Tuesday, May 20, 2014

I am a Poetry Snob!

I am a poetry snob! There, I’ve said it. It’s out there. Let’s all just try to get past it.

When I was growing up, all the poetry I was exposed to had meter and rhyme. I enjoyed poems by Robert Service, Robert Frost, and Robert Browning. Those poets not named Robert included Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Edna St. Vincent Millay, and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. I also liked poets who had less than three names or weren’t named Robert.

I was inspired by “Intimations of Immortality” and “Gunga Din”. I bravely charged into the Valley of Death with the Light Brigade. I was chilled to the depths of my soul at the untimely death of “Annabel Lee”. I enjoyed the antics of “Little Orphant Annie” and “The Raggedy Man”. All of these had some measure of meter and rhyme.

I wasn’t introduced to free verse until I was a freshman at college. I was not impressed. Oh, I may have been briefly introduced to free verse in high school English class, but that was probably the day I was admiring LuAnn’s new miniskirt which would account for my not remembering. LuAnn was… well, perhaps we should leave LuAnn for another day and get back to the subject at hand.

To me free verse is not poetry. It is enhanced prose. Now don’t get me wrong. Some of it is beautifully written; full of angst, love, unrequited love, anarchy, and rage against “the man”, but by my narrow-minded definition, it is not poetry. I love reading the King James Translation of the Bible. Some of its passages are melodic and poignant, but I don’t consider it poetry—even though some of it actually is. To me poetry needs to have meter and rhyme.

Now to be fair, the writers of free verse probably think that what I write isn’t poetry either, it’s doggerel. They are probably right. My poems are not ‘high brow’ literature of critical significance. I would term my doggerel to be more blue-collar poetry. I write with the intent that common folk can read one of my poems and walk away with a smile, some insight, or a giggle. No statues will be raised to me and unless you are looking for it, there is probably no deeper meaning. What you see is often all you get, but that’s okay with me, if it is also okay with you.

Some of my poems do have layers of meaning, but I find that deep hidden truths are more often the perview of the reader than the writer. I once heard a story (probably apocryphal) of a college class which spent the entire quarter studying the deeper meaning of Dr. Seuss’ Green Eggs and Ham. I’m sure they found plenty. I know I could have contributed a few insights if I had been in that class. But the fact is that the publisher, Bennett Cerf, bet Ted Geisel that he could not write a book using only 50 words. Cerf lost and a classic children’s tale was born (one of my personal favorites).

My point is simple. If you are looking for deeper meaning in my poetry, explore away. It may have been intended, or not. If you came here looking for poetry, just be warned. I am a poetry snob! It will have meter and it will rhyme.

©2014 William L. SteenI wandered lonely as a cloud

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