Poetics and Poetry Discussion
(5/3/2005 8:47:00 PM)
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I've been thinking about smells of late... the olfactory sense is closest related to memory in the brain... anyone interested in writing about the smell that takes them back to their fondest memory? Sx p.s. as well as posting poetic responses to the main page, can people also post their responses here?
(5/3/2005 11:32:00 AM)
Judging by the comments it received, there seems to be a lot stirred up by this poem posted by Chris Higginson a little while ago. Stirred me up too. It's obviously based on a personal experience Chris had in Zimbabwe, but I thought it projected a rather arrogant colonialist attitude - that the blacks in Zimbabwe had nothing until us whites came in and now that the we've been forced out, it figures that the blacks can't manage the country on their own.
African Development (?)
To pick a fruit in Africa, we cut down the fruit tree
To get some honey for the pot, we simply kill the bee
We bite the hand that feeds us, then take away his house
There almost isn’t anything that ‘up’ with we can’t louse
The white man built his roads for us, we’ll mine them just for fun
We’ll rocket down his aeroplanes, shoot survivors with a gun
And then we’ll take the game parks, and kill the buck for meat
We don’t believe his laws or God, and so we’ll lie and cheat
We never had to read or write before they interloped
They gave us jobs and clothes and cash, we took those then we groped
For anything that seemed for free and then we asked for more
They even gave the right to vote, but still we went to war
So now I sit here in my kraal, my children are all dead
Some got AIDS, some just starved and some the country fled
And now I wonder why it was the British Government
Said ‘Black Rule is a gift, that is from Heaven sent! ”
Dedicated to Zimbabwe
Where due to mis-management
They are now slaughtering wildlife in Parks
Because they have already killed the farmers
And there is nothing else left to eat
And all we can say is
We told you so
(5/3/2005 7:38:00 AM)
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Mark, Michael's spent forty years gassing about art, he's not sure that's a good suggestion...
But can I first mention that Robert OJ's 'QF93' is a wonderful confirmation of that Hindu theory that PoHo's been re-posting - that the creative mind first expands its parameters with paradox - here, the evocative paradox of presence in absence, and the universal in the particular. Best example of this I've seen to recall.
We're talking about two topics recently - training + rules, and quality + reception. I reckon, if you're a good student, you listen to the rules, without accepting or rejecting, then test them.
The best paradigm I remember if professional singing training in the belcanto
tradition, which I underwent for two years. It is at the outset packed with the most bizarre collection of 'rules/advice' developed over centuries of practice, physical stance, mental focus to aid the 'natural' which at first seems anything but... but you're paying the earth for the lessons, you take them on trust, and test them... then one day, you can sing opera so that for instance, you can sing Madam Butterfly in such a way that people are touched to the heart by the purity of your voice, yet can follow the words and the plot with their mind...
It's much the same with, say, the disciplines, the 'rules of the game' in sonnet writing. I adopted the 'rules of the game' because i'm so prolix. Nor do I know all of them I guess. For instance, there's a 'rule' that there should be a secondary line of thought starting at line 9, making a 'sestet' of the last 6 lines. Why? When you first try that, it is a total stymie. But the memory of that 'advice' may take you on to some principle behind that. Test the 'rule', and find whether it's alway, sometimes, never useful...and sometimes, the 'discipline' can produce the unexpected from the mind. That's the fun bit - the sonnet you never intended to write! And the unconscious mind is brighter than you or I - it can turn up a quite different rhyme for instance, that brings something quite new. Zimbabwean sculptors call this process 'listening to the spirit in the stone'...
On the 'good and bad' bit, I take the line 'words mean what they do'. If they don't do anything for you, 'good' or 'bad' doesn't matter. If they do something for you, that's communication, which is what art is about. Generally, they touch head, or heart, or both. If I receive a Hallmark card after a bereavement, I will register its banality of wording yet be genuinely moved by the intention behind it. Or I may admire the skill of some Elizabethan word-play for its on sake - because we all love words. Then there's the matter I mentioned a propos Schneider - that poems can be 'useful' like wise men can, in their own day, yet have a limited 'shelf-life'. I wonder if this doesn't apply to all really 'new' poetry of quality.
But I hate labelling as good and bad - while accepting that there's always room for improvement, from a complete rewrite to my spending longer on the re-punctuation than the rewrite!
I've tried to keep off the 'modern art' parallels - I go on for ever on that.Replies for this message:
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(5/3/2005 7:30:00 AM)
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Ahhh, one of my favorite subjects – the blues. Let me respond first by saying that just because there are a zillion love poems out there, a new love poem may be derivative in subject matter but it can still speak with a fresh voice. Likewise, it can be unoriginal and bad. As for blues, yes, the basic twelve-bar progression and its variations, along with the minor pentatonic blues scale, have been around for years, so a new blues song is certainly derivative in basic structure, but the best blues musicians, like some of the ones you mentioned, use the derivative part only as a starting point and vary the sonic qualities, vocal qualities, rhythmic qualities, and even add some innovative chords and scales. The acoustic blues musicians like Willie McTell mainly innovated with their vocal styles, some with guitar styles. The Allman Brothers innovated with the use of the major pentatonic scale and use of ninth, major-seventh, and half-diminished chords, while Miles Davis, Mingus, Coltrane and others innovated with all sorts of chord extensions, modes, and time signatures. Ultimately, the soloing is the main thing that sets a good blues tune apart from a bad one. Having said that, sure, there is plenty of generic derivative blues out there. And nope, it’s not very compelling. Some of it is downright bad.Replies for this message:
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(5/3/2005 7:05:00 AM)
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I like Zappa and the Beatles PH... yes, I see your point about derivative music...but (putting a prodigy like Hendrix, or Robert Johnson to one side) ...what about blues music? How derivative is that? Now, many musicians...Clapton, Zappa, Dylan, Eminem, Moby...regard blues music as the purest artform. It has had the same chord progressions and variations for 80 years...that kills the assumed notion that if something is derivative it is not 'good art'...would we suggest that Clapton or Zappa (wildly different as they are) cannot play mean guitar...and did not know what they were talking about? Are we to suggest that Dylan (recognised as one of the premier wordsmiths of the last century) does not know a 'my baby left me this mornin' derivation from a 'Johnny's in the basement/ mixin' up the medicine/ I'm on the pavement/ thinking 'bout the government...' lyric? Are we to suggest that Eminem is unimportant as regards being a figurehead/ influential spokeperson for recent contemporary culture? I would suggest, PH that there is no musical landscape more derivative than the blues and yet nearly every sophisticated musician of the last 50 years champions the blues as being 'true art/ 'great art'...Miles Davis, Coltrane...the list is nearly endless.
(5/3/2005 6:39:00 AM)
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Funny, I keep thinking of musical comparisons too, Mark. But I don’t think you have illustrated your point that there is no bad poetry (or music) . You’ve just given us two very different examples of “good” (and I happen to like both the Beatles and Zappa) . But if you go to some of the music sites that are the equivalent of poemhunter, you can find plenty of crappy songs – unoriginal chord progressions, unoriginal lyrics, unoriginal vocal quality, etc.
P.S. Check out Zappa’s “Yellow Shark” album, performed by the Ensemble Modern out of Germany.
(5/3/2005 6:25:00 AM)
The main element I look for in poetry is originality. Something new or original is absolutely necessary, though it’s not sufficient. I like to see originality in either aesthetic or the conveying of emotion. And the way to be original is to come up with some unusual combination of word usage and metaphor that almost transcends the mere words. Having said that, I don’t want a poem to bash me over the head with its originality. When I read some poems, I feel like the poet is saying, “Look how intelligent or clever I am.” A lot of the beat poets did that. I guess I look for poetry that is fresh and original in a non-braggadocio non-self-conscious way.
(5/2/2005 11:11:00 PM)
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Writing has two general purposes-to communicate (transactional writing) and to please ('poetic' writing, which can include prose) . A certain irony exists with the poetry that people post. The 'slam' poetry to some people post seems aimed at being transactional (to insult people) as opposed to trying to please. I doubt that ratings mean much to the slam poets because their aim isn't to please. For others, I think the ratings are important. I don't think that anyone wants to post poetry that people will hate or think is 'bad.' But they don't appreciate low ratings-another type of slam. So ironically, the slam poets who get low ratings don't care, and the poets who are still learning to express themselves who do care also get low ratings...or no ratings. It's too bad that people can't give honest ratings along with a critique that might help improve those who would really like to use the criticism to become better poets. Just something to think about...
(5/2/2005 10:46:00 PM)
Thank you Robert and Craig, this is exactly the discussion I was hoping for...
(5/2/2005 10:36:00 PM)
I agree with both Sonja and Mark. There is such a thing as bad poetry, but 'bad' is relative and defined by the reader. It is the aesthetic question-'What is art? ' For some it is admiring the adherence to certain established forms...sonnet, haiku, ode. For some it is having something that rhymes. For some it is concise, for other obscure and esoteric. For some it is poetry if it simply expresses how they feel or they can relate to it. But whatever the standards people use to judge it determines whether it is 'good' or 'bad.'
Comment of the Day
It is cold, everywhere.
The kind of cold many look forward to;
an occasion to don their warm fashions,