Sunday, February 9, 2014

Poetry rules … OK?

I’m posting a comment written for the first seminar of the Poetry School’s  online course ‘What are the Rules and When can we Break Them?’  Our tutor Kathryn Maris posted several poems that break rules, they are

Alice  Oswald:  Walking  past  a  Rose  this  June  morning

Paul  Durcan:   The  Haulier’s  Wife  Meets  Jesus  on  the

Road  Near  Moone

Elizabeth  Bishop:  The  Fish

Frank  Bidart:  Ellen  West

Deborah  Digges:  Broom

Deryn  Rees Jones:  Dogwoman

Sylvia  Plath:  Poppies  in  October

The assignment was to write an over long and very wordy poem and to say how we felt about poetry rules. Here are my comments

Reading and writing poetry is a fairly recent part of my life, following on from, and then paralleling, my scholarly writing experience in a number of academic and research posts. As a result initially I was very unaware of the rules of poetry, knew very little about the canon, and even less of the craft and expectation of what a poem should be. My early poems show this ignorance, or perhaps innocence, probably both and (I think) my present work has hints of both. I have also now written to form and learnt a little about metre etc. but I’m less inclined to write in a strict form than free verse.

In addition, I’m slowly becoming familiar with the major poets of the past and many poets writing today. Often I find it difficult to understand why some poems and poets are so lauded, what it is about a certain poem that means criticism is withheld because, it seems, of who has written it, and why other poems are labelled edgy and non conformist. Eye of beholder and outbreaks of sycophantic praise are often responsible it seems? Poetry can be, perhaps surprisingly, very competitive!

I’ve read some of the example poems posted for this assignment before, the Plath, Bidart and Bishop for me all highlight the role of individuality giving the poems an original feel. I enjoyed the others, but least of all Oswald’s because there seemed to be a loss of control in this particular poem. The others fit form with topic and have the feel of a poem that has been worked to achieve the desired effect, in other words crafted with thoughtfulness. That suggests there are ‘rules’ worth taking notice and they are ones that don’t put poetry in straightjackets.

…   and that wordy and very long poem I’ve submitted may appear here soon, I’m really looking forward to the feedback next week when we have our live on-line seminar.

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