Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Poetry Definition #5

Poem - derivation:
Old French poeme, from Latin poema, from Greek poiema, poema, "created thing," work, poem, from poiein, to make, create.
Now that makes sense! Creation is exactly what one does when making one of these.

In the preface to my book of poetry, It's Not What I Thought, I put these paragraphs:
I have read a great deal of the "modern" poetry being published, and I don't care much for it. When I read a poem, my first impulse is to try to understand it, not just to hear pretty sounds or feel some feeling. Most of the poems I've read did not make sense even though there may have been some good "fresh" images. Too often, I couldn't find ONE poem in a poetry book or quarterly that was actually comprehensible. I hope you do not have much of that trouble here.

It occurred to me at an early age that it is not enough to mirror reality in descriptions of it, or to set down impressions of the way people behave, or the look of a thing -- even if it has never been said before. That kind of pointless commentator-ism can go on endlessly.

In my view, poetry ought to pull the attention out--make someone more alive for having shared it with the poet. It should show, wherever possible, how we are at cause and leave one reminded, in some way, that we can be at cause over this world we're in, even in matters of love. We have enough messages already concerning the beautiful sadness of things, and we do not need more poets selling us on hopelessness, apathy, futility and the like. I've made an effort not to do that; whether that effort was successful I leave to you.

Creations are completely caused - there's nothing natural about them. A poem was not secreted by a tree or whelped by a dog. It did not exist. Then WHAM it was created out of nothing by the poet. Whether that took ten minutes of spewing, or ten years of patient editing. As a poet, one IS responsible for the poems one creates.

So an angry, incomprehensible poem says, what? To me, it says that its author was angry and incomprehensible... and not much else.

That's my two bits for today.

That's the end of definitions for the word "poem". Next will be "poet".

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