Poetry: The Art and the Madness

Dr Seuss
Dr Seuss
Shel Silverstein
Shel Silverstein | Source
Ben Gibbard
Ben Gibbard | Source

Title and Registration by Death Cab for Cutie

What Sarah Said By Death Cab for Cutie

Sylvia Plath
Sylvia Plath | Source
Ezra Pound
Ezra Pound | Source
William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare | Source
Lord Byron
Lord Byron | Source
Edagr Allen Poe
Edagr Allen Poe | Source


Like many people of my generation, my first exposure to poetry was through music. As such, my initial thoughts on poetry were that it must rhyme and follow very strict rules of rhythm, rhyme and meter (and, let's not forget Dr. Seuss, Mother Goose and Shel Silverstein). It's only been in the last five or six years that I've gained a beauty and appreciation for free verse, blank verse and other forms of non-rhyming poetry.

Just like in prose, I want to be shown something, rather than simply told. This is where the skill of the writer shines. I don't care if the poem has a deep meaning or is just something fun and nonsensical- it's the language of the poem that in intrigues me. One of my favorite modern songwriters/poets is Ben Gibbard from Death Cab for Cutie because he does just this. His lyrics are poetic and even though they deal with such mundane and cliched topics as love, death and sex, they are always interesting. Let me cite a few examples. The first is from a song called Title and Registration:

"The glove compartment is inaccurately named/And everybody knows it./ So I'm proposing a swift orderly change./Cause behind its door there's nothing to keep my fingers warm/ And all I find are souvenirs from better times/ Before the gleam of your taillights fading east/ To find yourself a better life."

What I find particularly great about this lyric is he takes something mundane and nondescript-- a glove compartment-- and actually describes it. Its contents, its feel, the memories it evokes. It's interesting, it's non-rhyming and it shows me something rather than tells it. Let's look at one more, this one from a song called What Sarah Said:

"And it came to me then that every plan is a tiny prayer to father time/As I stared at my shoes in the ICU that reeked of piss and 409/And I rationed my breaths as I said to myself that I'd already taken too much today/As each descending peak on the LCD took you a little farther away from me/Away from me."

Again, here, Gibbard takes care to paint a picture rather than simply saying that he's in the hospital waiting for his friend to die- he's painting the scene- the sites, the smells, the sounds, the mood. This is much more effective, entertaining and thought provoking than simply telling me what's happening. That's a value I appreciate in my poets.

I've only recently been exposed to a lot of poets who are not songwriters. Some of my favorites are Sylvia Plath and Ezra Pound (not to mention innumerable beat and slam poets). I really like how they grab the reader and put them in the image that they are describing. On the other hand, I have tons of respect for Shakespeare, Byron and Poe, but, I don't particularly enjoy their poems. They seem too formal and strict for my taste. I feel there's very little freedom in their work.

This brings me to my values as a poet and as an appreciator of poetry. My early works generally rhymed and reflected the Christian faith in my life, which was especially strong to me when I was younger. Most of my earlier poetry (I have been writing songs and poems since I was 6 or 7 years old) was very straight forward, very rhymy and sing songy and very rhythmic. In the last few years, as I've experienced more pain and heartache and more real life, my poems have taken on a much rawer edge. They’ve taken more of a free feel, more of a feel of chaos. In my more recent work, I've taken the time to tell a story or a paint a picture rather than simply tell the reader/listener what's on my mind. I want the reader to engage in my poems. Relate to my poems. Feel, hear, taste, touch and smell my poems. I want my readers to hate what I hate, love what I love and see what I see, but also feel free to form opinions of their own, even if they contradict my own. I've included some poems on my HUBS that are simple human observations (“The Mouth” is a poem about a girl I saw laughing.), some earlier works that are more evangelistic or story telling ( “Lost”), some that deal with the pain of rejection and divorce (“She Always Was a deep Sleeper”, “Can't Pin These Wings”) etc. I don’t do a lot of edits because I want the poems to reflect my mood and emotions at the time they were written and I want to show my development as a poet in the truest sense. I know that some of these poems aren't particularly good-- but could be with some work-- and some that I think are very good and need very little improvements. I hope that you enjoy them and can offer some advice on some of them.

I included poems that mean something to me- whether it's the subject matter or the quality (often both) or the nostalgia of them. Every poem I publish here is good for different reasons, but they can probably all be improved. I look forward to improving upon them as I grow as a person and a poet.

I've been experimenting with more free verse of late, but I'm still trying to keep the rhyming skills going. Rhyming is an important skill for any poet to have, even if he doesn't use it. The job of the poet is to find the best form for the particular story or poem that the poet is trying to tell. If the poem calls for a rhyme, then rhyme. If it calls for strict meter, then use it. If it calls for fancy language, use it. Let the poem write itself. Let the poem and live and breathe on the page and out of your mouth. Poets are wordsmiths. They are artists who use the medium of language instead of oils or clays or acrylics or stones. I have respect for anyone that uses the written word to exorcise demons, to tell a story, to show something as long as I feel that the writer has thought about each and every word, punctuation mark and line break. Any art worth doing is worth doing well.

Poetry is a way to escape. A way to heal. A way to share. A way to love. A way to hate. Poetry encompasses all emotions and senses and is a beautiful art form that I grow more appreciative of each day.





copyright Justin W Price 2011

Thanks for reading.

A FREELANCE WRITER, HONORS STUDENT AND GOVER PRIZE FINALIST, JUSTIN W. PRICE (AKA, PDXKARAOKEGUY)IS A POET, SHORT STORY, BIOGRAPHY AND HUMOR WRITER. HIS POETRY COLLECTION,DIGGING TO CHINA, WAS RELEASED FEBRUARY 2ND, 2013 BY SWEATSHOPPE PUBLICATIONS AND IS AVAILABLE ON AMAZON.COM, BARNES AND NOBLE AND THROUGH YOUR LOCAL BOOKSELLER.

HIS WORK IS ALSO FEATURED INBEST NEW FICTION (2014 EDITION), AND HAS APPEARED PREVIOUSLY INTHE RUSTY NAIL, EFICTION, THE CRISIS CHRONICLES, THE HELLROARING REVIEW, BURNINGWORD, SEE SPOT RUN AND THE BELLWETHER REVIEW. HE PREVIOUSLY SERVED AS MANAGING EDITOR OFEPOETRY MAGAZINEAND THE BRIDGEONLINE NEWSPAPER.

HE WORKS in the internet/fleet sales department for Carr Chevrolet in Beaverton, Oregon. HE ALSO WORKS AS FREELANCE WRITER, EDITOR, AND GHOSTWRITER, AND IS WORKING TOWARDS HIS PH.D. HE LIVES IN A SUBURB OF PORTLAND, OREGON WITH HIS WIFE, ANDREA, THEIR LABRADOODLE, BELLA, AND A NAMED SHPOO, SAUVEE.

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Comments 26 comments

PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

PDXKaraokeGuy 4 years ago from Portland, Oregon Author

Thanks Alek. I'm pleased that you enjoyed this!


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PDXKaraokeGuy 4 years ago from Portland, Oregon Author

Thanks Vellur. I'm glad you enjoyed this


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PDXKaraokeGuy 4 years ago from Portland, Oregon Author

Kelley, congrats to your son. Was it a slam reading, or just a basic reading? Very exciting!


PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

PDXKaraokeGuy 4 years ago from Portland, Oregon Author

Terrific dave! Don't waste that in my comments, publish that in a hub :")


PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

PDXKaraokeGuy 4 years ago from Portland, Oregon Author

Kris... thanks for the book suggestion. i do like Dylan as well, but, sometimes, he's overly political, and I find that grating.


PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

PDXKaraokeGuy 4 years ago from Portland, Oregon Author

Thansk Victoria, and I hope this help. My two pet oeeves in writing-- especially poetry-- are when the writer tells me something, rather than showing me, and when they use abstract terms like "Love" or "hate" These words are meaningless because they can interpreted differently by different people.


alekhouse profile image

alekhouse 4 years ago from Louisville, Kentucky

Nice hub. Really enjoyed your take on poetry.and the examples you gave.


Vellur profile image

Vellur 4 years ago from Dubai

Enjoyed reading and learned something new. The way you have presented this piece is unique and interesting. Poetry is a great way to a world of imagination,fantasy, dreams fulfilled and a beautiful expression to love - rhyming or not. Voted up.


kelleyward 4 years ago

Really enjoyed reading this PDXKaraokeGuy! You have a way with words. It's hard to describe poetry but I think you did a nice job describing it here! My oldest son just won first place in his first poetry reading tonight. I'm thankful to be at Hubpages so I can learn more from the poets here. Voted up. Take care, Kelley


davenmidtown profile image

davenmidtown 4 years ago from Sacramento, California

PDXKaraokeGuy:

Soft, sharp like broken pieces of velvet

lying in winters snow

bleeding out the rich, exotic

against a plain white canvas

like darker skin lying next to me.


KrisL profile image

KrisL 4 years ago from S. Florida

Fun essay . . . I like Ben Gibbard's lyrics, especially the second example. Bob Dylan is another singer songwriter who is something of a poet.

If you want to experiment with more poetic forms, and learn how to write better poetry, rhyming in particular, I recommend an old book Poetic Meter and Poetic Form, which is easy to find cheap on-line.

Check it out.


Victoria Lynn profile image

Victoria Lynn 4 years ago from Arkansas, USA

Awesome hub, PDX. The writing is very poetic. You did so well! I agree that a poem writes itself as far as what rhythm it will take, whether or not it will rhyme. I liked the examples you gave of showing a reader something, not just telling. I am trying to work on that. That's a great way to write. Again, great hub. Every vote but funny. I really enjoyed reading every word. Shared, on FB and Twitter, too.


PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

PDXKaraokeGuy 4 years ago from Portland, Oregon Author

Vincent, thanks for the admiration and I'm pleased that you enjoyed this HUB. It was fun to put together so it's nice to have it shown some HUBLove.


Vincent Moore 4 years ago

I love your chosen title "The Art and the Madness". I agree with most of your content and enjoyed reading it. Poetry is a mixing of ones soul, heart, convictions that stimulate ones senses to scribe in detail at times what is moving us.

I have written in all kinds of mental disaray, my madness allows me to spill my gut. My wine opens my spirit and let's it flow from my Muse through my physical being. I am moved often to scribe into the lateness of night, when shadows abound and the flicker from my burning wax gives that dim glow of hope for what I may lay down.

Yes truly Poetry is an art form and some of us are mad enough to continue on our quest, our journey. I admire your talent, voted Up awesome and most interesting.


PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

PDXKaraokeGuy 5 years ago from Portland, Oregon Author

Jham, thanks so much. Your hubs are great too! Nice raw talent


jhamann profile image

jhamann 5 years ago from Reno NV

PDX-I love this hub and poetry and I am glad to have found you.


PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

PDXKaraokeGuy 5 years ago from Portland, Oregon Author

Vinaya, thanks for reading.

I'm glad you discovered your gift and are now able to share your poetry with us all. Like music, poetry has a very broad definition. But, also like music, it takes skill and practice to do it well. That's what's so maddening about it!


Vinaya Ghimire profile image

Vinaya Ghimire 5 years ago from Nepal

I did not know my diary entries were poetry until a prominent poet accidentally found my journal and touted me to publish my compositions. I began reading poetry only after my poems were published.

I just loved the last paragraph and more precisely "Poetry is a way to escape." Great hub.


PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

PDXKaraokeGuy 5 years ago from Portland, Oregon Author

Thanks for stopping by and sharing Epi. I appreciate your comments as always


epigramman profile image

epigramman 5 years ago

....really do love this hub subject .... in fact I am simply mad for it - and Death cab for cutie came from a song by THE BONZO DOG BAND ... in the 60's ...... I will post this most amazing hub and world class effort by you to all of my mad rabid friends on FACEBOOK with a direct link back here --- and by the way where is Alfred E. Newman ????? lol lol

lake erie time ontario canada 2:23pm


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PDXKaraokeGuy 5 years ago from Portland, Oregon Author

Thanks, JadedLove


JadedLove 5 years ago

Awesome and up. Good piece of knowledge. Voted way up


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PDXKaraokeGuy 5 years ago from Portland, Oregon Author

Thanks for stopping by, Cat. I'm glad u found this useful!


catspirit profile image

catspirit 5 years ago

I loved this hub. It not only engaged the creativity of the writer but provided useful information as well. Rated up!


PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

PDXKaraokeGuy 5 years ago from Portland, Oregon Author

Thank u for stopping by Ray. Those are good traits in a poet


raycamper profile image

raycamper 5 years ago from North Minneapolis, MN

I value raw truth and the ability to express oneself artistically yet in plain language, and I suppose I value these attributes because that's the way in which I attempt to write poetry myself.

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    Justin W. Price (PDXKaraokeGuy)742 Followers
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    Justin W. Price, AKA PDXKaraokeGuy, is a freelance writer, blogger, and award- nominated author based out of Portland, Oregon.



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