Nonsense Poetry: The Lear Omnibus edited by R.L. Megroz (p.973)
I am not a big poetry follower because I find it limiting. Call me long-winded, but I like exposition, flashback, dialogue and subplots in my fiction, and consecutive or overlapping arguments in my nonfiction. I realize poetry is efficient by design because it lacks traditional filler and transition devices which give fiction and nonfiction breadth, however just because poetry is stark doesn't mean the meaning is necessarily clear. Often, I find poets take license to write more ambiguously because they rely on this starkness.
This is not an absolute statement, because many types of poetry are exceedingly clear, which I enjoy reading. Take the limerick on page 975:
There was a young lady in Portugal,
Whose ideas were excessively nautical;
She climbed up a tree,
To examine the sea,
But declared she would never leave Portugal.
We can see the woman climbing the tree and smelling the sea salts, plus the poem has a lyrical quality. It's like song verse. Quick and punchy, but I have enough information to imagine a whole story.
And this one as well on 977:
There was an Old Person of Basing,
Whose presence of mind was amazing;
He purchased a steed,
Which he rode at full speed,
And escaped from the people of Basing.
The capitalization of "Old" and "Person" is intriguing, because it infers more than age. We can also infer that the people of Basing were chasing him out of town for his wits, which is a common occurrence in great thinkers. Again with the lyrical quality typical in limericks.
I also appreciate structured poetry more than open, or free verse poetry, because it's closer to its root. Poetry began as a mnemonic device to aid in the transmission of culture before the advent of the written word. So poetry is an ancient form of culture, which was created from a very practical need; the transmission of values and beliefs are facilitated if structured in a way that rolls off the tongue. So I respect poetry for its place in our literary heritage.
Since we have a myriad ways of communicating in modern times, poetry is no longer needed as a mnemonic device, therefore it takes on various forms. I am all for the expansion of the arts, however in my view the open form of poetry known as free verse is simply an early phase of brainstorming that most fiction and non-fiction writers do before they actually write.
I did a basic search for free verse poetry and quickly found one. I understand that free verse exists to allow the artist to be unfettered and "freer," and have the highest respect for a writer who wants to release or develop their inner voice, but there is a thin line between freedom of expression and relinquishment of editing.
Here is the poem as it appears, which is titled Friendship is a Rosebush, by Katherine Sessor.
Friendship is a rosebush that blooms beautiful
When nutured with love it grows stronger
Take away it's petals, they shall regrow
As a rosebush, it contains thorns
Needles that prick the unaware heart
Leaving a bleeding scar that needs to be healed
As a rosebush it will die
When kept out in the harsh winter
It will wither and fall
Friendship is a rosebush that blooms roses
Small blooms of love that is shared by all
But if not loved, they shall wither in the winter.
It is written well in that we know what is going on, despite the typos and grammatical errors. But the literary sin it commits is redundancy. We have one idea--that rosebushes and friendship both wither and die in winter (or neglect), which is a valuable life lesson. However, can we not trim the entire piece down to: "Friendship blooms like roses, shared until not, then withers?" This embodies my main critique of free verse; it is intended to be more pure, however it very often bypasses fundamental literary techniques which would facilitate potency!
Being structureless allows a stream-of-consciousness type of literary experience, however, from my experience in working with a lot of other writers--both fiction and nonfiction--I fail to see how free verse poetry is any purer or more meaningful than basic pre-writing and brainstorming exercises other writers perform.
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