt anyone or show it to anyone; however, that declaration is, itself, dishonest because by making such claim, the speaker is instigating suspicion, distrust. He says more than he would need to, if he really didn't want to hurt anyone. He's manipulating those to whom he speaks in order to position himself as the "innocent" one. I think this poem may even be somewhat Shakespearean in its clever, but malicious, machinations. (I could go on and on about my own experiences writing "hurtful" poetry, but I'll stop here so as not to monopolize this blog.)

polkadotwitch said...

as i read the piece over and over again, i assign to it different tones/motivations. interestingly, it's rewarding in each instance. i can see a sarcastic take and the ironic take (thanks, therese). i can read it as though the narrator is poking fun at other poets who may take their work too seriously.

i also gave it a read as though i believed what the narrator was saying. that he was afraid of his own words but kept hanging out with them anyway for reasons not entirely understood by himself.

in almost nearly every read, the line about wanting everyone to like him stands out to me.

p.s. therese: we'd love to hear about the experiences writing "hurtful" poetry. i think it's something we all think about.

mariegauthier said...

The repetition of "Nobody will ever see it." is what stands out for me -- how often do we tell ourselves that when we're working on a poem that either deals with difficult/painful subject matter or is simply not going well? How often do we urge ourselves forward with the self-assurance, go ahead, write it anyway, nobody has to ever read it?

Wonderful idea, this group -- thanks, Jilly & Carolee!

Anonymous said...

from Therese--(In these comments below, I am dealing with poems about interpersonal dynamics, NOT with poems about political or social issues or historical events or public figures.) I think that a writer's approach to writing "hurtful" interpersonal poems is, necessarily, a byproduct of the writer's general approach, in life at large, to living and dealing with other people. If, HYPOTHETICALLY, "I" think that it's OK to treat other people in exactly the same manner that they treat me, then I permit myself to write hurtful poems about the people who have hurt me. If, HYPOTHETICALLY, "I" think that I have an obligation (psychologically or ethically) to "work through my hurt" to a place of peace, acceptance and compassion, then I will do the hard interpersonal work directly with the people who hurt me BEFORE I write a poem about them; and, as a result, that poem will be a more compassionate poem. In my own writing, I fall in between those two poles. I do sometimes consult with family members about my poems before going public with them: husband, daughter, sisters, mother (my father is deceased). Sometimes I don't. As with everything in life, "it all depends."