Could it get Worse? – On Poets

Poets utter great and wise things which they do not themselves understand.

Plato

 

Oh, wond’rous Plato, whose Republic is free of those damnable poets! I don’t agree with you always, but in this case you have a head-nod from me. “Great and wise things which they do not themselves understand,” very apt, very apt.

Oh Poets, I am addressing you. When will you learn?

If you asked a hundred people “What is Poetry?” likely most of them would attempt to come up with some unique and classy definition that would demonstrate just how incredibly educated and cultured they are. That’s what everyone does. So I’m not going to attempt to come up with a flower-infused prissy definition, but simply copy from my well-abused Collins English Dictionary. Come on now, you lovely looking leatherbound book, what is the definition of “Poetry?”

poetry poems.

Well… fuck. Poetry is poems. I mean… that’s simple right? Poetry = poems.

ANY QUESTIONS?!

Well, okay then, you smart-arse bookoid, what is the definition of a “poem” please? And no messing this time you hear me?

poem imaginative piece of writing in rhythmic lines.

Ah, much better, there we go. Breaking down this short-and-sweet definition, we can disclose the heart of poetry; its rhythm. I would agree to that. Rhythm is indeed one of the most important aspects of poetry, potentially more important than its rhyme scheme, yes? Poetry – and its cousin Lyrics – is the only place where you are expected to inject a sense of rhythm. Of course, there are exceptions to that, including in lyrical- and poetic-like prose, but in poetry it is the tip-top of Important Things.

I will imagine many, many other people will agree with me.

But what do those many, many other people think about rhyming? The dictionary attests to rhythm, but not to rhyme. Does this mean rhyme is unimportant? Not at all.

As to what people think about it, I have had experience. Imagine it, about 15 people in a room, none of us particularly enthused with poetry, and someone asks about rhyming poetry:

“What do people think about rhyming poetry? Do any of you like it?”
The room, already quiet, becomes static for a few seconds before my hand stirs the air as I raise it.
“It doesn’t have to rhyme, but a lot of poetry is great when it does.”
No one else pipes up after me, I am the only one who believes rhyming poetry is good. No one else. No one.

Isn’t that telling.

I wonder why 14 people didn’t claim to enjoy rhyming poetry? I believe I know why. I think there is a stigma behind rhyming poetry. It’s seen as childish, juvenile, amateur. And for what reason? I still cannot work it out.

Is it because, in primary school, kids were taught to rhyme when they wrote poetry, that rhyme was the most important thing? To rhyme “fairy” with “Mary” and “stamp” with “lamp,” that is what makes a good poem right? Perhaps to a group of stupid 9-year-olds, the majority of whom will not have a great grasp of rhythm, yes.

Still, does this mean that, as adults, poets should shit on the concept of rhyme? Sure, I was following the vox populi for a while, going around with my head tilted back and my nose up because I know that poetry is only concerned with rhythm, but as soon as I was sat in the room and witnessed no one but me defending the honour of rhyming poetry, I became rather angry.

What’s wrong with rhyming! Rhyming is great! Rhyming can pummel a point into you! Rhyme is behind many many songs’ lyrics, behind rap, behind nursery rhymes and slogans! Why must we abandon it so brazenly when the art of poetry is brought up?

I think it’s purely down to a pompous belief that “I know best.” Blahh, poetry doesn’t have to rhyme, look at me, I like fancy blank verse!

You know what you’re doing? All you’re doing is making yourself look underqualified. Do you know how simple it is to write blank verse? I’ll demonstrate using a short paragraph from another of my blog posts. Ahem!

Calloway was so insistent he was “dark,”
That he was into “shit most people wouldn’t dream of,”
But yet here he is,
doing Rome “with clothes on,”
On a “mattress,”
And it’s the “best orgasm to date!”
“Even hotter than when [he] was with [his sub]”!
Vanilla sex,
no pain,
Apart from “her nails” digging into his arse,
in their clothes!

-From Black Ob-shit-ian [A Review]

There we go. I’ve not changed anything except from adding capital letters and commas where there ought to be capital letters and commas. All I’ve done is add line breaks and I’ve got myself a blank-verse poem. Fucking incredible, how long did that take me? Not long at all. That’s all blank-verse is.

I’ll reverse that too, let me take a blank verse poem and make it into a paragraph. I really want to get it into your head how simple blank verse is to write and, therefore, how comparatively tough it is to write rhyming poetry.

Sitting at the train platform, you’ve been there a while, waiting on your two-way route to your mundane and everyday location, just as you do every day. With your mind on other things. Less than looking forward to the nine hours of screen-staring, paper shuffling, staring at the brunette you are too cowardly to ask out for coffee. But today could be the day for it. You take a peek at your watch. Then look towards the clock, unable to believe it’s been only two minutes since you last looked. And yet there are more people crowded around you than you’ve seen so far today.

-From Sitting at the Train Platform by Ema Schopenhauer

Do you get it now? Do you get it now? Word of advice; next time you write a ‘blank verse poem,’ take out the magical line breaks. Without those line breaks, a poem with no rhyme falls flat.

Of course, the example I just chose doesn’t have a great meter, but it’s got some discernible rhythm. Unfortunately, a lot of good writing has the same quality of ‘discernible rhythm’ so that point becomes moot. If you want to be a good poet, a poet who will push himself, try adding a few rhymes. Don’t be afraid of rhymes.

You’re not too good for them.

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