Saturday, October 02, 2004

Good Poetry...Not So Good Poetry

Again, this is arbitrary, abstract question that has no real answer. But - and this is a pretty big but - I feel a poet (or any writer, for that matter) must have some talent in wordsmithing. For example, I love watching sports, but never in a million years would I be able to slam dunk a basketball, throw a strike, or pick a corner of a hockey net; no matter how much I practice. Now, there are certain things a poet can do to make her or his poem good/better, but if the basic wordsmithing ability is lacking, then, I feel, a poem can't be good.
Now I see all of you reading this and saying: "Well, what is 'good?' That's so subjective!" [We English students just love that word, don't we?!] Let me illustrate what I mean by 'good' with an example (being a musician, I often compare things to music, and will do the same here):
I am a firm believer in giving credit where credit is due. One may not like a certain type of music or musician, but the fact that you are hearing it means that somebody (at least one person) likes it. What I mean is, it's pretty arrogant to say something sucks. You may not like it, but somebody might. I think it's cool when people disagree about something and then discuss it. I once had a conversation with someone about Queen's "Boheimien Rhapsody," he said the song was "garbage" and "too artsy-fartsy." First, I told him he was an idiot for saying that, then we a long disscussion about it. We didn't change each other's opinion, but I got him to take back his garbage" and "too artsy-fartsy" comments. In the same vein, I don't like 50 cent, but I won't say he sucks. I don't like him for many reasons, but there are the same amount of reasons why he is a very succesful and popular entertainer right now.

As for the examples Prof. Kuin gave us, only Ogden Nash is in the anthology. I found all the poems in his section funny. Now these aren't the greatest poems I've read, but they're good for a laugh. I entertained my parents with a reading of "Columbus;" they too thought it funny. But like all good comics, Nash creates a layer of intelligence and information in "Columbus." It gives a comical view of Columbus' life prior to his sailing in search of India, even though the poem insinuates that Columbus was looking to finince a trip to America. It adds to the irony of the poem. My favourite line is 18: "All he said was, I am Columbus, the 15th century Admiral Byrd." Nash's Columbus has the ability to see some 500 years into the future!

The other "poets" are a whole other story! Solyman Brown's poems are on dentistry! It would have cool if they were good poems, but they are really bad. I couldn't help smelling the cheese off my computer screen; I will say no more, look for yourself!

Now I would have thought a reverend, being an educated man, would have some ability to write poetry. I'm sure many of them can, but Rev. McGonigall is a painful exception. You only have to read "An address to Rev. George Gilfillan." I'm not saying I could do much better, but this poem is pretty bad. I guess his heart was in the right place, but this passage will tell you what I mean: "He has written the life of Sir Walter Scott, / And while he lives he will never be forgot, / Nor when he is dead. / Because by his admirers it will be often read;" Again, more cheese wafting from my screen!

I guess this goes back to my original point: If you haven't got the basic talent/gift of wordsmithing, it is really hard to stay out of bad poetry anthologies. After all, it's where I found Solyman Brown and Rev. McGonigall.



Blogger inuit said...

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October 9, 2006 at 6:42 AM  

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