Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Two new poems out today. If you're interested, you can read them here. Also, later today, new post on this month's accessible, readable poet, Tony Hoagland.

Thursday, 28 November 2013

So What IS Poetry about?

My son recently completed the poetry section of his Year 10 (Grade 9 in the US) English course and as he described to me exactly what he was doing, I nearly recoiled in horror. My first thought was "Great, another generation of poetry-haters!" He wasn't in fact learning to enjoy poetry- he was learning to translate it. He was taking poetry by New Zealand war poets (a strange choice I thought for beginning students- a bit like playing Wagner for someone just getting into classical music- enough to scare them away forever!) and literally translating it line for line into "what the poet was trying to say."

Teaching poetry in this way is like teaching art or music appreciation by focusing only on what the artist or composer 'means' with each brushstroke or measure. Poetry is first and foremost an aural experience- or or related to the sense of hearing. How does the poem sound? Is it pleasurable to read aloud?

Like paintings or pieces of music there is also an emotional component that needs to be acknowledged- what is the tone of the poem, how does it make you feel? 

Poetry is also a medium that depends heavily on metaphor- this is something, but not exactly like that- and if the metaphors are working well, the reader can gain pleasure from the poem even if the overall meaning is obscure.

So the next time you read poetry (which I hope will be soon and often) don't immediately ponder what the poet is trying to say- read it aloud a few times, let it wash over you the way you might a piece of artwork or music, look for the images and metaphors- do they work? If the poem leaves you with some bit of wisdom or understanding you lacked before you read it, so much the better. Poetry though is about observation, asking you to see or feel things in a new way, much the way paintings or beautiful passages of music can be enjoyed without knowing the artist or composers meaning beneath the surface.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Here's a link to two poems published in the online journal VAYAVYA. Hopefully the poems aren't as hard to pronounce!

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Happy to report that my poem Diaspora has been published online at Big River Poetry Review. You can read it by clicking here.

The poem's been edited a bit since it was accepted for publication but this is a fair version. The newer version will appear in my upcoming collection, A Long Commute Home, due out (hopefully!) by February in both a print and e-version.

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Most Poetry in NOT Written in Code

Many of us believe that poetry is some sort of complex code and the job of the reader is to decipher what the poet is trying to say. Most poets DO NOT set out to write obscure poems designed to confuse the reader and keep him/her at a distance.

Many of us were taught in school to translate a poem line by line into our own vernacular as if we were translators instead of readers wanting to engage in the experience of poetry.

While there is certainly a spectrum of complexity among poets and poems, there is much poetry out there that is accessible even to the casual reader; poems whose premise is "easy to understand" but which celebrate the imagery, rhythms, syntax, and nuance that make poetry what it is.

My First Post!

Welcome to my blogsite!

This blogsite is for people who love poetry AND for those who enjoy words and the rhythms they create but have been conditioned to believe that poetry is too complex to "understand." What I hope to do here is to celebrate all things poetic, but to especially highlight poems and poets that are accessible, that break down the barriers that prevent poetry from enjoying a wider audience and assuming a greater role in our daily lives.