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?

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