Thursday, June 4, 2009

My poetics

My Own Style of Poetics
As I start this paper about my own poetics, I have to pause. I realize that I have no idea what my poetics is. I think this is because I am still finding myself as a poet. I like to experiment with different types of poetry, whether it be conceptual, procedural, or something else completely different. I think the best way to understand my own poetics is to define and explore what poetry means to me.
Poetry to me is what cannot be expressed any other way. I think that poetry is a method of art that uses words, sounds, rhythm, meter, space, light, dark, and ideas to express. The poet cannot express this in any other way. It is not that the poet has necessarily tried every other medium before he decided on poetry; it is an intrinsic feeling that a poem would suit the mood, idea or message that the poet is trying to convey.
The meaning of poetry has changed for me throughout the course of my life. I did not have an easy childhood: By the time I was eleven I had been abused every way possible and was suicidal; both my parents were drug addict alcoholics. As a result of this, I was raised by my grandparents for most of my life. And then, when I was 15, my father killed himself. Writing was one of the only things that kept me alive. I wrote “high school notebook poetry” about the crap I had gone through. During this period of my life, poetry was my savior. It was what helped me work through the pain.
Once I got into college, poetry became a craft, an art form. I was exposed to different kinds of poetry. Before college, I had no idea about language poets. I soon came to realize that there was a whole history of poetry that I was unaware of. During my high school years I was taught a few poets and I did some research on my own, but it was nothing compared to the number of poets I have read during my three years of college. This wealth of information about poetry has changed who I am as a poet and what I think about poetry.
Now, I think poetry is an art form that many do not understand. I think it is very similar to music and painting, but behind the times. People expect or accept that music and painting can be experimental and weird. But once you get into poetry, it’s oh no, you have to make sense. The average person thinks modern poetry synonymous with Hallmark cards. They can’t see words as objects that you can play and shape and transform into something intrinsic and interesting. Most people believe that if you can’t understand it, it’s not poetry.
This really hit home for me this year. I used to think that people who wanted to understand everything they read were just simple minded. Those who don’t like or dismiss poetry that is not supposed to make logical sense were just idiots. I sat all high and mighty on this pedestal until my husband turned out to be one of those so-called idiots. It happened one night as I was working on the chapbook for this class. My husband, it a fit of frustration and misunderstanding, said that he did not see what I did as good or even poetry. And I can say it really hurt. My husband’s lack of respect for what I had been working so hard toward and what I had been so proud of seriously offended me. After three hours of arguing and a multitude of tears, we came to a resolution. My husband realized how he had hurt me and explained that it was just that he didn’t understand my kind of poetry.
The experience with my husband showed me that most people are ignorant of the poetic movements in the last 50 years. When poetry is discussed in high school or elementary school, it is Shakespeare or Maya Angelo. It saddens me that people cannot or do not understand what can be done with poetry as an art form. I am not saying that all contemporary poetry or good poetry has no be gibberish that doesn’t make sense; I am saying that most people are closed-minded when it comes to poetry.
Another part of my own theory of poetics is what I think makes good poetry. I think that in order to make good poetry, the poet must have a good use of the English language. While this may seem obvious, some poets just have a knack for putting phrases or words together that catch the eye and the ear. I think that the poet should space, delivery, word choice, size of the poem, and the message when they are writing poetry. The poem must be interesting and exciting. What that means, I have no idea, but I know it when I see it; I know it when I hear it.
Also, I think the reading of poetry and the delivery are completely and utterly different experiences. During the course of the term, I read most of the poets assigned. A few caught my eye, but mostly it was hard for me to decipher what I felt about the poems I read. It felt like words on the page. It was just like every other textbook I had every read. You read it and move on. Upon hearing the poets, however, it became different for me. I was able to hear the rhythm and flow of the lines. The poems came to life (however cliché that may sound) in hearing them read. I was able to lift the fog of “I don’t know/don’t care what I feel about these poems” and I was able to have an actual opinion.
Ok, as I re-read this I realize that I do have an idea in what my poetics is. So I’m going to leave off here before I start rambling.
~Alysia Ferguson

1 comment:

  1. Alysia, thank you for this full, heartfelt, extremely thoughtful post.

    Your chapbook is wonderful. I'm very impressed by the work you've done this quarter. Please keep writing--and reading!