April 06, 2017

I also write poetry


"Shards" is a notebook of poetry I started over a decade ago. I don't often add entries to it, even less frequently than I update this blog, but there it sits collecting virtual dust in a quiet corner of cyberspace.

I went back Writing.com today to check my mail and look for updates. I don't often go there anymore. Most of the writing I do nowadays is intended either as background material for publishable storytelling or as a piece of publishable storytelling. I am trying to build up a collection of Kindle books which I will then advertise using Amazon's PR tools. That's the plan anyway. Family vacations, head colds, influenza, real money work, and writer's block tend to dominate my time far more than actual writing. Right now, for example, I have a bad cold (or perhaps a mild flu) that makes it difficult to concentrate on anything for more than a few minutes. After a pretty good writing month in February and early March, the last week of March was a family trip to Spain followed by this head cold, which means I haven't done any real writing since about March 15th. There are just too many distractions in today's world.

Where was I? (See? I cannot focus to save my own life!) Oh, right! Shards. I went to Writing.com and when I checked my email there, I found a review. The person who wrote the review read the first poem (and only the first poem) in Shards then wrote about 700 words extolling his love of poetry and reviewing poetry. After this long description of himself, he wrote a twenty-word review of my 50 or 60 word poem. I really hate it when people open Shards, read one poem (usually the first), then write a review. It's beyond silly. At the very least they should read five or ten of the poems before writing their review. How can they develop a sense of what the poetry in Shards is really about just by reading the first poem? That would be analogous to writing a review of a thousand page textbook after reading the 1500 word introduction!

Shards is a "book" item at Writing.com. I did this very intentionally. It annoys me when I open a item for review and find a single haiku or sonnet. Being a poet, I fully understand how much time and effort often goes into creating a single piece, but seriously, not even Shakespeare would bother publishing a single sonnet for review. He would expect any reviewer to read through at least a dozen sonnets in order to compare the techniques employed in each sonnet and examine in detail the ability of the poet to consistently capture emotion within the very strict rules of the form. Reviewing a single sonnet by Shakespeare would be like trying to compose a 2500 word news report based on a five line field note from a unknown journalist. To write the news report (or to review Shakespeare) the writer must provide a full context that illuminates the deeper meaning of the piece.

After I wrote a reply to the reviewer, I went to his portfolio looking for something to review. I found a 13-line "free verse" poem about how evil European colonists had stolen the North American continent from the natives. The language of the poem was very harsh, very self-righteous, and very condescending. It reeked of Howard Zinn and his unabashed love of Mao-tse Tung, who in turn was inspired by Karl Marx. I wrote a review. I was not kind. I hope I was not offensive, but anyone who opens a review with a 700 word self-congratulatory bio is probably going to have a very sensitive personality, so he will probably be offended. Thinking about his propaganda piece disguised as a poem, thinking about my current disenchantment with American political culture, thinking about my current level of disgust with American news media, drove me to write a short poem. Naturally, since I was already at Writing.com, I added the poem to the end of Shards.

I knew I'd started Shards a very long time ago, but I was unsure how long ago. When I checked the date of creation I was shocked to learn it had been over a decade since I wrote the short poem that opens the book. Well, technically, the introduction and the first three poems were all written at about the same time. Still, June 2006 was a very long time ago. This, in turn, got me to thinking how sad it is that almost nobody reads or writes poetry anymore. There are maybe a dozen poets in the entire world who actually earn money off of their poetry. It is not surprising that all of their work is highly politicized. They write in either "free verse" or "prose poetry". The first category is one I often use, the second is one I completely abhor. Prose is prose. Even if prose paints a pretty picture, it is still prose. Personally, I don't find any of the work of the dozen or so working poets to have much merit. All of it that I have read completely lacks music or any emotion beyond self-righteous anger.

I posted a link to Shards at all my social media accounts. Somehow though, that was not enough, so I opened my blog for the first time in months and wrote this entry. Poetry is ancient magic. When done well, it takes the complexity of life and reduces it down to manageable, bite-size pieces. It allows for a level of focus, rebuttal, and even enlightenment that no other form of communication can provide. Many people down through the ages have insisted that poetry is the highest form of art. I don't know if I agree completely with that sentiment, mostly because I am not inclined to lift any one artistic media above the others, but I will agree that poetry is an important art form that carries a special power all its own, a power that no other art form contains. I hope there is poetry in the future. Real poetry, not propaganda.