Poetry: The Art and the Madness
Title and Registration by Death Cab for Cutie
What Sarah Said By Death Cab for Cutie
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.
Links to my poems mentioned in this story:
- Can't Pin These Wings
i had a bird that flew away
- she always was a deep sleeper
a poem about rejection
- The Mouth
a short poem about laughter
- Lost by PDXKaraokeGuy
I started this poem in high school (turned it into a song of course) I've recently started messing with the form, simplifying and clarifying some of the language and now I'm fairly happy with this work. I hope you enjoy it. If you want to hear the so
death cab for cutie
The idea of poetry further explored
- Poetry- What is it?
poetry is a diverse art form, so, what constitutes "poetry"?
some of my poems
- Leaves Black
one of life's simple pleasures
- Even Though
is technology always an improvement?
- Last Train to Bellingham
A HUb about a ride on the train from Portland to Bellingham
- Up on Roofs
it's easy to hide our bad habits at night- but what does morning bring?
- Fun With Words
a poem where the poet was clearly just having fun with words!