Log in

No account? Create an account
06 January 2011 @ 06:00 pm
Chronicle of Higher Ed article on poetry: "The Hide and Seek Muse"  

Coleridge’s assertion that poetry is “the best words in the best order” would be a laughable notion to [the author's father], a man who prefers to get the news from The Washington Post and the Journal of the American Chemical Society. And it’s not just lay readers who find poetry difficult. Some of my brightest English majors feel this way. The chair of a local high-school English Department shared with me that her colleagues are so afraid of poetry that they find ways to avoid teaching it altogether. When faced with the task of coming up with a “definition” of poetry for a state curricular rubric, her group was unable to begin to frame a response, let alone reach a consensus. They finally came up with something like “unusual language that sometimes rhymes and sometimes doesn’t.”

I’m quite sure I can’t come up with a single definition of poetry either. But I suspect that the most resistant or wary readers of verse, even if they can’t say what poetry is, have written or received a poem—in a love letter, a diary, a condolence card, a Valentine, a school assignment—a bit of language written under especial duress or frustration or longing or sadness, language forged under pressure, perhaps at a Dickinsonian “White Heat,” words that came out not as prose but as something else, something more … intense, musical, playful, figurative, compressed. Something urgently expressed, with something at stake in the telling.

This blog entry is not behind the paywall.
seawaspseawasp on January 7th, 2011 04:30 pm (UTC)
I'm one of the ones for which most poetry is a waste of time. Almost inevitably when reading a poem which does not itself serve a purpose (such as the one about the Ring in LotR) my reaction is either "huh?" or "You could really get something out of that idea, if you actually wrote it out."

There are a very few exceptions, but those I can think of I suspect are exceptions because they were presented in a context that made them significant (e.g., Kubla Khan, which was referenced in several of my favorite books, plus of course in Rush's "Xanadu") and that if I had just run across them in a book I'd have sort of blinked and shrugged.
Janet Miles, CAP-OMjanetmiles on January 7th, 2011 06:34 pm (UTC)
*nods* I like some kinds of poetry more than others. I tend to get tired of epic poetry much faster than I would burn out on an equivalent length of prose, for example.
zemhitchhiker on January 7th, 2011 06:01 pm (UTC)
good article, though it seemed a bit like it was aimed at people who already liked poetry.