Sunday, August 23, 2009

A little rant about poetry and writing

Back when I was putting all my writings on Elfwood, I used to comment about the "poetry" on that website and the lack of any sort of quality put into it. That was ten years ago and I'm older now, but I don't think my opinion has changed one bit.

I'm reminded about this from listening to last week's Prairie Home Companion, a clip show dedicated to poetry. There is a rhythm and a pattern to poetry. Sometimes it rhymes, and nine times out of ten it should have some sort of sound that appeals to the senses. Even prose has a flow that readers find appealing. It's OK to free verse, to stream of consciousness, but there must be an actual reason that has very little to do with laziness. And as a teacher now, I have spent years tuning my radar to laziness.

What does this mean? Go to the major creative websites these days: Elfwood, FictionPress, DeviantArt. The poetry there sucks. It SUCKS. It totally, absolutely...SUCKS.

If you're the writer, your response will typically be, "If you don't like it, don't read it." How selfish and petty of you, I say. You think I read your writings to stroke your ego and make you feel important? Don't flatter yourself. Quite frankly, you are here for my entertainment and the entertainment of others. If you waste my time, you will hear from me. Rowling got it, which is why, despite Harry Potter being elevated to quasi-able-to-be-used-in-AP-English-Literature-essays, the author made a TON of money off of the series and garnered a ****load of accolades the world over. Controversial and dark or otherwise, Harry Potter got the audience's attention and kept it these past few years.

Here's my point: if you can't do that, if you can't get my attention or anyone else's attention and keep it, you don't deserve to be called a writer.

You are writing for us. You are not writing for yourself. The creation of literature, amateur or professional or epic, is not about you. I don't begrudge anyone's talent for self-expression (or else I wouldn't be blogging away), don't get me wrong, but self-expression that sees the light of day must always be subject to how it is received by others. If you think otherwise, shove all of your writings into your drawer and lock them away. Please don't upload them onto the Internet and invite my criticism or others.

But if you are brave enough to have your works judged and to accept the collective judgment of all of your readers, then by all means, write away.

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