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Poetry is a Very Special Art

Updated on October 25, 2011

Some great poetry has been written in a prison cell

Poetry help novice writers compose

It seems as if more and more hubbers are writing good poetry.

I had my day with the muse and finally published a small anthology which gave closure, as it were. Well, what do you do with the damn things when all the lovely girls who inspired the impassioned paeans of desire and loss are long forgotten; society apparently disregarded your imploring, bootless cries for justice; gods cared less whether you believed in them or not, and you found your philosophical insights had all inspired far better poets from the annals of history?

But there was nearly 200 of the darn things, all which had cost tears of blood to compose while the poet was trying to observe the classical strictures of métier and rhyme, while any aspiring pote with a modicum of sense was scribbling away in free verse, composing all sorts of utter garbage and winning book awards from chubby little lesbians in mannish bifocals with Camel un-filtered rasps.

And at least 10 of them were good. They were the ones that had the hairs still standing up on the back of the neck and moisture appearing in the corner of an eye when re-read after a long interval.

Although those days with the art are more or less over (it’s a young person’s game) poetry once meant a lot and got me through some tough times when TDC showed this resigned convict so much love, they insisted he stick around for a while. That’s where the humble compositions started and, indeed, the general writing skills were somewhat honed to see me becoming a journalist soon after release.

In fact, a good suggestion is that all beginning writers attempt to write verse. Poetry - good poetry - says things in the best way that those things can be said. Few can just run-off good poetry (as distinct from just verse or doggerel). They get an idea for a subject and then sweat over it, sometimes for hours or days, until it is the best it can be - to them. As this is what writers should be doing, too, poetry is a great mental exercise. When you write a lot, you know immediately whether a word will rhyme easily or at all, (try finding an exact rhyming word for “orange,” for example). Free verse will free you from the discipline of end word rhymes, (but not interior rhyme and cadence). All too many think that free verse just means putting a paragraph of prose into couplets or quatrains, etc…wrong! In fact, unless free verse comes naturally to the poem, best use end rhyme, although it can be old fashioned.

Poetry has done a whole lot for our culture and continues to do so. It has encapsulated much in history, including showcasing the changes in our language through the centuries. Satirical verse vividly carries the politics and pain of the people from earlier times. In all sorts of ways: food, clothing, song, nursery rhymes (some more than 1000 years old in English); the triumphs and foibles of kings and tycoons; interrelation between nations, and so much more of man’s social, economic and political history is contained in poetry from whatever era the poet was speaking. Not to mention the skill, patience and sheer art of the great bards such as Shakespeare (who surely DID write his own work), Milton, Tennyson, Byron, Keats, Frost, Poe, Whitman, (who better described the early days of Chicago better than Walt?) and all the rest, an exalted list of names never to be forgotten from the great written art they created.

Is there any better vehicle to express love or disdain? And this much more so in past ages which had few newspapers, no radio or TV. No wonder poetry was much more of a great art in the 16th through the 20th Centuries where it often replaced letters as a means of communication, Could we expect a Paradise Lost today, a collection like Leaves of Grass, or a Kubla Khan? Unlikely, and few would have the patience to read these epics in a sound-bite world. (although horny old Walt might garner a following).

To those interested in reading poetry, there can be no better time, as used book shops, boot sales (flea markets) and charity shops are loaded with anthologies or encyclopedias of works, from the greats to the exceptional minor poets. These large volumes, costing lots of money when new, can be had for pennies. (The Oxford books of verse are excellent and cover the whole gamut of styles and personalities).

Here’s a good way to start composing your own verse. Go through one of these books and find something you like, but disagree with, then write a rebuttal in the same discipline as the well-known poet. You will be amazed at the results (see Diogenes’ hub on this if you like, it’s in there somewhere).

You can find subject matter all around you: the weather (particularly good for venomous verse in the UK), (“O, the agony; the pain/Putting up with the Tories and rain!”), your mother-in-law (likewise); the dog or cat. Anything, really, but try to not be too prosaic, “The cat sat on the mat” rubbish, (although some kid’s poetry is exceptional, like the Owl and the Pussycat, for example). Stay away from slushy love poems unless they are just for you and your beloved (who will prefer a present probably). Some directed at personalities might be apt, especially the vacuous lot around today. I may do one on Simon Cowell, “Lord” Mandleson, or Alan Sugar, if throwing up can be avoided during the writing. (”We’d love to apply a rowel/To the pale fleshy buttocks of Cowell”).

Who are the best targets in the US these days.? One of the shortest and cleverest verses I ever saw, was when Nixon got re-elected in the ‘70’s. It spread on many car number plates “Nixon fuxon.” a classic.

Talking of short verse reminds of Haiku, a great discipline for beginning poets. Like one composed after mum died of cancer.

“A flower died/The world stood still/Until it became a star”

That sort of thing…

Good luck…




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    • Angelme566 profile image

      Angelme566 5 years ago

      This is an interesting ,well written hub..Poetries are like a delicious viand , it can satisfy ones mind ,heart and soul. I really love poetries , more so with the haiku.

      I love your last line..“A flower died/The world stood still/Until it became a star”

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 6 years ago from London, UK

      Thank you for this interesting hub. I love poetry but myself anything.

    • profile image

      diogenes 6 years ago

      Tillsontitan, Austinstar,snakeslane and jhamann. Thanks for your visit and constructive comments which I have read with pleasure...Bob

    • jhamann profile image

      Jamie Lee Hamann 6 years ago from Reno NV

      Diogenes-I have loved poetry since my youth and into adulthood. I realize that most of what you are saying is true. I started reading old and new verse in middle school, it was a mystery to me. What was this I was reading and why did it have a greater effect on my psyche than most novels I consumed. To this day it remains a mystery, even after reading volumnes of opinions on what it is. To a certain degree the poems I write are crap, but the process sticks with me forever and changes me. To me it is like almost all artistic endeavors, putting the peices together to try to create brings parts of our grey matter together. When grey matter unites evolution begins.

    • snakeslane profile image

      Verlie Burroughs 6 years ago from Canada

      Hello diogenes, I enjoyed your musungs on the art of poetry. I have never read so many poems in my life as I have here since joining Hub Pages. I see similar value here to the poetry workshops I attended while studying writing. If one is immersed in poetry there is oportunity to learn. If one's poetry is actually read and responded to, there is some satisfaction for doing the work. And the writing itself is good practise. Rarely would a poet get this much exposure in the past except for those in the inner circles of the most lauded and "praiseworthy". The eclectic mix of young and old, established and emerging, distinguished and bizarre poetry published here would not be heard otherwise. For me this is something to celebrate and enjoy.

    • Austinstar profile image

      Lela 6 years ago from Somewhere in the universe

      It's true. I have trouble reading the poetry other writers put down because it's so personal to the writer and rarely affects the reader. It's a great medium for self expression and it does teach you good writing skills.

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 6 years ago from New York

      Timely for me! I decided to join the fray and try my hand at poetry. I doubt my poetry will have any affect on our culture, or anyone else's but I think you're right,it's a good exercise for the mind of the writer. Voted up and useful.