Saturday, August 25

Reading poetry/ Judging poetry

One thing a lot of people say a lot when talking about my blog, or poetry in general, is that they 'don't know how to read poetry' or 'don't know how to judge poetry', or 'don't know what's good poetry'.

People worry about metre, rhyme, scansion, references, form, so many technicalities. They worry about not knowing much about them, or not knowing what they actually are, what they 'mean', or how they're defined. There's some kind of instinct with poetry, I think. And it's okay to leave the technicalities, just as much as it is to know a lot about them, to appreciate them, to be learned about them. Only it's not always needed, not if you're reading poetry in bed, a couple of poems a night, before you switch off the light. Why not concentrate on the poem, the sounds, the pleasure you can derive from it?

I'm going to just write, write, write, some sorts of questions or wonderings which I find myself asking about poems when I read them. No doubt you'll have your own, if you do read it.

My is-it-a-good-poem-or-some-naff-stuff-meter:
  • Does it make me laugh/ cry/ almost cry (ie. particular ear ache)/ uncomfortable?
  • Does it linger in my mind, even when I try to push it to the back because it's making me uneasy, because it's taking up my concentration, making me lousy company? Does it take up even more space, demanding thought, demanding mental space when I try to ignore it? Does it refuse to be ignored?
  • Do the sounds echo in my mind; the patterns, the variations allowing it to cement easily?
  • Are the words, the punctuation, the language, exciting? Is the poem as a whole exciting?
  • Am I compelled to return to it?


Ben Roberts said...

"it's okay to leave the technicalities, just as much as it is to know a lot about them, to appreciate them, to be learned about them"

Is this the approach you take when it comes to writing as well? I'm recently new to the world of poetry, and it interests me how people write - the processes etc. I remember reading that Tim Rice (Andrew Lloyd Webber lyricist) likes to write lyrics after the music's been composed. Do you think this applies to poetry; in that it's easier to write something decent if there's some sort of framework - a certain form - already in place?

ben roberts said...

(hey, I just need to mention that I typed 'recently new' meaning 'relatively new'... please forgive my embarassing illiterate-ness. *note to self: re-read things ALWAYS*)

Katy Murr said...

Ben -

Apologies about the lateness of this.

Yes, it is the approach I take with writing at the moment (or try to...) I like to know about technicalities, about form, about the things which seem little but probably aren't, and I'm in the process; naturally a continuous one, of learning about these things. Without a form of pleasure to be derived from writing, then technicalities don't help too much with actual writing/ creating. Comparison of music with poetry tends to be provoking, and I can imagine how it would be easier (better?) to write the lyrics once given the music (although I've not ever tried this properly), because inevitably the music would provoke and inform the lyrics. Are you asking about me personally, or people who write in general? I wouldn't say I find it easier... I find it provoking, definitely, but then so can be sitting in a busy place, immersed, and stealing from others' conversations. I often let poems 'brew' a while - by this I mean not writing as soon as I have initial ideas, rather letting the ideas collect, swim around a bit, to then pull out the ones which seem to be most capable of composing something. By doing so, I give myself more time, thus I allow both form and ideas to merge together into some sort of construction.

I don't pretend to know much about writing processes in general - I expect it varies wildly - but ask all you like.