Monday, March 23, 2009

Oh crap, I'm writing a bad poem...

Still tweaking "These are the Trees..." Will it be spectacular? I don't know. It's tackling something fairly abstract, and I'm not sure the narrative would ever be able to carry it, convey this mental picture I have. It sounds pretty though, and the idea is cool...

I still remember the first poem I wrote for a university class. It was about two planets colliding. I know, right? Well, I remember that it had pretty good diction and showed an innate sense of rhythm and flow... But it was about planets. Colliding. After we submitted our work, the professor gave us our first lesson: avoiding the "big", the abstract. And while most of the other students had written poems about love, beauty, betrayal, all of them very "big" concepts, mine too had fallen into the same trap, although at the other end of the spectrum. Planets are kind of big, eh?

So, the biggest trap beginning poets make is to write about the abstract. And even someone who considers themselves well seasoned when it comes to verse is still a beginner if they are spewing out drivel about love and hate and all those wishy washy things, at least in my not so humble opinion. Especially if they use words like "love" and "hate". Poets need to ask themselves "what are these things? What are they?"

A poem is a concrete object. It is words on paper, vibrations in the air. The subject of them should be no different. A poem needs to be about something. An actual thing. Even poems about events, actions, or (god-forbid) emotions, need to have within them the concrete objects that made all that stuff possible. Readers don't exist within a void; writers don't exist within a void; poems should not contain the void.

People connect best with the things they can hold, touch, smell, hear, taste, see, not necessarily the things they feel, like deep down inside. A poem needs concrete things that can give people a sense of touch, smell, taste, sight, sound. These things provide a bridge to the reader. A reader cannot take away from a poem a sense of 'love', but they can take with them the sense of vanilla icecream melting into a warm chocolate brownie. Give the readers something concrete they can keep with them after reading a poem.

That first poem of mine failed because it was about great big planets doing great big things. Things, yes, but things no one has seen, or could see. So will a poem about trees killing birds and marching across the planet crushing rocks fail? Or can enough tools of poetry be employed to save this poem? I'm afraid to ask, but I guess I'm not afraid to try.

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