Sunday, February 21, 2010

Poetry: Way more awesome than you remember

[Exfanded by Neko-chan]

If you have ever taken an English class, chances are at some point a teacher either subjected you to, or assaulted you with, poetry. Almost everyone has suffered through a Shakespeare sonnet, or been plagued with Frost’s “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.” The general consensus? No I shall NOT compare thee, and why the heck are we still standing outside this farmhouse?

Most people are turned off to poetry at an early age. They are exposed to the same few poems over and over again, and never get to experience the rich variety of forms, styles, and subjects that abound. Poetry is not the scary, boring, sissy monster we make it out to be. It is merely a way to use language creatively in order to layer meaning and image, on par with any other form of art. So never fear, loyal exfanders! This post will explore some of the basic types of poetry that are out there, and also highlight some writers who are outside the conventional box.

The Ode
This is the form favoured by people who want to argue with themselves. The first section is the strophe, in which you present one view of a situation, the second section is the antistrophe, in which you argue against what you have just stated. The conclusion is the epode, where you completely change your rhyme scheme and meter, and then solve your dilemma with a deus ex machina-style revelation. It is reserved mainly for serious subjects, such as questions of love, or whether to buy Star Trek on DVD or Blu-ray.

The Epic
This is when you tell a very long rambling story about some guy who is super-strong or super-smart who goes on crazy adventures, meets gods, gets waylaid by voluptuous women, and manages to hack apart millions of villains and supernatural beasties along the way. Comic books are merely a modern extension of this fine tradition.

The Haiku
Developed in Japan (as many awesome things are) this is a very short, unrhymed poem, mainly used to capture a thought or commemorate a special moment. Western haiku consist of 17 syllables, broken into three lines (following the pattern 5-7-5). Traditionally, haiku contain at least one word that relates to a season, although modern versions forgo this practice. What does this mean? It is the easiest poem to write. Ever. Write haiku on the fly for instant bonus points with the ladies.

The Sonnet
This form was created to make people learn the words iambic pentameter. It consists of 14 lines, each containing 10 syllables. Every other line must rhyme, except for the last two, which must be a couplet. I think long division is also required. This form also makes the poet sound intrinsically British.

The Limerick
This poem has the catchiest rhythm known to humankind. Once you hear a limerick, you will never forget how to write one. Limericks also have the distinction of being written entirely for comedy, often leaping over the societal boundary into bawdiness and downright lewdness. While they are almost as easy to compose as haiku, limericks will rarely earn you bonus points with the ladies.

Poetry Slam
A form of poetry meant to be performed. It is part oratory, part theatre, and part lyric. It often relies on clever turns-of-phrase and precise timing to enhance, and add emphasis to, the meaning of the base written word.

Poets who rock, and who you’ve probably never heard of:

Catullus – A lecherous and curmudgeonly 1st century Roman poet who wrote about love and friendship in a bitter, neurotic sort of way.

Why he rocks: He had a blue-collar sense of humor, and wasn’t afraid to tell things as they were, exploring life in all its grisly, non-p.c. detail. The ancient equivalent of Kevin Smith.

e. e. cummings – america’s favourite unconventional-wonderful p o e t
writingwordstogether, mispelling words, and grammar rearranging often prone to.

Why he rocks: During an era of formality and tradition, he made a career out of confusing people and intentionally abusing the English language… and won awards for it.

Mary Karr – A no-nonsense modern poet / author who utilizes the tools of her craft to tell truths about life and faith.

Why she rocks: Her poetry is raw, gritty, and realistic. She is against sugar-coating and obfuscation, instead using focused imagery like a precisely-timed hammer. Her poems are both haunting and all-too-familiar at the same time, such as this one.

Shopliftwindchimes – Better known as Rives, he is one of the premier slam poets of our era.

Why he rocks: He compared a girl to a vivid video game” in a love poem. He also wrote a hilarious poem about a hobo in a comic strip who finds true love because of pie. How much more Exfanding-worthy can you get?

To conclude, poetry is not the lame drivel you think it is. It is a rich, vibrant form of writing and art. It can be funny, coarse, dark, sassy, bitter, angry, and geeky. The key is to find a poet whose writing style and subject matter resonate with you.

What you can do:

- Take books of poetry out of the library. It’s not embarrassing, it’s cultured.
- Go to a poetry reading. Most cafes and libraries will host these. It is a great way to learn about up-and-coming artists, and to hear the inflections and true meaning intended by the author.
- Attend a poetry slam. Slam poetry can only be heard or experienced. It is the most lively and in-your-face style of poetry, and it can be highly controversial or issue-charged. If you still think poetry is as lame as Plant Man, prepare to have your socks knocked off.
- Write your own poems, covering the themes you want, in the style you want. An ode to Exfanding? A Batwoman limerick? An epic ballad of Goon vs Zombies? The possibilities are endless.

Animated Wood Man
Haiku for Wood Man
I see him waiting
Leaf shield spinning in the wind
A wooden robot?

(a fine example of poetree)

No comments: