Saturday, 7 April 2012

Poetry On An Academic Chopping Block [BEDA: Day 6]

Um... ooops...

I forgot to blog yesterday. Got busy with choir and baking and totally forgot.

Anyway, back to BEDA.


Not my best topic. As I mentioned earlier, university taught me to hate poetry.

Just that before university, when I wrote poetry it was more about emotion and expression and playing with words and word-sounds than it was about the academic dissection.

Cutting up poems like you cut up frogs for biology class really killed it for me. We'd take an awesomely beautiful poem and pick it apart in so many ways that we weren't looking at a poem anymore, we were looking at literary techniques. Alliteration, assonance, consonance, end-stops, enjambments, iambic pentameters, couplets, octaves, sestets, sonnets, rhyming schemes.

It just killed me.

I mean, I know it's important to know this stuff. You can't use a hammer without knowing what a hammer is. (Well, you can try, but you have a better chance of using it right when you know what it is.) But it was so... cold and mechanical... it didn't matter how beautiful that poem was, it would get chopped up like everything else.

Creative writing class made that all worse, when it's your own poetry on the chopping block...

Yeah, chopping block is the right word for it. I was about to say science lab or dissection table, but chopping block is more appropriate. At least a lab is careful and clean and sanitized and respectful. The subject of study is taken apart carefully, parts are removed as whole as possible so they'll be the best specimen to be studied to see how they're put together, how they function, and probably most importantly what can we learn from it to make other things better.

Like to know how to make an artificial lung, you need to know how a real, flesh-and-blood one works first.

On the chopping block... it's about as unappealing as it sounds. It's a butcher shop. The subject is chopped up for consumption. The concern is 'how do we digest this?' rather than the 'what can we learn from this?' outlook of the lab metaphor.

So your poetry is on the chopping block of creative writing class and it doesn't matter how much of your heart or your mind you put in it, even if you did apply all those lectures on poetic devices and iambic pentameter that you get swamped with week after the week and your poetry is as intellectual and expressive and emotional as anything the old masters you studied in class.

If poetry isn't deemed 'digestable', what you thought or felt or wanted to say doesn't matter.

Is that what it's like in all post-secondary education? Or is it just my school that's a soulless, academic entity that sucks all life from art like a vampire?

Thursday, 5 April 2012

McLuhan on Plato [BEDA: Day 5]

Exam today. No time to blog.

So I'll just quote some text from Marshall McLuhan that we had to study for Contemporary Lit class. It's something to mull over in the meantime.
In the “Republic,” Plato vigorously attacked the oral, poetized form as a vehicle for communicating knowledge. He pleaded for a more precise method of communication and classification (“The Ideas”), one which would favor the investigation of facts, principles of reality, human nature, and conduct. What the Greeks meant by “poetry” was radically different from what we mean by poetry. Their”poetic” expression was a product of a collective psyche and mind. The mimetic form, a technique that exploited rhythm, meter, and music, achieved the desired psychological response in the listener. Listeners could memorize with greater ease what was sung than what was said. Plato attacked this method because it discouraged disputation and argument. It was in his opinion the chief obstacle to abstract, speculative reasoning—he called it “a poison, and an enemy of the people.”

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

We Have No Sestinas Today [BEDA: Day 4]

Well, that was disappointing.

I really wanted to get a sestina done for the contest, but didn't have time. Still studying for my exams.

A shame. I was liking the one I was working on when I wasn't hitting the books.

And this online Sestin-a-matic I found was freaking awesome. Seriously helped a lot. I found the changing order of the end-words freaking confusing.

Would it be cheating though if I appropriated something from public domain for the first stanza? Like using the first six lines of Hamlet's 'To Be Or Not To Be' soliloquy and then going from there. You're not exactly plaigarising per se. You're only using it for the first stanza, the other five have to be your own original work, 'cuz Shakespeare definitely didn't write the next 33 lines in sestina form. And it is public domain after all, and you've gotta be a very poorly read person if you don't know where that comes from.

And public domain means no copyright issues, so is it really plaigarising.

I think the proper word may be adapting. Like adapting Poe's poem 'The Raven' to an short animated segment on The Simpsons. The text is there, it's just told in a different way.

Though if you do really want to be negative about it, you can just call it 'lazy' and 'unimaginative'.

Actually, the public domain lines I picked weren't from Hamlet, but now that I think about it, 'To Be Or Not To Be' would be some pretty cool lines to sestin-ize... sestina-ize...

There's probably no official term for adapting something into a sestina, but for the record, I think 'sestinized' sounds pretty cool.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Dub (This!) Poetry [BEDA: Day 3]

Studying for my Contemporary Lit exam, and stumbled over the text for Linton Kwesi Johnson's poem, 'If I Woz A Tap Natch Poet'.


I think so.

To hell with Queen's English. (No offense to the Queen.)

Who said poetry had to be all like Blake and Byron and Frost?

I love Johnson's rhythm and repetition here.

When we saw this video in lecture, one of my classmates even thought he heard a bass line playing in the background until somebody pointed out that there was no backing track on this recorded version of his poem. The way Johnson performed it was just so deep and rhythmic that it sounded musical even without back-up music.

I'd love to make poetry like that. Makes me want to learn bass, so I can back myself up during a performance.

('Cuz I know nobody around here would play bassline back-up for me.

Bloody artless, consumerism slaves that they are.)

Monday, 2 April 2012

Poetic Movement [BEDA: Day 2]

Ugh, rough day at school.

Don't really wanna blog, but I should say something coherent and poetry-related here for BEDA, shouldn't I.

Poetry, poetry, poetry...

I don't know.

A girl from writing club invited me to a performance night where she was going to present her spoken word poem to the audience. Performing this poem was really important to her, so I figured I'd take a break from schoolwork and go watch her.

She was amazing. She was moving and heart-felt. The poem was about something that was really close to her heart.

To hell with alliteration and iambic pentameter.

She was moved. Her poetry moved her. And the audience was moved by her. She probably got the loudest applause out of everyone who performed that night.

Yeah, I know. I sounds like I'm contradicting myself from yesterday, saying that poetry was a intellectual exercise.

Well, music also an intellectual exercise too. (Seriously, when you have to think about stuff like flats, sharps, intervals, harmonies, and 6/8 timing, it really is a intellectual exercise.) Music's been moving people for years.

In that sense, poetry isn't that much different.

Didn't lyrical poetry have it roots in music.

Crap, I should remember this stuff from First-year Lit class.

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Hello, Blogosphere. [BEDA: Day 1]

Whoa, so this is the updated Blogger.

It's so... very... white.

I think it's going to burn itself into my irises.

There's gotta be a setting to change that... somewhere... around here...

Nevermind. I'll look for it later.

Anyway, started a new blog. Other one had privacy issues, so I needed to start tabula rasa if I was going to register myself on the NaBloPoMo for April.

A bit busy with exams coming up, so just wanted to post today, so I can, ya know, say I actually posted for Blog Every Day in April.

I guess I could cheat and type this up later and manually adjust the post date and time to make it look like I posted everyday.

But I don't really wanna. What's the point of saying you're gonna do something voluntarily and then cheat on it? That's like that cheap-ass guy on NaNoWriMo who 'finished' his 50k words on Day 1 by cut-'n-pasting entire chunks of text he found on other people's websites. What does he get out of that except bragging about doing something he never actually did? So he's not only a cheater, but he's also a plaigarist. It's an event to (a) challenge writers, (b) build community and (c) raise funds for a literacy charity and the guy cheats.

It seriously blows my mind.

Like how I googled 'Wii Fit' and one of the search results was a site with Wii Fit cheats.

Why cheat at something that would benefit your life if you actually didn't cheat at it?

Anyway, I digress. (You'll notice I do that alot.)'s designated poetry as this year's BEDA theme. So I should say something about that before I sign off or go off on another irrelevant tangent.


Used to love poetry.

A First-year university English Lit course turned me off of poetry.

A Second-year university Creative Writing course taught me to hate it even more.

Turns out what the university says poetry is, isn't exactly what I first thought poetry was.

And it's definitely not what my aunt thinks it is. She saw me working on an essay on poetry for class, and she started going on about how I should be writing how the poem makes me feel.

Emotion has nothing to do with poetry.

Okay, maybe a little. Poetry can invoke emotion, but that's up to whoever's reading. But poetry itself isn't an entirely emotional exercise. It's not the whiny, rhyming 'oh-woe-is-me' scribbles that used to litter the margins of my high school class notes. It's not the cheesy Valentine's you passed around in class. It's not the rhyming couplets on a Hallmark card.

Poetry is an intellectual exercise. A poet didn't write a poem just 'cuz they felt like it. They wrote a poem because they wanted to say something in a certain way.

Seriously, if you want to say 'I love you', then say 'I love you'.

Or you can say 'I love you' in an octave and a sestet with an ABBA-ABBA-CDE-CDE rhyming scheme and five (poetic) feet of iambic pentameter.

'Course, you've gotta wonder with some of the stuff I had to study for school this year.

Make you wonder, ya know, what really is poetry?