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Saturday, October 10, 2009

Praising Bad Poets

Well, I don't, but many do – particularly online. On MySpace a man who would have trouble getting a job writing greeting-card verses is fawned over by dozens of online friends who make gushing comments about every one of his sentimental effusions with their poor spelling, atrocious rhymes and pathetic attempts at metre. And so he believes himself to be an excellent poet, and gives advice to others on ways to improve their work.

On facebook is a very nice, intelligent woman who has befriended me. She tagged me to read one of her poems. I refrained from comment. What could I have said? She's not like the man at MySpace. It's free verse, and she can spell. But if I had said anything, it might have been, "What a lot of words you know." (Meaning, "You've chucked every one of them in here.") And she's bright; she'd have got it immediately, and probably been offended.

In truth, I nearly jumped right in on first reading to congratulate her on being so funny. I thought it was hilarious on purpose, and brilliantly so. Then I read others' comments, and here were all these GOOD poets praising her wonderful, incisive language, her taut imagery, and so forth. They were serious. If she was having a joke with them, she was keeping awfully quiet about it. I re-read the piece and realised she probably didn't mean to be funny. Oh dear.

I think I should shout out, "The Emperor's got no clothes!" But I'm not as free or as game or as clear as that little boy. I am like the courtiers and the populace. Everyone else is saying how beautiful the new clothes are, and so I'm afraid to open my mouth for fear of looking like a fool. Besides, I like her as a person and I really don't want to upset her. So I say nothing, and hope she doesn't notice.

Her poetry is image piled on image with little in the way of context or connection. Well, OK, that's perhaps a valid way of making poems. It doesn't make a lot of sense to me – and maybe that's just me being dumb. But here's the clincher: say it aloud, it sounds horrible! There's no music at all; there's hideous dissonance, but not even intentional dissonance which can be interesting – it's just a complete lack of attention to that aspect of poetry. Ugh!

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