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comment by rd95
rd95  ·  316 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  parent  ·  post: Why I think the tech interview process is broken – Medium

I dunno. Seeing as how poetry is an art form that people can use to explore themselves and the world around them, from the absurd to the surreal to the very real and very serious to the wonderful to the painful, it brings out an analytical side in people. Seeing as how it's often a very different way of analyzing the world around you compared to relying on hard data and numbers, I can see how it could encourage people to be more versatile.

That said, if you think poetry is all about the egos of the writers, you must be reading some really shitty poetry. I haven't dabbled in it for over a decade, as I've just moved on to other things, but seeing as how it's an art form that had existed for millenia and has been an integral part of almost every culture with a written language, the sheer variety of work out there is mindblowing, and the depths and breadths of the subjects and concepts mankind has touched upon through poetry even moreso.

kleinbl00  ·  315 days ago  ·  link  ·  

My primary beef with poetry is that it's the most self-referential of all writing forms. Practitioners of poetry judge it by a different set of standards than avid readers and avid readers by a different standard than casual readers. Ask a man on the street what a poem is and he'll say "something that rhymes." Ask a poet if their stuff rhymes and they'll look as if you just asked them if they rape cats. I have never before experienced such literary scorn as when I told an English teacher my favorite poet was Kipling. Meanwhile, stand at a bus stop and ask people who their favorite poet is. You'll generate a lot of blank stares. If you're in, liking someone with commercial success makes you a peon which means if you're out, you're never making it in.

Prose is anything that isn't poetry. Poetry is everything else. Any category that covers Basho to Coleridge is going to have something to piss off every human that ever walked the earth, it'll just be all different shit... and poets tend to explore the corners where normals never tread. The end result is that if you find something you like, you're wrong because it sucks but if you ask for something you should like, it will suck.

I had an author tell me once that the best sentence ever written was

    so much depends


    a red wheel


    glazed with rain


    beside the white


And really? Fuck off. If an English teacher is gonna mark me down for starting a sentence with "so much" but then bukkake the fuck out of William Carlos Williams for doing the same, you are effectively telling me that poetry is poetry because you say it is, not me.

rd95  ·  315 days ago  ·  link  ·  

I'm not gonna ask a person on the street for their opinion on poetry for the same reasons that I won't ask a random person on the street for their opinion on how to best handle nuclear policy. Chances are they haven't given the subject more than a cursory thought, let alone are equipped with the knowledge or experience to come out with a well thought out, constructive answer. If I want someone's opinion on poetry, I'll seek out someone with a background in literature or art. If I want someone's opinion on nuclear policy, I'll seek someone with a background in science or law.

I dunno. I think that's just the whole argument that art is subjective. When I was in college, I loved the shit out of everything from Basho to Ogden Nash, while my art teacher love surrealist prose poetry like Joe Wenderoth's Letters to Wendys and half my classmates were sporting semis over guys like Saul Williams. None of us agreed with each other's taste, but each of us knew enough that it was wrong to say others were "wrong" in their tastes.

mk does fucking amazing landscapes. I would never want a landscape hanging up in my house. He probably doesn't care too much about embroidery, where I wouldn't hesitate to buy an embroidered piece if it caught my eye, if only to later give it away. However, he'd probably know a good piece of embroidery when he sees it and that's because while written, audible, and visual arts are subjective, if you even half know what you're looking at you stand half a chance of telling if it's amazing, passable, or utter crap. If someone needs to go out of their way to convince you that a piece is amazing, chances are it's really not. In short, not accounting for taste, just like you don't need a refined pallet to recognize bad food and you don't need traditional education to recognize bad art.

As for breaking rules, poetry is as much of a tool for analyzing language as it is for analyzing the world. If you want to write something and "break the rules" of conventional writing, call it a poem and no one will say shit. Not that it really matters, because as far as I'm aware, the conventional wisdom seems to be that outside of a formal setting, no one gives two fucks for any rules in language, conventional, unconventional, formal, colloquial, or otherwise.

kleinbl00  ·  315 days ago  ·  link  ·  

All art is subjective. Some art is more subjective than others. The standards by which poetry is judged by insiders is so radically different than the standards by which poetry is judged by outsiders that it's not even funny.

You don't have to like Bierstadt to recognize he was skillful. You also don't have to know anything about art. But compare and contrast: one has a wikipedia article, one was on SNL:

    I have eaten the plums that were in the icebox and which you were probably saving for breakfast. Forgive me, they were delicious - so sweet and so cold.


    It takes a big man to cry, but it takes a bigger man to laugh at that man.

Here's the problem:

    If you want to write something and "break the rules" of conventional writing, call it a poem and no one will say shit.

But then when you compare the shit you wrote to some of the shit that poets think is the shit, you're left wondering what the fuck the fuss is all about.

I can vomit up limericks in realtime. That doesn't make me a poet. Why? Because limericks aren't poetry.

Except neither was haiku.

Poetry, more than any other art, is the domain of 'fuck you, because we said so.'

rd95  ·  315 days ago  ·  link  ·  

    I can vomit up limericks in realtime. That doesn't make me a poet.

I mean, except it does, if you want to call it poetry and call yourself a poet. Literally anything falls under the umbrella of "poetry" today. Prose poems? Shit. Those are just paragraphs. Spoken word and slam poetry? I don't like that format, but arguably it's poetry.

I think one of the big hang ups people tend to have with poetry is that they think because it's art, it should be hard. Becoming a good painter or drawer? That's hard. You gotta develop good spacial reasoning, appreciation for colors, etc. Becoming a good sculpture? That's hard. You gotta have a good understanding of the materials you're working with, patience. Etc.

Poetry? Poetry is easy. The amount of time and effort to go from being a bad poet to a passable poet to a decent poet is very small. That's because it's two core parts are language and analyzing the world. We literally embrace both those concepts day in and day out. We're so immersed in language that it is a core part of our thought process. We're so analytical about the world and we don't even know it, that we hire people to analyze the world for us. Traffic and weather patterns, stock prices, people who research chemistry and physics and outer space, on and on and on. We're curious, driven creatures who use language to express the world around us and our roles in it. There's no mystery. It's like walking. That's a huge reason why poetry is often used in therapy.

    Poetry, more than any other art, is the domain of 'fuck you, because we said so.'

That's elitism in general. A huge part of life is catching a lucky break and then spending half your time afterwards justifying why you deserved that lucky break. Can the system be gamed? Somewhat. Are there politics and unwritten, unspoken rules about the whole thing? Yeah. But that's true about almost every major aspect in our lives from dating and relationships to job hunting and careers.

As with almost every other thing, the people who are in power tend to be in power partly because they're lucky, and at their core they realize it and they realize that their grasp on their power is tenuous at best, so they become dicks, to cut back on the competition, for fear of losing their power. So they create social circles and they create rules and they create elitism, because they want to hold onto what they have.

What's lost to the history of the world is millions of creative people, from writers, artists, and musicians, to discoverers, inventors, and philosophers, who we will never hear about because they weren't in the right place at the right time. That's alright though, because so much is loss to time. What's important though is that those people took it upon themselves to explore the world, to explore themselves, and to create, and to find a way to connect with others in the process, thereby discovering their personal humanity and in the process enriching mankind's humanity. But don't take my word for it . . .

"Art is about discovering your style and connecting with people who appreciate it."

kleinbl00  ·  315 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Thus we come full circle - the act of creating poetry need not be difficult. BUT something that can be created easily is difficult to discern mastery within. SO mastery within poetry is (seemingly) arbitrarily assigned by elitists. THUS lots of people hate poetry - an easy thing whose merit is arbitrarily assigned by elitists.

Lost in all this is the fact that people who aren't interested in a literature class for its own sake aren't generally interested in poetry either. So when they're forced to regurgitate some canned wisdom about why Aldo Leopold is a genius but all Kipling is doggerel, it sticks in the craw.

Because sure. Anything you say is poetry is poetry. But poetry that matters? That's determined by people whose standards they won't even explain to you because they know it'll only make you mad. So trust us when we say this poem means all this stuff and spew our answers back at us because we don't want you in this class, either, nerd, and if there's one thing we can all agree on, it's that you shouldn't be here.

rjw  ·  315 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Doesn't this mean that the problem is not poetry, but the people who attempt to speak for the whole of humanity when they say "this is good"? They exist in every medium! Tell them to fuck off

kleinbl00  ·  315 days ago  ·  link  ·  

The problem is not poetry, it is the representation of poetry and those people who speak for the whole of humanity are the ones grading you. Tell them to fuck off and you get an F. Thus is the problem compounded - not only is your opinion invalidated, but your future success depends on accepting the opinion of rd95's elitists.

no one outside of art is generally required to participate in the evaluation and appreciation of contemporary art. On the other hand, you can't so much as graduate high school without being sheep-dipped in poetry every goddamn year. Thus, the low esteem poetry is generally held in by the United States at large.

rd95  ·  315 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Woah! Woah! Hold your horses here. Let's get one thing straight. They're not my elitists. I don't know who's in charge here and I'm about as far removed from the influencers of poetry as I am the influencers of nuclear policy.

Shit. I think part of the reason I like folk art and naive art and all that shit is because it's left alone by the "elites." I mean, you could point out all of those quilting magazines and wood working TV shows as kind of elites, but if you ask me, they're just passing on institutional knowledge . . . in a way that is similar yet different than colleges and still heavily commercialized.

Damnit. Now I gotta spend half a month reevaluating and adjusting my worldview again.

kleinbl00  ·  315 days ago  ·  link  ·  

They're not my elites either but again - poetry is uniquely challenged as a medium because the elites are unavoidable.

A picture can be propagated many ways. As can a song, as can a book. It will find an audience through typical propagation. A poem? We're not in the habit of reading poetry because on the one hand, people with culture will hold up William Fucking Blake as someone to admire and he rhymes "eye" with "symmetry" because of course he does. Meanwhile, the "poet" known most to Americans is undoubtedly Dr. Seuss who would not, could not, on a boat, would not could not with a goat but fuckin' A:

    Wee, sleekit, cow'rin, tim'rous beastie,

    O, what a panic's in thy breastie!

That wasn't English even back then. Yub yub, mutherfucker.

So no. You can't point out woodworking TV shows as elites. They're saying "here's how to turn wood into furniture" or "here's how to turn fabric into decor" instead of "here's how to turn words into ART, no, not like that, yes we know that Blake put -ey on the ends of words to rhyme but you shouldn't, in fact, don't try to rhyme, it's limiting, art is good when we say so stop asking it won't be on the test."

I guess my overall point is there is NO art form so dependent on definition by tastemakers than poetry, and poetry's tastemakers are assholes. Except maybe they aren't. Maybe they're so busy exploring the realms of what poetry means that they forget that most of us haven't been human centipeding their art form for 20 years so we don't get how a 17th century asshole digested four times is somehow more "arty" than Dr. Seuss.

rjw  ·  315 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Yep I totally agree perhaps I just didn't say it clearly enough! I don't mean fuck off to teachers because they rule your life, I meant more to that sentiment (insofar as you won't be graded down for it).

In fact I think this is pointing at something else that I need to examine in myself. I think I am being too brash about this subject and not totally appreciating the amount of emotional pain that being dragged through shit literature lessons has done to people.

Perhaps I'm actually projecting my own experiences of English lessons. I had to be basically held in front of a piece of paper to write. Creative writing was something I only ever did under duress. I was always told that I had plenty of good ideas in my head, the problem was just getting them onto paper. Can you imagine how much damage that does to a young mind? I had to write something good! So naturally I never wrote anything.

kleinbl00  ·  315 days ago  ·  link  ·  

I've had two of my screenplays optioned. I once (and hopefully again) shared an agency with Stephen King.

And I stopped writing for ten.goddamn.years because of shit literature lessons.

The pedagogy of literature is rank, rank, rank bullshit. I'm sure there are great teachers and professors out there but the only thing I ever got out of any English class is damage. I have stated to friends that have asked that the only reason I can think of for attending any high school reunion is the possible opportunity to punch some English teachers for stealing my life.

rjw  ·  315 days ago  ·  link  ·  

I was saved from the destructive pedagogy of English lessons by doing two things:

- being bullied all the time so I was distracted by that

- not trying


ArtemusBlank  ·  315 days ago  ·  link  ·  

As someone who does perform poetry, I fully agree with this. When I compete in poetry slams, sometimes I do well and almost win the slam and other times I finish in dead last with low scores. Why? Well counts as good in slams in totally determined by what is common in slam poetry and what the audience wants. A typical slam audience is pretty much young liberal millennials of all races and looks . Either sad emotional poems, social justice issue poems or racial poems that uses the slam language works well with these type of audience. The thing about me is that I don't do those type of poems well. I do a lot of funny weird satire poems that tired to stray from the typical slam language.

When I look at performances of my poetry and see others in action, I don't think I'm that far away in terms of performances. People have told me they really liked the energy I bring to slams and how it made them laugh a lot. But the main thing about me is I'm not the typical that the "insiders" like. Even before I enter a venue to compete, there's a decent chance that it's already determined that the insiders or the audience want something emotional or racial to hang on to whether they want to admit it or not. Why? Well, everyone in these scenes no matter where they are from want the same type of thing when it comes to poetry. I went to The National Poetry Slam last August and it didn't matter where people were from, they pretty much wanted to see the same type of poems. The same type of poems outsiders wouldn't get or relate to. It was kinda like you had to be in to get these types of poems.

Those type of poems that regularly show up on Button Poetry's Youtube page are the ones that make big year after year. There is a lot of "fuck you, because we said so" in slam even if they don't actually say it to your face. You can't really be big even when you go outside of the box, there is a formula that wins slams and there is a formula for poetry in general on what people interested in poetry want to hear. It's never about the outsiders, it's always the insiders.

kleinbl00  ·  315 days ago  ·  link  ·  

And the insiders are moving the bar, and changing art, and evolving, and making things different and better and worse, and by the time any of that trickles out to the people who aren't living and breathing poetry it's delivered in the tone of "hunter green is so last year. This year it's seafoam. What kind of troglodyte are you?"

Cedar  ·  315 days ago  ·  link  ·  

    If you're in, liking someone with commercial success makes you a peon which means if you're out, you're never making it in.

Aha, I have some solutions to this: Pick one or just gofor the worst.