Sunday, October 31, 2004

Taking a Look at "Sanctity"

I was reading through the Norton at the various poems within, and came across Patrick Kavanagh's poem entitled "Sanctity", which I came to find rather interesting.

To be a poet and not know the trade,
To be a lover and repel all women;
Twin ironies by which great saints are made,
The agonising pincer-jaws of heaven.

Stylistically, I did not find that this poem was much to write home about. First off, the rhyming scheme is extremely simple and common (abab--trade, made & women, heaven). Here, we see nothing special. But when looking at the syllabic structure of this poem, I came across something that really stumped me. Why is it that the first line only has 10 syllables, while the remaining three lines have 11 syllables. Does having extra syllables in a poem other than a sonnet mean that they are to be called truncated lines, or do these types of rules and terminology only apply to sonnets? I can't seem to figure this out--to me, the second line is a reiteration/repitition or a comparison to the first verse, and so it would seem to me that they should be of equal syllabic value. But perhaps the second line increases by one syllable to show an intensification of the first binary. Subsequently, I can only hazard to guess that the last two lines also have 11 syllables in them because they are explanations of the first two lines and should therefore not be given equal weighting...it's just like when a student asks a teacher a question--the majority of the time, the answer is more convoluted and lengthy than the question that prompted the answer. When reading this poem, lines one and two seem to be setting up the rest of the poem to act as a response.

But let's get to the good stuff--figuring out what this poem means! I was quite intrigued by the binaries in this particular poem, and I thought to myself how true these statements seemed to be. Namely, anyone can call themselves a poet or a lover without actually being one. Anyone can "write" something and call it a poem and conversely, anyone can flirt with a women and call themselves a great charmer of the female species, without there being any sense of truth to their claims. Undoubtedly, these are two very ironic statements, that will probably never decist in society. There will always be people who want to be more than they are; people who will always be living being the masks which they willingly wear. This then drew me back to the title of the poem, which to me seems quite fitting. There truly is a 'sanctity' associated with being a poet or a lover. Not everyone has the same qualifications or the same abilities, thereby creating a distinct following of those capable of performing these two roles. There is a sanctity associated with love, and there is a sense of sanctity associated with poetry--they are both creative forms of expression that not everyone is equally creative at carrying out.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

The Inherent Nature of Poetry

For me, poetry is about expression, experience and emotion (Three E's). Anyone can produce poetry who desires to (I'm not saying that everyone can write GOOD poetry, just poetry in general), for everyone undoubtedly experiences the "Three E's" at one time or another during their lives. Seeing as poetry is not necessarily about rhyming words with other words or counting syllables in every line that you write, poetry can be a very natural communication tool. As such, in answering the question about how poetry actually began, I would have to say that poetry is inherent to prose, meaning that if you can speak in prose and express yourself through prose, you are fully capable of expressing yourself through poetry or verse. I believe this because I feel that poetry is a more natural way of expressing one's self. Poetry is about expressing yourself in a very individual way, and not having to conform to certain rules of grammar, sentence structure or punctuation. Poetry is free! Can we therefore say that poetry has a starting point in history? I don't believe that this can be judged, other than to say that poetry has existed in one form or another from the time that God created the world and people were able to communicate with each other verbally. Although we don't have written records of poetry from then, we must consider that many societies relied merely on oral communication before the written language came to be. Therefore, just because poetry was not written down until a certain date does not mean that it did not exist before then in an oral form. With prose, comes poetry, and vice versa!

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Prose vs. Verse

Well, I think that I"m going to re-write the Blog that I wrote on Sunday night--I had been very distracted by my mum's surgery that was scheduled for the following day. When I went back and actually read what I had written, I wasn't happy with it. I had tried to write aout the ways that Shakespeare used prose and verse intermittently in his play Henry IV, Part I to emphasize character and plot importance, but I realized that I had totally missed the mark with the way that I was trying to articulate what I had learned (and found very interesting) in one of my classes. But I digress...I think I'll try doing a Blog on the differences between prose and verse and then share with you my favourite examples of each.

In my opinion, prose, simply put, is the normal language that we speak. Prose is also what constitutes a novel or textbook. There is no metrical pattern or rhyming scheme, for example. Prose can be very informal or quite formal, depending on the speaker/writer. Prose is very personal and varies from individual to individual, and consequently, has varied frequently throughout history. The prose that Marlow used will undoubtedly be different from the prose that we use today in the 21st century. The following passage comes from one of my favourite examples of prose:

"In the beginning the Word already existed. He was with God, and he was God. He was in the beginning with God. He created everything there is. Nothing exists that he didn't make. Life itself was in him, and this life fives light to everyone. The light shines through the darkness, and the darkeness can never extinguish it." (John, 1:1-5, NLT Bible).

As you can see, the sentences in this quotation flow right after one another. There is no special format to the lines of the passage (ie: it is not formed through stanzas). This passage is written exactly the way it would be read or spoken.

In contrast to prose, however, verse is a more structured literary genre. Loosely put, verse is poetry. It is often broken up into specific lines, which may or may not have a rhyming scheme, there can be an ictic base to verse. In a sense, poetry can be considered to be a kind of 'ordered language'--implying that there are very strict rules which define what is and what is not verse.
Let me now share with you an excert from my favourite poem entitled "The Highwayman" by Alfred Noyse:

The wind was a torrent of darkness among the gusty trees,
The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas,
The road was a ribbon of moonlight, over the purple moor,
And the highwayman came riding-
The highwayman came riding, up to the old inn-door.

In this excerpt of "The Highwayman", you can easily see a rhyming pattern with lines 'a' and 'b' and lines 'c' and 'f'. Furthermore, it can be seen how verse is broken down into specific lines, regardless of whether or not a sentence is finished (as you can see, the entire first part of this poem is one sentence). And finally, when you are reading this excerpt, it is read differently than the one included above--it has sing-song style about it.

Prose and Verse: two very different literary genres, of which I enjoy both!!!

Sunday, October 03, 2004

Can a Poem be "Bad"?

How can we truly define a poem as either "good" or "bad"? Is there an almighty unwritten rule that states how poetry should be written and subsequently how it should be critiqued? Well, seeing as poetry is personal, creative, and emotional (just to name a few characteristics) I think that it is near impossible for me, an ammateur, to make such claims about an author's piece of work. Really, the only way I can critique a poem as either good or bad is by examining it from a personal perspective. What I mean by this, is whether or not the poem moves me; whether I can relate to it, whether it makes sense to me, or whether I enjoy the style/form that the poem takes on, are ways in which I determine a poem's value to me. But, just because I don't like a poem, does that make it inherently bad? Of course not!

Take for example the poem that Rosita posted on her blog site (rositageorgieva.blogspot.com) entitled "Snowdrop". While there have been some people who have commented that this poem is well written, original and perhaps even passionate, and ultimately a good poem, I myself would have to argue the opposite. My argument, however, is strictly based on personal opinion, and is not academically founded. For me, I find that this poem doesn't flow nicely and is, in a sense, very "choppy". Perhaps I'm merely a romantic at heart, but I prefer poems that flow, rhyme and that can almost be read as a song for the heart. I have trouble swallowing deep, dark poetry. So, in my opinion, because of what I look for in a poem, I'm not very fond of "Snowdrop" and would thus critique it negatively. Does this therefore make the poem bad? NO! As can be seen from the comments, there are people who indeed feel moved by this poem and would therefore consider it to be an example of good poetry.

I think that it would be just too simple if there was a written code for the composition of poetry. If every-other line was always supposed to rhyme, if each line was only to have 10 syllables (like Shakespeare's sonnets), and if we could only compose poems about love, romance and positive things, poetry would become like a machine...completely unoriginal, and only serving one purpose--to be the same as every other poem read by society. Therefore, I say, no poem is completely bad--there will always be someone whose life it touches!

Keep on writing, and never get discouraged--perhaps we are all poets at heart!!