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Old 07-13-2002, 07:22 AM   #1
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poetry as function or art

Read this http://www.plagiarist.com/articles/?artid=2 and this http://www.plagiarist.com/articles/?artid=44

Excerpts:

I want to stress that POETRY IS NOT ABOUT SELF-EXPRESSION. I don't know where this outright falsehood began (probably with the acceptance of the "Confessional Poets," which I'll be writing about...), but it's an outright bald-faced lie. If you want to express yourself, there are plenty of media with which to do so - send a postcard, letter, e-mail, instant message, journal writing, etc. So I'll repeat: poetry is NOT (primarily) a means of self-expression. And to the small extent that it is, a poet's self-expression is usually reserved for how a poem is written (back to technique) and is not the basis for a poem itself. You can't avoid self-expression, but it should be a necessary symptom of writing, not a goal. The way a poet expresses something, or the way that he uses language to convey an idea is referred to as the poem's "style". Now, poetry can be "autobiographical" and still not be about self-expression. Generally what separates a poet from someone who writes lines of text in a journal to "get their feelings out" is REVISION. It is through the revision process that a poet works the text into a poem. The poem may have started out being an emotional outpouring, but a poet will take that outpouring (think about an unformed lump of clay) and mold it into a poem through revision.

But it's my personal expression! How could it not be art?
Personal expression is a part of "Art" like the bleachers are part of a football game. You can have a bench without the game, but then it's just furniture. The same goes for your "self expression." Just because you're expressing yourself does not mean you're making art - you have to do so artfully. This means, at the very least, careful attention to detail. It also means that you'll probably not get it right the first time. You're going to have to... it will probably pain you to even hear the word, but you're going to have to... revise (GASP!).



and then tell me what you think.
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Old 07-13-2002, 10:25 AM   #2
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well yes, I agree with the revising aspect, it's tapered self-expression, and many there is some sort of inspiration from ones own life and experiences, but rarely like a journal/diary entry; now I'm not claiming to be a great poet but I do work a great deal at trying to write interesting poetry, and for everything that you read on this website, there is probably 5 times as much material that goes unfinished, at least until I can figure out what to do with it (either adding to it, taking away, or altering); it would be incredibly naive and ignorant to even suggest that the legions of brilliant poets throughout history didn't treat their art as any other artist would -- paintings are often carefully scripted and/or revised, so are theories and essays, novels often take years of revision and work, think about Ulysses for example... why would poetry be any different? I mean, yes, it's fun and exciting to write down some thoughts, slap a title on it and call it poetry, but the reality is that careful inspection and revision are necessary to create art, but as the essay pointed out, you could become a pop lyricist!

btw, I love that Frank O'Hara poem, that's always made me grin no matter how many times I've read it
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Old 07-14-2002, 12:51 AM   #3
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Thank you, Wanderer, for your thoughts. I too think revision is necessary, as I like tight and cohesive poems. Personally, the more concise the better, for me. Like your piece "this is just to say". Wordsworth's longer poems were less successful than his brief ones, it's interesting to note.

There is a reply below one of the articles saying that Jack Kerouac's On The Road was a totally spontaneous piece of work, as well as the great moments in film belonging to the spontaneous ones. I wonder if spontaneity is a prerequisite of good art - sometimes? only if you're a genius? what? Virginia Woolf herself wrote two whole pages a day while working on her lyrical novel To The Lighthouse.

For my recent poem "love sonnet" I composed the entire piece in my head before putting it down on paper, with minor changes after writing it down. This was a new method for me, and I guess it allowed the poem to be both very controlled and a little spontaneous at the same time. Eh, don't know if I explained that well.

Anyway, another point is that if (as the author put it) Diary Entries With Line Breaks, though not 'high' art, ultimately serve a purpose for the writer (i.e it's therapeutic etc), does that justify it as art after all? In other words, if art serves a function, is it justified because of that?


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Old 07-14-2002, 09:33 AM   #4
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I think you can be spontaneous, and still go back and revise; I know I've done that many times when I didn't have any thing particular in mind when I started, and just wrote, and I sort of had a poem, I mean I had some decent lines and content, but not really a poem until I went back and revised (though often the revision process can be quite extensive) this method is still quasi-spontaneous, isn't it?
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Old 07-17-2002, 04:40 AM   #5
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Thanks again, Wanderer. I am still wondering about the part where I asked "if art serves a function, is it justified because of that?" but it's okay, we can drop it. I was thinking that some folks here at DOL may actually be against the author's stand on what makes good poetry.

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Old 07-18-2002, 12:22 AM   #6
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no, I don't think catharsis alone legitimizes art, at least not from what I've seen, but I think we agree it can be a powerful catalyst
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Old 07-19-2002, 07:43 AM   #7
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actually fors I agree with the stuff he said. I look at poetry as an every-man's art; it's something we can all do, experiment, have fun with. but that doesn't make everyone good at it.
it takes a lot more to write good poetry.

as for Jack Kerouac and Virginia Woolf, I think some people just have talent, that's what it boils down to. It's like being a star football player, yes it's a lot of hard word (and these authors have practiced a lot and know a hell of a lot about what they're doing just as an NFL player would with their game) but they still have the basic talent that allowed them to reach those heights. and because of that talent and work, I think spontanaiety is definitely possible like that.

btw, the part about the diary entries made me laugh...that is so my poetry!! even after i revise it's still like that, and Im very proud of the few that arent

I enjoyed reading those though, thanks for putting them up.
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