Earl Gray

Earl Gray
"You can argue with me but, in the end, you'll have to face that fact that you're arguing with a squirrel." - Earl Gray

Friday, January 10, 2014

12 Things Poets Get Backwards - Part V

Earl the Squirrel's Rule #15

     The 15th Law of Poetry could be shortened to "Audiences don't come" without sacrificing accuracy.  Today's poetry is caught in a causal eddy.  It informs an insightful reader who, almost by definition, needs neither the stimulus nor the data.  Thus, it preaches to the choir, boring everyone else to death.

     Alas, the poet-raconteur seems to be gone, replaced by the lecturer, riddler, diarist or demogogue.

     In "Arms and the Man" George Bernard Shaw introduced us to "the chocolate-cream soldier", a combatant rendered useless by his habit of carrying sweets instead of ammunition.  Many of today's poets are similar, showing up without the materiel that defines and justifies their existence.  Where they differ is in that, instead of anything palatable, they show up with bland melanges that seem like homework assignments:  no entertainment, artistic or performance value, intended for a readership of one [teacher or editor], and rarely more than a single technique--if that!--in evidence. 

      These "poems" are supposed to be imaginative and intellectually stimulating.  Is there such a thing as too much imagination, though?  Sure.  Ask anyone who has worked in psychiatric care.  Indeed, the lack of coherence and interest to anyone but the speaker positions much contemporary "poetry" closer to hallucination than communication, let alone art.  It is as if the offerings were translated from English to English, with all of the poetry lost in the process.  Editors are confusing prose outlines with finished verse.

      If written today, we might expect Shakespeare's Sonnet 130 to be rendered thus:

Mistress eyes
coral red
snow white breasts dun
black wires grow
roses damasked
my mistress reeks
music more pleasing
a goddess walks

    Inspirational?  Creating a sense of wonder?  Thought provoking?  Well, the reader might be inspired to wonder how this text might be converted into what could be thought of as a poem.  Beyond that?  Not so much.

     So, what kind of imagination do we mean?  Without leaving the realm of prose with linebreaks we have the reverser, "Lost Generation".  If the reader doesn't mind some actual poetry in their poetry, there is the cliché collage

     Recently, a third example popped up briefly as a Facebook poem, complete with a photograph accompanying each line.  The author hasn't published it yet so we'll have to be content with a description.  Think of "Bambi Meets Godzilla" with a "context-is-everything" motif.  To wit:

     For the first 12 lines it seems like a touchy-feely sonnet about family life.  Instead of a closing couplet, though, it says something to the effect of "Wait, this isn't what I mean!"  The poet then reiterates the exact same poem, this time with much more dramatic, poignant pictures and, of course, a different finale.

     Now that's what I'm talking about!


  1. 12 Things Poets Get Backwards - Part I

  2. 12 Things Poets Get Backwards - Part II

  3. 12 Things Poets Get Backwards - Part III

  4. 12 Things Poets Get Backwards - Part IV

  5. 12 Things Poets Get Backwards - Part V

  6. 12 Things Poets Get Backwards - Part VI

  7. 12 Things Poets Get Backwards - Part VII

  8. 12 Things Poets Get Backwards - Part VIII

  9. 12 Things Poets Get Backwards - Part IX

  10. 12 Things Poets Get Backwards - Part X

  11. 12 Things Poets Get Backwards - Part XI

  12. 12 Things Poets Get Backwards - Part XII

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Earl Gray, Esquirrel

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