Poetry: My Current Verdict

My daughter is taking a poetry class in the fall, and I noticed a book about Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet on its reading list. She is an occasional poet, the teacher is one of the most talented at our school, and my daughter will get a great deal from the book and the class. Perhaps she’ll write the poems she’ll later call “her first real poems.”

I don’t recollect my first poem exactly, but my feelings about writing poems haven’t changed much. Poems are elevated expression—part venting, part vision, part visit with the unknown. After hour upon hour thinking about poetry, however, I’ve never touched defining the thing itself, the fundamentally mysterious and defiant thing. If a young poet asked me about poetry, I might shirk. My answers double back. You reconsider. You regret.

Over the last year or so, I’ve been stealing from myself by revisiting posts on my old blog Joe Felso, and one post responded to a challenge from another blogger to say what poetry is and does. The four items I found in my list now seem partially true but also partially overblown, partially strident, and partially self-justification. They need revision—undoubtedly, they will need revision again in a couple of years—and I’m willing to try. What I said is in bold, what I now think follows.

1. A poem isn’t an argument or a message.

One of my favorite articles about poetry to share with students is Mark Strand’s “Slow Down for Poetry,” which appeared in the NY Times Book Review  in 1991 and used his personal story of becoming a poet to meditate on the distinct pleasures of reading and writing poetry. Along the way, he differentiates between fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. Strand says fiction and nonfiction are mired in reality, the former seeking to add to our experience in the real world and the latter explaining it. A novel is successful when you look up and discover you’ve read thirty pages, all of it happening in your head. However, of poetry he says, “a sense of itself is what the poem sponsors and not a sense of the world. It invents itself.” He also says poetry, “is language at it most beguiling and seductive while it is, at the same time, elusive, seeming to mock one’s desire for reduction, for plain and available order.”

Strand’s comments are cogent and wise, but, reread something often enough, and you begin to see holes. This assumption that poetry defies order and our normal sense of the world can be seductive. Suggesting poems have implications rather than meaning invites wandering as well as exploration. And now I wonder, does a poet need something to say? I’m not talking about poems-with-a-point, poems as arguments, or diatribes, but some necessity to speak, even if that necessity is tough to pin down. Does a poet need a sort of clarity even if it’s strange clarity? Poems demand emotional logic even when they’re arational. They come from somewhere and something. Students like to think poems “Mean what you think they mean,” but are poems really Rorschachs? How does someone write a Rorschach?

My current verdict: I do think poets should avoid undue neatness, the sort of diminishing, clarifying activity appropriate to explaining (as in prose) but the poet needs some compulsion to speak even when he or she can’t clearly define it.

2. No fuzzying up

I ran into an Onion news item once about a poet who takes extra time to remove verbs and punctuation “in order to give the piece a level of vagueness more suitable for publication.” What makes this article hilarious is its image of what poets sometimes find themselves doing. However, when you have something subtle to define and express you don’t need another layer of obscurity. The challenge of helping a reader feel is complicated enough. The modernists made complexity one of the highest aesthetic values, and we’ve absorbed their perspective by deliberately seeking ambiguity and general murkiness. However, they really sought intrinsic complexity, not after-the-fact, revised complexity. If a poem is complex—and it doesn’t have to be—it should be because what it represents is complex.

My current verdict: Don’t overwork the dough.

3. Think as a child

None of us truly remember when language was new. When my daughter was very young—maybe three—she used to call out from her car seat as we approached the garage, “Touch the moose! Touch the moose!” I was worried about her. Then, one day I looked at the garage opener clipped to one of the sun shields. Each shield was a paddle that narrowed to its attachment point in the middle…like two antlers, on either side of the rear view mirror that hung down…like a head. In that moment, I finally saw what she saw, a moose. If we could return to that state of invention—looking for whatever words might cover our feelings or observations—we all might be better poets.

My current verdict: Everyone says “Avoid clichés,” which is good advice. I prefer its positive formulation though. Be fresh. My daughter wasn’t trying to be creative, to fuzzy up the world or dazzle me…though she did. She was just looking for a way to express what she saw, and, being new to this planet, had to rely on something new.

4. No individual poem matters

When I originally addressed this topic, I said that four of the poems I’d written were okay and the rest stunk. That statement is just a tad disingenuous. More accurately, many of the poems written to be great poems were overreaching and stilted. The ones written to understand something not finally understandable have been passable. However, if you regard all poems as pure practice, preparing for the day when, having trained the mind to think poetically, you might achieve what thus far you haven’t, you might be waiting a long time. I love improvisation and play—you need to be receptive—but you also need ambition, at least the hope your current search may yield something good. Otherwise, you will be rehearsing forever.

My current verdict: Maybe individual poems don’t matter, but you need to behave as if they do… because they may.

“What poetry is” undergoes constant revision in my mind. In the end, I know little and enjoy that perspective. Poetry exists where challenge and desire meet, where the inexpressible meets the compulsion to speak.


Filed under Aesthetics, Art, Doubt, Education, Essays, Poetry, Resolutions, Thoughts, Writing

85 responses to “Poetry: My Current Verdict

  1. A rich and rewarding read David. This would have been a nice contribution to the “How To” issue of the NY Times Book Review last Sunday.

    • dmarshall58

      I finally got around to reading it. You may have noticed there was an entry on poetry, a review of The 6.5 Practices of Moderately Successful Poets by Jeffrey Skinner that sounds really interesting in content and form. The review also contains a survey of other books about the practice of poetry, enough books to keep MFA students busy for semesters on end. It would be fun to write about how to write poetry, but I think I would have to begin by saying it’s really a mystery to me, that all my advice could really be misapprehension and that, really, maybe all advice about art is better regarded that way. Thanks, as always, for your comment.

  2. “where the inexpressible meets the compulsion to speak.” David – this so simply expresses one of my inchoate thoughts about poetry. Thanks for this post. G

    • dmarshall58

      Like poetry itself, the statement just came to me. So much of writing poetry–and writing in general–seems to be fumbling around in the dark. Sometimes you find things, often not. Thanks for your comment. –D

  3. This made me think a lot. I’m about to get my degree in writing poetry, and many of your thoughts here challenged the “rules” I’ve been taught over the years. Very enjoyable things to mull over in the coming days.

    • dmarshall58

      After getting my own degree in poetry, I was completely confused about what poetry IS, much less what its rules might be. Maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe it’s better to reinvent it every time you write, as if the poem you’re working on now is an entirely new experience. Thanks for visiting and good luck with your degree. –D

  4. I feel vindicated and very encouraged to continue my neophyte poetic endeavors as a result of reading this entry today. I am grateful to have read it.

    • dmarshall58

      Thanks, that’s inspiring. Maybe I’ll keep at my own neophyte poetic endeavors too. The neophyte stage is the best…

      • Well, here’s to all our efforts, and the hope that when we have our finished work before us, it isn’t some tremendous disservice to the art.

        Yours In Contemplation,

  5. I’ve always had a hard time with both poetry and fiction prose. I’ve tried to write some, but I can never think of anything worth saying.

    • dmarshall58

      Who says something worth saying all the time? Perhaps the secret is suspending judgment and saying something. With poetry, sometimes you just have to try to sneak up on yourself–just write a bunch of stuff down and then look back to see what you’ve discovered. Or just play with language. I’m not above magnetic refrigerator poetry–it’s tremendous fun and stretches your mind out for what’s possible. Thanks for commenting! –D

      • whatevertheyaint

        This is very true. Waiting for something “worth” saying can very well hinder the creative process because what we consider NOT worth saying could very well be the thing that changes someone’s life. Who are we to decide? On another note, I absolutely love magnetic poetry. In my younger years, I used to go into the kitchen every morning, sit down with a cup of tea and Mile’s Kind of Blue, and play around with the words on my fridge. It was a fun and creative outlet before starting hectic work days.

      • dmarshall58

        We have some longer periods at school, and, while we’re studying poetry, I’ve divided the class into groups for poetry challenges. One is to take a poem I’ve cut up into separate words and ask them to make them into a new poem. It’s amazing how close they sometimes come to the original. Sometimes words seem to insist on themselves. Sometimes it’s fun to think about giving them what they want. Thanks for your comment. –D

    • kthorpe

      I’m a novice, but I find my best/favorite poems come a) when I don’t expect them to– and I think, “Gaah! Must find paper! Must jot down this line!” or b) when I’m outside, alone. Yesterday I went out in the yard, looked around, and noticed the wind violently tearing at the leaves of a neighbor’s tree… a few tentative thoughts for lines came into my head… and now I have a poem-in-progress that I’m feeling pretty good about 🙂 Is it worth saying? Maybe not to anyone else… but to me, it is 🙂

      • dmarshall58

        I love the visits of stray thoughts and memories. It’s as if they are insisting on attention, and, when I forget to jot them down and lose them, part of me grieves. I just wish I could have those visits more often or deal with them more expressively. –D

  6. I like what Emily Dickinson said about knowing it’s poetry if it makes her feel like the top of her head was taken off.

    For me poetry has to create an “aha” moment, where something inarticulated that I’ve always felt or known has been expressed for the first time, or I see something in a totally new light, or feel something I’ve never felt before. I think writing poetry is the same way, has to take me to the same place, captured something meaningful or significant not captured before.

    • dmarshall58

      Exactly. The best feeling is finding something you didn’t know you knew. Emily Dickinson said a poet, “Distills amazing sense / from ordinary Meanings.” Sometimes the “aha” for me is seeing something I should have seen before, something simultaneously sensible and amazing. With my students I sometimes use the arrow in the FedEx symbol to demonstrate how we can look and look and look at something and still discover something we haven’t noticed. Thanks so much for your comment. –D

  7. I LOVE the closing sentence!

  8. Thank you for this post, this is how I feel about poetry “Poems are elevated expression—part venting, part vision, part visit with the unknown”, do I love the unknown and how the soul speaks.

    • dmarshall58

      The unknown keeps me going too. Maybe that’s the chief pleasure of writing poetry, that you discover you’re not as finite as you sometimes fear. Thanks for visiting and commenting! –D

  9. I like that last reply about playing with the language. My best poems have come from the joy of playing with a single thought or rediscovering words. I love being in love with the crafting. Your piece really got me to re-exercise my stagnant mind. THNX

    • dmarshall58

      It seems as though I spend a lot of time revising and moving phrases from place to place and rewording and rearranging sentences. All that manipulation can become too much, but it all counts as experience toward learning to use language well. And I do enjoy it. I never seem to get tired of it. Thanks for your comment. –D

  10. ‘Don’t overwork the dough’ – advice to live by. Writing an essay right now – thanks to you for the well chosen words and to ‘freshly pressed’ for directing me here. Robyn

    • dmarshall58

      Thank you for visiting. As a teacher, I always have the toughest time helping students to learn where working becomes overworking. Some of them never get to that moment and some of them go well past it. But then I guess that’s the fun in it, never quite finding the answer as a teacher either. Thanks so much for visiting and commenting! –D

      • kthorpe

        Do you ever feel that a poem is complete, but then feel like it mustn’t be very good because it didn’t take very long (an evening, a few days) to write? I just read about a poem someone worked on for TWELVE YEARS. Intimidating, in a way…

      • dmarshall58

        Of course, but knowing when something is complete is probably every artist’s challenge in every medium. I don’t know how many times I’ve returned to an earlier version of something to discover that my final, polished version lost some of the original’s vitality. There are times too when what seems finished has some obvious holes or problems, but you try to learn from returning to earlier work. When you don’t see something that could be different, that’s when the trouble starts, I think. It’d be a terrible fate to go on imitating yourself. –D

      • kthorpe

        Thank you for your helpful comments 🙂 Your blog post as well as the entire comment thread have been such food for thought 🙂

  11. Your post was very timely for me. I recently began writing, but have no formal understanding of poetry or even how it might be categorized, One piece rhymes, the next has a cadence or rhythm, I suppose, but does not rhyme at all. Sometimes, writing verse is like following a leaf along a slow brook, gently meandering to its destination, while other times, it seems to arrive complete, like a zip-file just waiting for you to unpack it. And then there’s the “What was I thinking?” file…

    Enjoyable and useful read. Thank you!

    • dmarshall58

      Thank YOU! You’re metaphor is lovely. It feels eastern in its simplicity and elegance. Maybe not understanding is what keeps people doing poetry. If I can match your metaphor with another, writing sometimes feels like trying to lift an unwieldy object–you don’t even know how to grip it, much less carry it.

      Like you I keep some “What was I thinking” files. At their best, they’re a little like dreams, delightful reminders that I haven’t found everything in myself yet.

      Thanks so much for your poetic comment. –D

  12. I’m not quite sure what I think about these comments. There are very different kinds of poetry to be appreciated in different ways and you have indicated things to note in that regard.

    Overall however I do think poetry, whether with major message to convey or major aesthetic value to offer, borders on vocation and special talent like playing an instrument. Piano can certainly be taught but it will need serious gifting to reach concert hall level and there are even a few people who scarcely need much teaching. It all depends.

    I can honestly say that in my own case as regards poetry I scarcely needed any teaching to get going when I felt I had something to say. That sounds like the average amateur overrating himself but not quite and of course there was some background in poetry from school lit classes years earlier. But with no practice in such things I wrote a whole poetic drama that got performed on the ABC here in Australia. It was taken on board because it was said I’d produced the nearest one could hope to get to Elizabethan drama in modern English. None of this was ever any advantage to me in going further in poetry. Not even with a leading Shakespearean actor appealing for other poetry to be published in London did it ever get to be so.

    After thirty years and perhaps a total waste of my talent because of relentless indifference or opposition from persons in the arts, I self published the poetry (not the drama yet). The introduction spills the beans on doing poetry today. Also a recent essay of mine on the Song of Solomon has plenty to say about the act and feel and purpose of doing poetry because I choose to believe I can know a few things that others miss in this area and it’s one reason the Song gets misunderstood in places amid eminent scholarly commentary. If you want to look into these things see Amazon.com and
    Puer Poems
    Solomon’s Tantric Song

    • dmarshall58

      I should say first that I’m not sure about my comments either. My thoughts and feelings about poetry are protean–changeable and impossible to grasp entirely. That’s the fun and frustration of it, I guess.

      My experience as a teacher tells me that talent and diligence are indistinguishable in the end. Talent without desire doesn’t seem to get anyone far. Pure effort might not pay off either, but students devoted to developing their talents (whatever they are) sometimes produce remarkable results. I’m sure some of them benefit from having a good memory for words and a natural resourcefulness in manipulating language, but, based on what I’ve seen, desire triumphs ultimately. I hope I’m not being presumptuous, but your own story seems to confirm the sort of indomitable attitude writers need. I look forward to investigating your work. Thanks for visiting! –D

  13. For me the haiku expresses the essence of all poetry. I’m not saying that right. But for me it kind of encapsulates what you said in your blog. I read a wonderful book of American haikus recently and would love to quote a couple instead of leaving this comment. If it weren’t for copyright 🙂

    • dmarshall58

      Haiku has been so important in the ways I think and feel about poetry. If I could write one perfect haiku, I might finally find the happiness that seems so elusive in modern life. That may sound overblown, but I’m sincere. I’d love to read the book you mention–can you leave a title?

      Thanks for visiting! –D

  14. the answer to ‘what is poetry?’ is as a-answerable as the question ‘what is Zen?’, and yet the answer (a confounding response from a Zen master, or a poem) is the very reality that asked the question in the first place …

    • dmarshall58

      I love the connections you’ve made here. Yes poetry is a-answerable and Zen, exactly as you say. We’re fortunate we can’t define it, probably. Pursuits with definite ends don’t seem to offer lasting pleasure. That said, it’s fun to pursue, I think, and a worthy aspiration. Thanks for your comment! –D

  15. Very interesting post! Not only do we share the Freshly Pressed page today, we also have similar thoughts regarding your list above. What really struck me were numbers 3 & 4, and their respective ideas of being fresh to avoid clichés, and behaving as if individual poems matter. I find myself thinking of those often when I sit down to write.

    I’m a prose writer but I feel that good prose is much closer to poetry than people might think, and that it benefits from adopting certain “poetic” principles, at least as far as expanding observance beyond clichés and the craft of conscious assembly with a goal of evoking something from the reader.

    Of course not every piece of writing can be, or needs to be, deep and existential, but I like to think that even the simplest of subjects could be elevated to exquisite beauty with the right word choice, should someone choose to do so. I suppose that’s why I respect the philosophy of poetry in the first place. Thanks for a thought-provoking read!

    • dmarshall58

      I will have to check-out your blog as soon as I respond here. I imagine discovering so many new and interesting blogs through these comments will be one of the greatest benefits of this Freshly Pressed thing.

      Please don’t interpret my elevation of poetry as a denigration of prose. I agree with you entirely that prose has music too, and I try to convince my students to read their work aloud and investigate its poetic potential, even if it never becomes (and shouldn’t become) a poem. As you suggest, all writing may rest on resourcefulness, a willing search for just the right word and phrasing. It’s so tough to teach “Don’t use cliches” because we can’t arrive at a universal definition of what the cliches are. But we can, as you say, recognize, “Even the simplest of subjects could be elevated to exquisite beauty with the right word choice, should someone choose to do so.” That’s very well put! It’s in the choosing, I think. Thanks for visiting and I’ll return the visit soon. –D

  16. Your article really got me thinking about poetry. And I’m going to take away your last two lines with me for I couldn’t help nodding while I read them. True in every sense of how much I’ve understood poetry or haven’t.

    Beautiful exposition! Thank you.

    • dmarshall58

      Thanks so much. The experience of being freshly pressed has been odd. It’s so strange to be read by so many people, but I hope it will lead to many more connections online. You forget sometimes what a wonderful community can be formed from 1s and 0s. Computers are good for something, I guess. Please visit again. –D

  17. A thoughtful post here, and I really like your last paragraph, how it sums up how you feel about poetry, with revising your definition of it and the desire to speak. This reminds of previous essays I’ve read about “What is art?” Answering “self-expression” covers some bases, but I very much like your phrase (as another commenter did) “where the inexpressible meets the compulsion to speak” as it nicely describes the want to describe one’s feelings and thoughts on a complex world, while using the tools at hand–be they words, ink, paint, photography, music, etc.

  18. Thanks for your thoughts on poetry, and congratulations on getting Freshly Pressed! I suppose I would have to say that my fault as a poet is probably writing things that are too comprehensible, not intangible enough. I’ve been writing prose for a while now instead of poetry, but even though I haven’t written it for a year or three, I still have a soft spot for poetry.

    • dmarshall58

      Keep writing poetry! Think about what William Carlos Williams said, “You can make a poem out of anything…you don’t have to have conventionally poetic material. Anything that is felt, and is felt deeply, or deeply enough, or even just gives amusement is material for art.” I think I’m attracted to haiku because it’s so unpretentious and so fundamentally experiential. There’s a time for judgement in writing, but maybe it’s at the end. Thanks so much for visiting and commenting! –D

  19. Beautiful article! For me, poetry is a sort of outlet. It personifies feelings and describes every situation in my head while allowing me to tell/show people in a way that isn’t 100% straight forward but also not mysterious (if that makes sense). It’s just an art form, simply put. It truly is. Amazing post. Can’t wait to hear more.

    • dmarshall58

      What did Emily Dickinson say–“Tell all the truth but tell it slant”? I don’t know why, but sometimes the things poets express obliquely reach deepest. Poetry is, for me too, an outlet, a way to discover what I hadn’t found before. Thanks so much for visiting. –D

  20. dmarshall58

    Laughable, yes. But fun, I think. While I can’t and won’t ever claim to understand poetry or define it for anyone but myself, thinking about what exactly I’m (or we’re) about seems worthwhile. The best thing about an examined life is the pleasure of noticing what you’ve missed. Thanks so much for visiting. –D

    • dmarshall58

      I’m sorry. Maybe I don’t know WorkPress well enough to understand how to respond properly. I’m happy to remedy it if you can help me understand what I’ve done wrong. I certainly didn’t mean to offend.

      My sincere apologies, David

    •     “The best thing about an examined life is the pleasure of noticing what you’ve missed…” -D
      I thought missing things was very sad and painful when there’s little time left and no way to catch the boat after it’s left the harbor, and the row boat is unlikely to cross the Atlantic, rowed by a one-arm blind person with only a twinkie. Rarely does such a person have enough money for a cruise ship.
        RE: 3. Think as a child
          I like the antlers. It’s a difficult thing though, because it might often become “see as a child, write like an adult.” Most children don’t write well, do they? It’s hard to see da-da as a poem (although, they let you get away with it as an art work). Maybe it’s a matter of packaging: could I re-label my poems and say, “Written by a 5-year-old.” Yeah, for a 5-year-old it’s good, but for an adult, yikes. I suppose observing might be alright.

      • dmarshall58

        Hi Doug,

        In the interest of space and air-time, I’ve posted a link to your site for curious readers. You may notice that only your most recent comment appears as well. One of the aspects of blogging I appreciate most are the conversations that occur in the comments, but the best place for your work is on your own site. –D

        Here’s the link: mojoepoe.wordpress.com

      • Poetry is a comment. Prose is an insult. That’s how I speak. Well, now I understand what the mysterious blue boxes at the end are. I was wondering who you were talking to. You were talking to the rejects. Newspapers have no space. WordPress has lots.

  21. marialla

    Thank you for your interesting article on poetry. I write poetry and I write it because I want to express what is inside me but I do not want anyone to be able to completely understand what is inside of me because when I started writing poetry I felt alone in the world and was so scared of expressing what was inside of me . I was sure that people would ridicule me or tell me that that is not what I was supposed to be feeling or what I was feeling was wrong, depressing or whatever. Sadly, partially it was true but not as I understood it. Hence I devised ways to say what I was feeling in roundabout convoluted so that it was not so apparent what was going on inside of me. I have to admit that as time went by, I rather started to enjoy writing poetry but of course, my style has changed slightly.
    Through a poetry course my sister took, I even discovered a way to understand other people’s poetry. It entails multiple readings and an opening of oneself to the words on the page, much in the way that one would listen to music. The times that I tried this, poetry (the reading of it, in any case) became quite an experience. I never did try to do it with my own poetry (sadly, I have to admit, I rarely read my own poetry. A few – the ones I really like and are not too personal for me – I do but most I don’t.)
    Thank you for this piece. It gave me lots to ponder about regarding what I do and why – as maybe you can see by my response – but I have to leave it before I go on forever.

    • dmarshall58

      I can see how it would be really helpful to come at your feelings from new angles, in ways that might not be understood by others. They poetry that arises from need is the toughest but maybe the most rewarding. In reading poetry, I try to identify that need if I can. The particulars of analysis–specific imagery, metaphors, etc.–seem to make a new sort of sense if I can discern the fundamental tone of the poem. In that sense, maybe your poetry isn’t really about content but what unites the content and how it all comes from the same place or similar places. T. S. Eliot said readers apprehend poetry before comprehending it, which is to say they often absorb its intent before they can explain its content. I think there might be something to that. Thanks for commenting. –D

  22. this is cool! i like your thinking but i also really believe that there are no rules to poetry. poetry is different for everyone, just like music or fiction writing or painting or sculpture…because in the end, even if you follow every “rule”, your poem could still be shit to everyone (or to someone) and if you follow none of the rules it could be awesome to everyone (or to someone). know what i mean? i know your points were just advice based on what you’ve learned, which is great, just sharing my advice from what i’ve learned. write from the heart and write what you know and write what feels right. right? 😛

    • dmarshall58

      I agree with you. As a writing teacher I always encourage students to develop a list of their own “rules,” advice or instructions that resonate with them, things they are sure are true. However, I also suggest one of their rules should be that there truly are no rules. Personally nothing makes me happier than to discover what I thought was inviolable is actually not. Writing would be pretty dull if you didn’t keep learning, and no one grows by believing too strongly in any rule. It’s fun sometimes to think about what might be true, but I try not to close any door. Thanks for your thoughtful comment. –D

  23. kthorpe

    Wow, I can’t stop commenting! 🙂 But can you recommend a good book/website that introduces and explains a variety of poetic forms? I did some searching awhile back, but had trouble finding anything very helpful. Mostly lists of links to other sites’ explanations.

    • dmarshall58

      Sure. I’m not big on form, but sometimes it’s fun–when you’re not visited by inspiration–to see if a form will inspire you. One I like is Mary Kinzie’s A Poet’s Guide to Poetry. It’s really a reference work in some respects, but there’s a lot to ponder in her discussions of what particular forms are good for. I haven’t looked online, but if I find something, I will try to return here. –D

  24. Mojo Pin

    Being someone who never really ‘learnt’ how to write poetry (or prose), I found this article very interesting.
    But, lately, I’ve been allowing my pen to sway itself onto paper. I’m hoping to take up a Literature course next year, and would really appreciate if you could visit my blog and comment on the things I’ve written.
    Thank you for this article!

    • dmarshall58

      I hope to make return visits soon and, though I wouldn’t presume to comment on your writing, it’s always great to hear what people have to say. Thank you for visiting! –D

  25. Poems are elevated expression you say, what a good way to put it. Simplistic yet telling.

    • dmarshall58

      Thanks! I can’t believe I’d be the only one to label it that way. The complicated part–the part I’m especially unsure about–is how it’s elevated. Thanks for your comment. –D

  26. “Poetry exists where challenge and desire meet, where the inexpressible meets the compulsion to speak.”
    – wonderful lines.

  27. paperportraiture

    I think a lot of times, people are so quick to give their judgment and opinion on poetry, because as we all know, anyone can write. But not everybody is supposed to! haha Sometimes people forget that it’s about how much the piece speaks to you, (not how many verbs were removed for vaugness, as posted). I think if you try too hard with poetry it doesn’t translate, and it lacks emotion…

    • dmarshall58

      As a high school teacher, I hear poetry judgments all the time, and the only fairly reliable remedy I’ve found is having them experiment with it themselves before they begin to look at poems. Then, if they find something they like, they may return to writing again. I do think that’s a little different than novels. Very few students read a novel and think about writing one. They may try a poem, as the requirements are loose (or nonexistent), and they may feel compelled to answer. Thanks for your comment. –D

      • paperportraiture

        Yeah that’s true, that’s exactly what makes poetry so “this is good” “no, this is good” – the reqs are loose. and yeah haha, not often will people read a novel and try to write one. poetry is easier, it’s like art, sometimes people draw a line on paper and it’s supposed to mean something. thanks for the reply =p and nice post by the way =)

  28. Was I the only one who got angry reading T.S. Eliot’s criticism, thinking things like, “I hate this,” and hating it even more because you couldn’t think of a counter argument?

    • dmarshall58

      I only remember a few of Eliot’s more dramatic and memorable pronouncements, but I certainly have felt like wriggling out from under some universally lauded pronouncement. Having that sort of response may be useful, in fact, as it assures you’ll look for new territory and test some of what others say is possible and impossible. Thanks for your comment. –D

  29. Excellent blog post and I thank you for sharing! I’m new to the poetry world, based on a phenomenal college professor I have, I started writing. I was never interested before but now I find use for poetry. It is tough to pinpoint what it is but I would have to say any explanation would be for “self-justification” as you put it. Poems are very personal and to me, are the only outlet for those words and emotions as opposed to prose and script writing like I usually partake in. You broke down some very interesting points about poetry and it was quite invigorating to read.

    • dmarshall58

      Thanks for your comment. It’s inspiring to discover things only poetry can address. Maybe that’s all you need to know about poetry, that it presents itself when needed, and you can always ask what happened later. –D

  30. dmarshall58

    A verdict for my current verdict, I guess…

  31. Loved your piece, and look forward to seeing more of your work, I will definately be back =)

    I’m an aspiring author if fiction and Ive started posting my first book (and several poems) as I write it, if you have time, or are bored and would care to take a look, I would appreciate it, especially any advice or critism you could give me would be groovacious =) FEEDBACK APPRECIATED MASSIVELY!!!!


    Peace, Love, Happiness, Jah Protect


    • dmarshall58

      I’ll be making my way through these comments over the next few days and returning some visits, so I will certainly visit your blog. As this Freshly Pressed experience has taught me, it’s inspiring to know readers are out there. Thanks for visiting. –D

      • Thanks =) I really enjoyed your article on the blog in comparison to a book, it made some immensely interesting reading, especially as I’m fairly new to blogging,

        Peace and Love

        Scone =)

      • dmarshall58

        Thank you. Though I’ve written on blogging a number of times, I’m still working out my thoughts and feelings about it. But then, the fun for me is discovering what blogs can and might do. Thanks for visiting. –D

  32. jacquislade

    Poetry is self expression, it’s as simple as that.

    • dmarshall58

      True enough. As a visual artist, I sometimes like to think about how it might be different from all the other forms of self-expression– even the other forms of writing±–but maybe that’s an impossible or unnecessary task. The practice is more important than the definition, in any case. Thanks for commenting. –D

  33. Pingback: Advice to poets « On my bookshelf

  34. Pingback: Walking Around The Year | Signals to Attend

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