It should not be considered at all controversial, to declare that the practice of reading good literature is contributory to one’s depth of understanding, objectivity and maturity of perception. The acquired recognition of man’s universal problems and the artistic and relatable portrayal of the human condition, conveyed in compelling and stimulating language, furnishes the additional benefit of enjoyment. The plots, set in various venues and cultures, enables the expansion of horizons merely from an armchair.
Reading good poetry affords analogous benefits but valuably, directs a reader’s response further inward to his private aesthetic sensibility and most intimate imagination. Accordingly, both the creation and the experience of reading poetry differ markedly from prose literature. Poetry appeals to the reader’s aesthetic inner sensibilities by its signature use of simile, metaphor and nuanced metric; the latter varying with the poet and the emotional suitability of the selected subject. It is intended and read for its internal sense experience and pleasure, every bit as much as its meaning and discernable message. In contrast to the novelist who transports the reader by narrative to an outbound journey, the poet’s intended depiction is designed for the reader’s internal experience.
We are of the view that there would be considerably more readers of poetry, than there are, if its fundamental principles were more often empirically adhered to. Such foundational principles, in our view, have as much to do with the pleasure and understanding of this art form, as its authenticity as legitimate poetry. Great poets such as, Wordsworth, Frost, Whitman, Keats, Angelou and Dickinson, elevate the human spirit by brilliantly catalyzing its innate potential for insight and sensibility.
Prior to sharing our observations on the creation of poetics, we feel required to make a brief, but necessary, note as to what we have denominated “pseudo” poetry. We have often felt it necessary, in the interest of preserving the integrity of the fine art, to denigrate unesthetic rhyming verse, doggerel, Hallmark Card holiday schmaltz, and other forms of “counterfeit or pseudo poetry.” Written travesties, slanderously purporting to be poetics, sadly, have all too often been published, which resemble poetry to the same extent that bathroom cleaning fluid resembles a chilled and bubbly fine glass of champagne.
We have too often noted published writings, aspiring to qualify as poetry merely by their unorthodox appearance, utilizing broken, fragmentary sentences, or by the tactical use of complex, archaic or tactically selected obscure words, often in a bizarre or unorthodox context. The effect of this pseudo poetry, is to put the inexperienced poetry reader in an unfair position in which he feels insecurely challenged to derive its meaning or perhaps, whether he is being misleadingly induced to recognize the observed irrational juxtaposition of vocabulary, as art. To us, the explanation as to how this type of counterfeit gibberish ever finds accepting editors, shall remain forever, lost in the impenetrable mists of pseudo intellectualism and strained rationality.
As can be confirmed by our readers that we, ourselves, write and publish in this challenging and precious literary art form, designated as poetry, in this blog space, and ardently subscribe to its fundamental and defining requirements. Such basic criteria, eternally applicable in and to any and every age, genre, style and conception of the art, was best (and very simply) prescribed by the esteemed 18th Century English poet, Samuel Taylor Coleridge. His prescribed elements, mandatorily applicable to any writing, identifying itself as poetry, are, “word imagery” and “economy of speech.” These qualities have been and eternally are, the sine qua non of any writing, with aspirations to be denominated “poetry.”
In clear contrast with the selectively profuse and aesthetic vocabulary, in writings, characterized as a novel, the portrayal of image, scene or emotion, by poetry’s basic rubric of word imagery and economy of speech, call for markedly different skills. As illustration, a book or artistically descriptive article, might require several sentences, paragraphs or even pages (according to the nuanced style of the author) to describe the beauty and outstandingly attractive appearance of a young woman. In poetry we might convey the desired image using a brief simile like, “she was a red rosebud, on a drift of new snow.” Economy of speech and word imagery do require much thought, prodigious artistic energy and imagination, but, predictably, yield a memorable cornucopia of internal stimulation and pleasure.
Inarguably, the poet’s sensitive choice of words may be considered of paramount importance, yet other important elements of a work of poetry are, necessarily to construe, such as length of line (and poem), and the metrics, governing the feeling or mood to be conveyed. We believe that the painstaking and selective choice of the exact words which would uniquely convey the specifically intended mood, feeling or image is vital, whereas any synonym would be impotently, useless. Mood and atmosphere, conveyed by length of line in conjunction with the selected tempo of the meter, is very clearly illustrated in Longfellow’s “Song of Hiawatha,” where, in the romantic Native American saga, the metric tempo is in sync with actual drum beats of an indigenous tom-tom. Meaningful meter is essential in aid of the feelings sought to be conveyed. This is also relevant to rhyming verse (which we do not favor, since we see rhyming as distractive from the emotional or pictorial image intended to be conveyed).
Essentially, we understand poetry to be an aesthetic distillation of empirical reality. Like the named process that occurs in a laboratory, the artistic extraction of the refined essence of metaphysical thought and experience, by poetry is the analytical portrayal of life by means of the artistic triggering of responsive human mind and emotion. To read authentic poetry is predictably to experience a meaningful and memorable journey within oneself. [Bon Voyage!]