Chocolate vs. Rampaging Bear

December 15, 2012 § 2 Comments

Les poètes des sonnets

Les poètes des sonnets

Free verse poets: unadorned, supernal, fearsome, stately

Free verse poets: unadorned, supernal, fearsome, stately

I read something that really made me stop to think: it said something like “I hate sonnets!”
(I write sonnets, by the way.)
I couldn’t understand for the life of me what could make these poems so odious. Alongside this declaration was included as corroborating evidence a quote by some guy named Carlos, who was presumably a really good poet forty years ago, who said something about cutting up crabs and putting them into a box. That’s what happens when you write sonnets, you see. Too structured. Too rigid.
Well, I thought about it, and I’m not so sure I agree. Poetry is not the sort of thing where only one method is right, or good, or capable of expressing a meaningful thought at a given place and time. Sonnets work for me. They just.. work.
I’ve written free verse before too; methinks I’ll do it again someday. Come to think of it, I wrote a free poem just this morning. Made up my own meter, it was 2-3-4-4-3 or something like that. (Hey wait.. if it has a regular meter is it still free?) Anyway, it doesn’t matter – I’ve posted non-rhyming poems on my blog a couple times at least.
The point is this. This is what it boils down to: peace, love and acceptance, homies. I’m all about reading some awesomely-written free verse, even if I’m not necessarily good at it myself. By the same token, though, I would hope that those poets who contend that free verse is the only way to prevent cutting the crab of our modern-day culture would take a chill pill and love on some rhymed iambic pentameter.
Sonnets aren’t bad. Peace to the poets.
PS. I almost forgot about the title. The title means precisely this: free verse can be like a rampaging bear in all its rawness and brute strength and unaffectedness. Structured poetry, though it can also be so, is more often like delicious chocolates. They’re made into a little boxy shape, true – but there’s variety, and there’s flavor, there’s melt-in-your-mouth goodness. What more do you need?
-Joshua Owens, 12/14/2012
image 1 credit: Darwin Bell via photopin cc
image 2 credit: wallyg via photopin cc
So what do you think? What sort of poetry do you prefer to read and/or write?


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§ 2 Responses to Chocolate vs. Rampaging Bear

  • LoveJoy says:

    I believe you found that quote on my blog and that I’ve been misunderstood! First let me start with the fact that I agree 100% with “peace, love and acceptance, homies.” I believe in the beauty of variety and I would never take that away from the world. I actually became quite fond of some iambic pentameter…once I discovered what it meant…

    Let me explain. I’ve been a poet for over 15 years but I never called myself one until a couple of years ago when I decided I wanted to get published. I did a few times but it wasn’t enough. I also wanted to educate myself, to be “respectable,” to know more. So I started reading about poetry, terms, trends and eventually took an online course (ModPo) which I’ve made many references to recently on my blog. I was nervous in the beginning of my self education. I felt like a fake, uneducated, unversed (pun intended) in “real” poetry. I couldn’t count meter properly and thought, ‘omg, real poetry is like math!’ (I’m not great at math.) Then I discovered that there was a term for what I do: free verse. I felt a bit more legitimate. Then during the course I discovered all kinds of poems that I loved, metered and free. Then a truly respectable poet shared the same sentiments that I had: to try and write a sonnet would be like cutting the legs off a crab- for me. And thus, I finally felt validated because if Williams Carlos Williams feels the way I do, then it’s alright.

    So it’s not because I harbor hard feelings for sonnets or their writers. I don’t. And I don’t dare claim that free verse is the only way. But for me to give my muse an external form would be to destroy it. I don’t work well with structure. That is my personal experience of the process. And I’m glad that this is true, not because I’m not good enough but because it’s not my style, it’s not many poets’ style and we’re all OK. But I’m still going to try to write a sonnet one day. Just to say I can. I’m going to cut those crabs legs off and call him beautiful because he’s mine. I say respect to all poetry.

  • neosonnetry says:

    I’m glad you happened upon this post, friend! I was going to send you the link but.. somehow.. didn’t.. get.. around to it.. yet. Call it Lazy Saturday Syndrome.

    Anyway, I very much value two things that I wanted to inform you of: 1) the ideas you expressed in your original post and all the thoughts they provoked in me and 2) your kind and in-depth comment.

    I definitely think you’re onto something when you point out that structure isn’t necessarily a good thing, nor is it even necessary. (Now that I hit on that topic, it makes me wonder, rhetorically, to what degree any “form” of poetry, including free verse, could truly be structureless? I mean, it still uses language, spelling, punctuation, indentation, all bastions of structure. Granted that they may be radically and drastically deviant from mainstream metered poems, but there’s still linguistic, grammatical, semantic structure going on underneath the freedom of rhyme and meter… isn’t there?)

    I have no doubt you’re a much better poet than me. Really this post was about exploring my own style and stance on poetry, and not about attacking or even counter-attacking any ideas. I took this approach for a few reasons, not the least of which was the fact that the tone of your post wasn’t hostile to begin with but excellently-written and thought-provoking. I’m glad I read it because it got my mental processes going. I’ve been experimenting with sonnets not because they’re imperative or superior to other forms, but because I just randomly took a fancy to them. I like them. But I definitely see the value in other forms too, like yours about euonia (did I spell that right?), and lately I’ve come across loads of other poets’ good free verse material since I started this blog last month. Curiously, the initial bewilderment that melted into calm meditation about my approach to poetry resulted in my own feeling of validation, the knowledge that sonnets really do work for me and I like them and that’s okay. I have you to think for that!

    I can totally relate to what you were saying about feeling “authentic”. I mean, in the end, who’s got the right to classify another person’s creative output as “genuine” or “worthy” poetry in the first place? But that’s how it goes, a few poets get recognized (through a process that seems to involve blind luck as much as any other factor), and the rest are ignored. C’est la vie de la poésie. Mais bon, pas de soucis, escribo por mi mismo y no por otros. Although truth be told there’s a sizeable chunk of my material that I haven’t (and probably won’t) post on this blog for concern of alienating or offending those I care about, despite the fact that those are precisely the pieces that are most representative of myself. Well, of certain facets anyway. Poems don’t come out of a vacuum, after all – they’re connected to a name, a face, an individual, somewhere.

    All of this rambling probably had a point, but instead of searching further for it I’ll get back to my second feedback, which was that I really appreciate your comment. It was beautiful how you said that it would be “like cutting the legs off a crab – for me.” I can see how you would feel that way. For me, the experience of sonnet-writing is very different: It’s like picking clothes from an enormous closet with all kinds of variegated, jumbled up garments and making stylish outfits out of them. Or again, it’s like running a race and remaining in one’s lane throughout. As Robert Frost might put it, it’s playing tennis with a net. But even that smacks of condescension, so I won’t necessarily subscribe to it because I have a great and consistently growing respect for free verse.

    You see, your 15 years as a poet have given you considerable perspective, whereas mine – being a greenhorn of sorts (though I may have been born a poet, I didn’t discover this fact and start writing until about 5 years ago, and that only intermittently until the past year or so) – whereas my perspective is still pretty limited.

    In the meantime, know that the words of my post were soaked in placidity and benevolence (and forgive me if it came off differently somehow; I’ve been told I can be a bit blunt), and I’m very appreciative and fortunate for having encountered your poem as well as your perspective.

    So again, peace!

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