Today I was forced to take a day off work to watch my brothers. I mean, it wasn’t all bad, but a day off work when you are a college student can feel a lot more meaningful to a person than someone who is in a career job. Perhaps this is because your life feels a little less secure, in the sense that money can often feel very tight. I mean, I got free pizza out of it, and I got to sleep in, so I probably shouldn’t be complaining at all.
Moving on though, today I wanted to talk a bit more about poetry. If you read my piece yesterday, then you know a little bit about how poetry is written. Of course, that just compiles the structure of poetry. Many people include other aspects of poetry in order to make it more meaningful and prestigious. For example, I have toyed with this myself in Under a Starry Sky. As you have probably noticed, there is a reference to Venus and Mars. This is kind of obvious, but many other writers will use these references more subtly. Some people, such as T.S. Eliot in The Wasteland, have lines full of references. I think his poem has a couple hundred lengthy references within it.
When reading poetry, it is often hard to pick up on these references. Take, for example, this reference in J.R.R Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings ,“All that is gold does not glitter.” At the base level, this is a pretty simple line about how things that are of value are not always that which people perceive as valuable. But did you know that this is a reference to William Shakespeare’s line from The Merchant of Venice, “All that glisters is not gold”? Even if you are well read, there is a none zero chance that you have not read this play, which causes it simply to seem like a good line, rather than a line with weight behind it. People like T.S. Eliot take this to an extreme.
To some extent, I think that this can detract from the reading of poetry, since because an expansive amount of references can often lead to scenarios where either A) the reader does not understand the meaning of a line or B) they are stuck reading footnotes, which breaks up the rhythem of a poem. Now, I know my English teachers would tell me that any dedicated reader of poetry would be willing to figure out the meaning in a first read through, and then reread it so that they could understand the references in time with the rhythm. Personally, I think that’s a load. Contemporary writing has to compete with so many other forms of media. And a good poem in contemporary writing will convey it’s messages clearly, without a person struggling to understand everything. However, it should also make a person think. This push-pull is a fine line that people have to tread nowadays, and when you are reading poetry, consider it when you pass judgment on the poem. Of course, it is up to you to decide if the poem was good, but realize that the days of 50 segment poems, made up of segments with 4 stanzas each, riddled with references that all readers are expected to take the time to understand, are probably becoming a thing of the past. Frustrate someone, and they will just go back to watching YouTube.
Agree? Disagree? Have thoughts on the subject? Let me know!