What are your thoughts on poetry? Mine varies from “Eh” to “No” depending on my mood. As a creative person who values enlightened discussion, I’ve trained myself not to dismiss it outright. I’ll say something circular and meaningless like “It can be a beautiful form of expression when done well.” which is a coded way of saying it’s rarely if ever done well to my tastes.
I feel that poetry, much like photography is an art form of instant gratification. You don’t have to finish the one hundred and twenty page screenplay or struggle with the ending verses of a song without falling into repetition. It’s for lack of a better word “easy”. There isn’t a need to earn the story. You don’t need to develop characters or themes. The process of creating a complete work of art requires dedication and discipline and acts as a filtering system between those capable and incapable of being fairly called artists. I both appreciate the notion that we are all artists in a sweet everybody wins sort of way, and also appreciate looking at an artist’s massive body of impressive work and saying confidently “that is an artist.” There isn’t a vague “what is art?” back and forth. Da Vinci, Kubrick, Dylan, Mozart or whatever other hackneyed place your mind first goes when thinking of art. But most certainly the first few names you could rattle off would be undenied creative geniuses of their respective art. But would you be willing to put the twenty-four year old unemployed “artist” at the coffee shop talking about how she is “of the flower” in that folder? Even if that person is on the other side of the spectrum completely, I’m not sure they belong under the same heading at all. You’re not considered a carpenter after crafting a misshapen birdhouse. So why are we so quick to use the A word? I can’t know if that hypothetical person is an artist. But I don’t think that based on a few vaguely worded lines of poetry we should think of them as such. And like photography, poetry as an art form, for some reason, exists outside of criticism. People feel quite comfortable harshly judging a film or a play or a symphony which no doubt took years of effort from potentially hundreds of hard working desperately driven artists. But a five line poem written in ten minutes by a college student somehow floats in an ethereal space above conventional analysis. Probably because no one actually knows what makes poetry good. Only the most basic poem can be dismissed as bad, anything slightly more complex will get people nodding and rubbing their chins in a respectful display of abstract consideration.
When I hear poetry that is deemed important or classic, I find myself having the same reaction as when I hear amateur poetry in a cafe. I’m nodding my head trying to translate the endless metaphors being delivered in that self serious poet’s rhythm where they try to slam the final word of every line at you, like they saw on a Def Jam special they half watched. Everything is like the sky or synonym of hole. I think poetry always sound best when quoted second hand, like “It was Walt Whitman who once said [insert flowery half appropriate line of overly worded metaphor].”
I write but I wouldn’t have the arrogance to consider myself an artist, or my writing art. I’m just practicing. Building misshapen birdhouses in the hopes of one day being a carpenter. Or did I use that metaphor too long ago to add the other bookend now?