Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Poetry You Should Be Reading Number 1 Of 1

Apathy Jack writes:

Righto, based on Olthwaite’s post here, and the fact that it’s too rainy to leave the house, a digression on poetry, plus a list of what you should be reading.

The thing about poetry is, of course, that the vast majority of it is total arse.

Litterick raises the point in the comments of Eric’s post that poetry gets a bad rap because, to paraphrase, we all wrote bad examples of it when we were young and crap. Sadly, I have to disagree – I have never written a line of poetry in my life. I simply never got the point. If you wanted to write about something, I didn’t see why you needed to do so in iambic pentameter.

Now, I sort of get it. There’s a really good line in Even Cowgirls Get The Blues, which I’ll have to paraphrase, because my copy is currently in the possession of an ex-student, where Tom Robbins says that sometimes to say something properly, you have to fuck about with grammar to get your point across. Some things are better said outside the conventions of proper growed-up writing.

Not, of course, that that’s the only reason: Stephen Fry, in The Ode Less Traveled, states (and again I’m paraphrasing, for the same reason as last time) that saying something in a poem, while not being intrinsically better than saying something in prose, is more worthwhile, because it takes greater effort, therefore showing greater craftsmanship and, by extension, thought.

Hell, there are plenty of reasons to write poetry, and only one reason not to: the fact that it’s mostly awful. I make a point of teaching as much poetry as I can, but there are only about three poets whose work I’ve actually spent money on.

So where should you go for good poetry? Well...

Emily Dickinson. She is possibly the only “classic” poet who I can stomach for more than a few stanzas at a time. Her stuff is short, emotive, and powerful.

Roger McGough. I’ve mentioned McGough’s autobiography as being worth a read, and a heartily recommend his poetry – I use a bunch to show my Year 9s how one can play with words.

Glen Colquhoun. New Zealand’s most successful poet (in terms of book sales, at any rate; certainly the only one whose books you’ll see at every bookshop in the CBD). Here’s an interview where he talks a lot of sense about making poetry accessible to the reader. Colquhoun’s book An Explanation Of Poetry To My Father forms a decent sized chunk of my Year 9 poetry unit.

Taylor Mali. I love this guy, and have embedded one of his readings here. For those who want more, here is another, which I love.

Shane Koyczan
, as recommended by Arna in the comments of the previous post. Although I haven’t been exposed to a great deal of his work, anyone who can visibly move Brain Stab’s resident soulless monster RSJS is worth checking out.

Henry Rollins. Sure, you don’t want anything to do with Rollin’s unless you’re in a bad mood (or would like to be) but it’s very powerful stuff. One of the pieces from Eye Scream was used by a colleague of mine alongside Sylvia Plath in a Year 12 poetry unit about madness and paranoia.

And you know, that’s actually about it. Sure, they’re not the only poets I like, but they’re the only one’s I consistently like.

So, The Internet, I’ve got a few more days of holiday: what poetry to you think I should be reading?


Eric Olthwaite said...

"what poetry to you think I should be reading?"

Sam Hunt, Keats, Shelley.

I've never read them, they are just three poets that I know.

Apathy Jack said...

Sam Hunt is arse, as is Keats. Shelly, though, wrote one of my favourite poems of all time: this one.

Eric Olthwaite said...

Shelly is brilliant, I don't know how to describe it, it's like prose, and it flows effortlessly, you don't notice he's using the return key.

I like a bit of World War 1 poetry as well. I think I used this one...


...earlier this year for Anzac Day.

This one is excellent as well, he's the meter (is that correct) right so it reads like a horse galloping.


Josh said...

I don't know my Keats from my Yeats, but I do like the "treading on my dreams" one from Yeats, and not just because it features in Equilibrium, Christian Bale's finest hour.

Anonymous said...

I must say I have a weird thing for The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock by T.S. Eliot. Love it. Great lines that stay in your brain. I approve of this. Arna.

Paul said...

Let us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherized upon a table;