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Ficters Challenge 6
Chief Chesty Forlock
Picture of Argeaux
posted December 04, 2001 06:44 AM


OK, this time it's another non-poetic challenge for us. I'll do one involving poems next time, I promise.

What you have to do is to explain to the rest of us what poetry is, to you.

How do you know something is a poem?

What's the difference between a poem and any other piece of literary writing?

Sara and I thought it would be interesting to find out, so have at it!




I move toward each word
like a hungry man to fresh-baked bread.
My heart beats faster.

Some new thing
will be fashioned in my heart,
and sent fluttering on the wind.

Part of me knows the cost
like growing a new body part
and slicing it off at the root.

This thing I do
though it must be given,
rewards me more than you.

So I write it down,
careful to rend every drop of inspiration
'till I'm empty.


Fellow Ficters-
I thought I could best explain my experience writing poetry with a poem.

To answer the question about how do I know something is a poem, the exhileration when something is done, and I think it works, is just incredible. I just know it sometimes. It's like a complete feeling, even though I feel empty too. And I am just so excited to find out what others think of it.

The difference between a poem and all other writing for me is that you are trying to describe a state of the heart. It's personal, yet universal, that is, others should be able to relate to it as well. It usually captures a moment in time (which is really where the heart lives anyway) so it should feel timeless and in the present moment. That's all I can think of right now. This is a great topic. I hope we will discuss this more.



Wow, what is poetry to me? I don't know. Poetry is something that comes from the heart and the soul or somewhere between. Where a story is something that comes from the mind, normally to help people escape from the real world to others. Poetry does that too, but there is something more, something undefined to writing poetry.

I never used to write poetry. I always thought poetry had to rhyme. Then I started reading E.E. Cummings poetry. It was unbelievable. Just words and part of words all over the place. I still couldn't get passed the poetry taught in school until a few months ago.
Actually, "The Silent Walk" post of mine a while back was my first step into the poetry world.

I don't think anyone every really knows something is a poem. It's all interpretation. Format does have something to do with it, but if you look past that then it's up to the reader, or the writer.



To me poetry is liquid thought, distilled emotion, concentrated feeling.

In a poem you can express ideas that would take pages of prose.

Even epic poems, like The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, can speak volumes in just one stanza:

Water, water, every where,
And all the boards did shrink:
Water, water, every where,
Nor any drop to drink.

What a dire description of being adrift on the sea, in just four lines!

With a poem you can sketch a picture, leaving enough holes so that someone else can read their story in it.

I love the stuff. [Smile]


The Xenatizer

Well, there's a short and universal answer, which for me would be:
Written music

Even when I only think about the nuts & bolts of the matter - when does something turn from prose into a poem? - I feel something turning from a 'sensible' noise into a song.

Let's tackle a 'grey' area, for a moment.
Prose or poetry?

Before I fell asleep, I looked up one more time. The evening wind caught the windmill's tired wings, nudging them into a last, gently creaking sigh, and I couldn't help thinking if I'd ever wake again..., once fallen into slumber.

Not easy for me to decide that one. I'd call it prose with the occasional 'swing' to it. It lacks poetic 'form'. It's rhythm is much less tied to a beat of similar importance to the contents. I like prose with a poetic 'sound', but it's not what carries the message. I sometimes use poetic tools within a sentence, but on the whole, the rhythm of a storyteller isn't the rhythm of a poet.

Now, the same image again:

This day's last red and golden breath
entagled in a windmill's tired wings
like gently touching fingers
Come, whisper to me tales of death
what blackest future brings
for everyone who lingers

Ah! It rhymes! Must be poetry, then. [Wink]

No, but seriously - apart from it being a rather shitty poem, it tells quite good what makes it different from the prose above.
Forget the rhymes and other tell-tale signs for a moment. Just try and read it like a story.
It doesn't work. One gets caught by an undercurrent - its sound and rhythm - which, at best, pushes the pure contents of the words beyond their capabilities to make you FEEL what's there.

So, poetry is ALWAYS in danger of falling too much in love with its own music and loose grip on the contents. In a good poem, tho, it's impossible to dissect one from the other.

And prose is ALWAYS in danger of loosing its music, because music is not its main purpose - but a more quietly beating heart behind a story.


Another intriguing factor seems to be time.
It's handled differently - if at all - in poetry. In prose, a false or uneven timescale for a scene can sometimes make it fall apart faster than an ill-chosen word could do.

In poetry, time mostly comes to a stand-still - even if time itself is the subject. It hasn't got a 'what-happens-next' factor. Where time is a crucial dynamic factor for the movement of a story, in poetry, one has much more freedom to freeze it and use all the time in the world to shed light on the subject from evry conceivable angle, without it slipping through your fingers.
A poem often stakes stock.
A story often feeds on uncertainties waiting at the next corner.

Exeptions to such a vague 'rule' are of course easy to find (ballads, for starters), but as a general tendency one could describe a poem as a dragonfly in amber, and a story as one in flight.
Once the dragonfly is caught, you have to live wit its beauty as it is, as well as its imperfections, but you can also see what you could never have seen if it just flew by.

The Xenatizer


Opera Xena

Usually when something seems to come from a very spiritual and perfect place inside of me--especially since nothing about me is perfect--that's when I know it's poetry. Poetry to me is like a muse living inside you...a deity. I'm able to say things I normally would never be able to put into words when this comes over me.
It's like God speaking through me. [Smile]

I know something is a poem when I can sense that same muse in what I'm reading. It's like another world. There's poetry in life too, poetry everywhere.

What differentiates poetry from anything else to me is when there's a business letter type feel to whatever else I'm reading, and that isn't poetry. It's contrived and fake, and it sends a message of conformity and predjudice; like for example, something written that says that certain people are not "God-like" merely because they're gay or black or whatever. Poetry is unity to me, solidarity. When people of all different backgrounds can get together for a common cause, that is poetry too. We're all on a plane that always was and always will be.


The Xenatizer

Oh, and yes..., a poem's something beyond all technicalities.
But poetry can also live outside a poem.

Poetry's the last grain of essence amongst the old and ever newly sickening and killing dance of flags, gods, beliefs, animosities, hates, honour, strength, power, fear ... and pride of whatever fuels our pretense.
Poetry's the last drop of blood which fuels a storyteller's bowl when all have ceased to fill it with food and appreciation.
Poetry's the last to die before we die - before the last silver coin stops spinning above our amazed child-like eyes and drops into the hand of the last bard to save our pains and hopes from falling to the jaws of predicted necessities.

Poetry's the last hand to cradle our heads, yet nudge our fearful senses. It makes us feel what we betrayed to ease the load of our own making.

Poetry - renegade and lover of our hearts.

The Xenatizer

The flower that grows in adversity is the most beautiful of all.
Lao Tse (or Lao Ma)



Argy! Interesting question.... but i'm afraid my response isn't going to be the same.

i guess it means this to me, simply put: i have a hard time with punctuation. i used to write in block paragraphs. a poem is being able to say something without having to worry -- as MUCH -- about all those paragraphs, commas, periods and such. i can also write in metaphors and analogies and vague phrases that allow the reader to think more about what it means to me AND them. and its SHORT! [Big Grin] that's when something is a poem.

technically? i don't know. poetry is that deep stuff in meter and ryhmes that makes me feel incredibly stupid when i read it.




Oh wow...

Okay, there is NO possible way I could follow up such elegance from everyone about what poetry means to them. They said it so much better than I possibly could. I think the one explanation I really agreed with was the Xenatizer's...I really do see poetry as "written music." To me, my poems have always been a key to my see what's going on inside of it, going on inside of me... While my music has always been a key to my soul...and when you add on the fact that some of my poems are the lyrics to my songs, you've got the key to my heart and soul.

For a long time, I used to write my poetry with "rules"... 4 lines per stanza, always having to rhyme in some form or another. That was how I thought poems were supposed to be. And it showed in my poetry -- nothing was from the heart, it just looked like something I was doing just for the heck of it. It was only when I started to break free of those rules that my heart started to show, that there started to be some depth to it.

So in a LOT of ways, I actually agree with mons... poetry allows you to break those rules that have been set up for you in all other forms of writing. You don't have to worry about that stuff, you can just write from your heart, and hope you end up getting across what you wanted to say.

Poetry is beautiful to me. I love it...and I love seeing just how different every poet can make it..




Heh, I figured since my name was in the Challenge and all, I should reply, but being late, I find that most everyone has said what I think poetry is in one way or another.

Although I will say this...I rhyme, I'm a rhymer, that's how my poetry has always been and prolly will always be. I'm not one for long, drawn out poems (though I've read some REALLY good long ones), I tend to be simple, to the point, with a measured meter and simple rhyme and I find that more often than not, how I feel, the depth of it is pretty accurately described so that others can get a glimpse into the maelstrom that is my heart and soul. So what makes a poem a poem to me? You. As in the poet, when you write prose, you put a bit of yourself in the poetry, you put a lot more. Even if it's about a subject not dealing with you, it IS. Because we're seeing it through your eyes. We're seeing YOUR vision and version of how things are. I dunno, s'why I like writing poetry more than prose. I put more of me out there for everyone to see. With a story, I hide behind my characters, only putting little hints of myself in them. So there you have it, what makes poetry least to me. But then again, what the hell do I know? [Wink]

~ Sara


Minion of Callisto

Poetry is for me basically a shout. It might be a cry or a whisper on occasion, but clearly something that vents a feeling, an urge, an inner explosion. There are enough historical poems who do not, whivh were written just for intellectual gaming or fun (I didn't say limerick! *g*), but to me they fall into a different class.

The high art of poetry for me involves not necessarily either publication nor that it can be understood in toto by anyone else. What it does involve, though, is a personal attachment to the poem. E.g. I'm not at all feeling like writing about a sheep in upper Spain right now. Adverse to feeling a growing urge to vent something that might - become a picture of a battlefield. [Mad]

That also should make clear that there is a certain distinction between reading and writing poetry. First, the former can be kind of obligation-free, you might've been forced to it (in school i.e.), you needn't to care. The letter involves... giving a piece of your heart and soul every time. IF you try to produce something really classy. And it usually doesn't work on command. Inspiration is the key. [Smile]

Sorry, that may sound like a madman's stutter, but it's really tough to put that into words. Xenatizer's depiction was already pretty close, but I missed something.
Now if we compare poetry to music - hey, why not make a survey and assign each of our resident poets a music style. I volunteer for Hard Rock!

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