But I find poetry boring!

Kei Miller - 17 January 2010

This is not something I thought I was ever allowed to admit - that I find a good deal of poetry insufferably boring! And I'm not just talking about some of the ill-considered doggerel that's out there; I'm talking about poems that everyone else seems to agree is good, and excellent, and the very best. So I worry that if I admit the truth that I don't particularly like Pound or Donne or any number of poets, living or dead, that I really am supposed to like, that my own license will be revoked; that they will think I have no taste, or that I am a fraud.

But it's true, I am afraid; and maybe it is true for all of us. We don't like everything. Also, some poems are only for a season. We grow into one poem as we grow out of another. The wonderful thing is this: there are so many good poets out there, writing eloquently and movingly, and in so many different ways. We don't have to try to like everyone - even those who everyone else says we should like.

On my part, I first got hooked to Emily Dickinson, and then that fire grew brighter when I fell in love with a Caribbean poet, Lorna Goodison. And then when I heard W.S. Merwyn reading his poem 'My Friends' (http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/15742) and 'After the Alphabet', then it was I had that trembling experience where I thought I was in the presence of greatness, where I loved a poem far more than I could understand it, and experiencing language and rhythm was more important than dissecting it. Who are some of the poets that did that for you?

Comments:

Most contemporary poetry certainly is insufferably boring and worse than bad prose. Yet there is a large and vociferous network out there that will have us believe that it really is as good as what it says on the book jackets. I think one major cause of all this is that a lot of people are more interested in the image of 'the poet' and an associated lifestyle than in the words on the page.

No shame in not getting on with all the heavyweights at all; totally in agreement on that one. I was reading a Robert Browning thing, ‘Any Wife to Any Husband’, (I’m getting married on Monday!) and it was tough going, although I got something out of it in the end. For a time there I felt a bit stupid for not feeling in awe of such a top draw as Browning, but then I wondered why that should be. Is it because I am a burgeoning poet myself and I feel that I should get this stuff with no problem, otherwise I’m some kind of fake? In the end I remembered why it is that I read and write poetry, and the spectre of ego was gone.
I also agree with Kai’s comment about ‘feeling’ a powerful work before some kind of quest for meaning seems necessary, and it’s to these types of poems that I usually return. For example, ‘Tho’ Hid in Spiral Myrtle Wreath’, by Coleridge, really hit me the first time I read it. Also I am currently interested in HD, and some of her ‘Sea Garden’ poems particularly stuck me as inspiring, although I can only speculate as to their ‘meaning’. It’s not that I don’t wonder about ‘meaning’ at times, but it’s the power to move, independent of any prosaic style of direct communication, that makes poetry interesting for me.
Cheers Kai!

Woah! Where did all the odd little symbols come from!

Try again....

No shame in not getting on with all the heavyweights at all; totally in agreement on that one. I was reading a Robert Browning thing, ‘Any Wife to Any Husband’, (I’m getting married on Monday!) and it was tough going, although I got something out of it in the end. For a time there I felt a bit stupid for not feeling in awe of such a top draw as Browning, but then I wondered why that should be. Is it because I am a burgeoning poet myself and I feel that I should get this stuff with no problem, otherwise I’m some kind of fake? In the end I remembered why it is that I read and write poetry, and the spectre of ego was gone.
I also agree with Kai’s comment about ‘feeling’ a powerful work before some kind of quest for meaning seems necessary, and it’s to these types of poems that I usually return. For example, ‘Tho’ Hid in Spiral Myrtle Wreath’, by Coleridge, really hit me the first time I read it. Also I am currently interested in HD, and some of her ‘Sea Garden’ poems particularly stuck me as inspiring, although I can only speculate as to their ‘meaning’. It’s not that I don’t wonder about ‘meaning’ at times, but it’s the power to move, independent of any prosaic style of direct communication, that makes poetry interesting for me.
Cheers Kai!

Could you elaborate on what you mean by "insufferably boring"?

Annoying about the stupid marks on my previous post, but I think I've sussed it.

I am also interested in further clarification from Dave here. What kinds of poetry do you like, Dave? Could you give us an example of any contemporary poets that don't bore you? What about women writers? Which female poets do you read and what do you think of Britain's current poet laureate? I'm just curious to get a feel for your taste that's all. How about Kai, have you read any of his stuff? What do you think??

ooops. Please forgive me! Kei! I am a terrible speller at the best of times......

My question was directed at Kei (not Dave). I did not make myself clear.

Dave, Si, and Lucien - thanks for joining the conversation

Dave, Si, and Lucien - thanks for joining the conversation

Dave,
I think I definitely know what you mean. I sometimes get to see work by younger poets who are actually very talented, and could be quite good one day. Some of them are my contemporaries. And it seems we all go through a stage where we want to write Poetry, with a capital P of course; we become very clever with language, very smug with our linebreaks and rhymes, and that's a good thing. For a while. I just think some of us never get quite past that stage, and we're still playing these games with language, but increasingly without anything real to say. I wonder, how do you tell a poet on one hand to stay away from the overly-sentimental, but then after you've mastered some kind of technique, to begin writing from the heart again, because as readers we want to be impressed and moved.

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Glossary term

Metaphor

Figurative language that asserts the sameness of two things.