Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Orem writes: Poetry panel

I can't believe I am just getting around to typing up my notes from the poetry panel last Thursday night. Life is busy busy right now.

I couldn't get anyone to attend the poetry panel with me last week. I couldn't believe it. At the panel, I was actually asked if I was attending for a high school assignment. And just so you know, I've gotten a lot more gracious about these high school comments. I simply responded that I enjoy poetry. I guess if I can't be seen as a successful adult, I can always go for being an intellectual teenager.

So on to my review. The two poets on the panel were John Talbot and Rob Carney. The entire time I was sitting there, the word juxtaposition kept flashing through my mind. It was like you could only understand each poet in contrast with the other. Almost like they had purposely tried to find the two most opposite poets around. Every question resulted in contradictory answers. 

Rob felt that poetry should be read aloud. John felt that by reading it aloud, you are creating another piece of art and that you lose much of the impact of the poetry. (He hates to have his poetry read aloud.) By reading poetry on the page, it helps you to see everything a writer does. He believes that the eye and the ear should work in concert.Rob responded to this that he likes to write his poetry in the way that it should be read out loud and works himself backward into oral tradition.

Rob would say the first thing that came to mind and work out his answer as he spoke. John was very methodical, almost timid.

Rob was dressed in all black. John was wearing a sweater vest.

Like I said, juxtaposition.

One of the first questions was, "Does anyone even read poetry any longer?"

It was decided that mainly students read poetry because they are assigned to. Rob pointed out that most adults turn to novels or nonfiction almost exclusively. He, however, said that he was heavily influenced by a collection of poems by Carl Sandburg that his mother had. I could relate to that. I was heavily influenced by Nero Wolfe novels my mom left sitting around the house.

John explained that it isn't just that people aren't reading poetry; people aren't reading much in general. He said that fewer people read today than in the past when literature was so much harder to obtain. He also pointed out that one reason poetry isn't as popular as other forms of writing is because it's easier to tolerate bad prose than it is to tolerate bad poetry. So perhaps there are just a lot of bad poets out there.

Rob pointed out that poetry is such a wonderful form of writing because it allows people to memorize it and carry it around with them. You can't memorize a novel, but you can memorize a poem and it can become a part of you.

John explained that there is a difficulty to poetry. He said that people tell him that skiing is fun, but he went one time, fell over, and concluded that skiing was not fun. He said that poetry is similar in that skill increases enjoyment. When you understand the difficulty of poetry, you appreciate what the writer was able to accomplish.

Both poets did agree on one thing: they each enjoy writing poetry because of the limitations. You are constrained by the shape so you must think of new ways to write what you want to express. John said, "I like limits and boundaries. None of this loosey goosey  hanging business!"

I'm a fan of constraints as well. Remember?

Recently I was reading Rework and I came across a passage that illustrates that point:

Writers use constraints to force creativity all the time. Shakespeare reveled in the limitations of sonnets (fourteen-line lyric poems in iambic pentameter with a specific rhyme scheme). Haiku and limericks also have strict rules that lead to creative results. Writers like Ernest Hemingway and Raymond Carver found that forcing themselves to use simple, clear language helped them deliver maximum impact.

I like that: maximum impact. I'd be ok if my writing achieved that. 

So write some poetry. Read some poetry. And if you get the chance, attend a poetry panel. It's some seriously good entertainment. (I actually had to leave a little early for quilt night. I have been double booking myself way too often lately. Too many hobbies, not enough time. There are definitely bigger problems in life.)

Anyway, tonight Dan Wells is speaking on the publication process. I've had quite a few people let me know how fabulous he is so my expectations are high. I'll have to let you know how that one goes as well. Or feel free to join me. I would seriously love it.


ynny said...

Wish I were there. We'd geek out TOGETHER!

Alisha Erin said...

I wish I could go with you. right. up. my. alley.

i loved this post.

Margaret said...

You should have taken Kim Johnson's class for poetry. She is brilliant. She said that it takes her about a day to write one line of poetry, and that is usually when she goes running. Check out this "Ode on my Belly Button" that was featured in BYU Magazine: