Poetry is only for snobs, right?
Um, no. Not quite. Well, sort of. I mean, not all the time, you know?
It’s possible I might be the slightest bit confused on the role of poetry in society these days, dudes. It is conceivable I need to devote more thought to it, but, honestly, do any of us believe I’m actually going to devote more than the next hour or so to thinking about poetry?
No. No we don’t.
The thing is, I think as school kids, we were given “important” poetry and told that this is a poem and it is good for you and you will like it, but first you need to understand all about rhyme, meter, iambic pentameter and blank verse and. . .
Well, you get my point. Poetry in language arts classes is like a lot of things in language arts classes: It’s had the fun and the juice sucked right out of it and all that’s left is a husk that we feel obligated to consume.
But it really shouldn’t be like that. I mean, how many of you dudes can remember just laughing your head off while rhyming silly word after silly word? Of reading Dr. Seuss and realizing that it’s not only possible, but it’s okay to make up words to fit your rhymes and people will actually tell you, “Good job!”
The thing about poetry that’s different from regular prose, from fiction or non-fiction, is that poetry is an idea stripped down to its bare bones and then painted in gaudy colors. Whereas, comparatively speaking, prose is a giant, stomping around the landscape, leaving footprints and broken trees in her wake.
That is, in a poem, each line — each word — is there only to move forward the central idea. It’s sparse, even if it’s in flowery language. As far as I’m concerned, poetry can be as hard or as easy as you make it.
For instance: Haikus are wonderful. They’re a style of poetry from Japan and consist of three lines. The first line is five syllables, followed by a line with seven syllables, ending with a final line of five syllables. Each line illuminates the central idea. I love ’em because I can write a poem in only three lines.
Haikus? Not easy.
Despite the number of lines
Being only three
See? Fun. My interest in poetry in general and haikus in particular was rekindled on some early morning walks with Buzz, the garbage disposal that walks like a dog. I’d see these shadows full of frosted grass, which were still frozen only because they were not yet exposed to the sun and I tried to think of how to describe them. Which led to the following haiku.
Winter Morning, Buzz
Frozen shadows steam
Edges disappearing quickly
As the sun rises
So what do you dudes and dudettes think? Anyone interested in a haiku-off? Or maybe just a favorite short poem you’d like to share? Join me in the comments and let’s see if language arts class has managed to kill off all interest in poetry.