Poetry In Motion

Poetry In Motion

I could conjure up a sentence
and break it up into lines
and lines
and lines
and lines and call it poetry.
I just don’t get it.

Recently, in a writing club that I frequent, I brought up the topic of free verse poetry. I just wasn’t happy with a lot of the poems I’d been reading lately — on the forums, on web sites, all over the net. It seems that this free verse poetry thing is all over the place, and I just can’t get over it.

So I asked the club: What else besides the line breaks makes this poetry?

Because, really, most of the free verse “poetry” that I see has nothing else that would qualify them as poetry in my eyes — no alliteration, no rhythm, nothing. Maybe a few nice ideas or cute metaphors get thrown in, but altogether not much more than you would pick out in some plain old prose. So, I asked, why bother with the line breaks at all, and why call it poetry? Or heck, why not call poetic prose unbroken poetry instead?

Well… I got a number of responses, but only one or two of them satisfied me. According to some, the line breaks indicate where the pauses or breaths are, and to others, they isolate individual ideas or concepts.

Eh, I thought. Sounds kind of superfluous to me. We pause or breathe in essentially the same places whether or not there are line breaks, especially if the piece is written well; it’s in the phrasing, the punctuation, the words, and the syntax. Therefore, when the poem is read out loud, the line breaks all but disappear anyway. So what’s the point? You might as well use italics or bold fonts if you’re going to format your “poetry” in any special (though completely unpoetic) way; it’s practically the same thing.

As for isolating ideas… hmm… is there a word more extravagant than “superfluous?” A poem is not a novel to be broken into single-page chapters, is it? Again, if a piece is written well, the poet doesn’t need to delineate each of those thoughts within a sentence; they simply stand out on their own. So what gives, huh?

Finally, a couple of people pointed out that some of the free verse poetry that I’ve been reading perhaps haven’t been very good. After all, there are a lot of amateurs out there — people who love the art of poetry but just don’t understand the craft involved.

Well… question answered… and to my satisfaction.

It’s true. A lot of free verse poetry out there just plain suck, and if the line breaks weren’t there, people would simply call it bad writing — too many filler words, not enough words with “punch,” and really no cadence at all. As I’d once said, poetry should flow, not catch, and most free verse poetry out there will catch me yawning indifferently at them. I mean, there’s probably more poetry in this entry than in any line-broken piece of crap out there.

Alas, who am I to say anything? Poetry is a subjective art form, and people have certain tastes. My tastes are no better or worse than anyone else’s, but still… they usually tell me which poems I think suck.

And look…

I like alliteration, linking letters line by line, and making music that you marvel at the movement and the rhyme. We often wonder at the work that went into these words, and contemplate the cool, creative cadence in each verse.

Poetry for the sake of line breaks is a lie. It’s really all about the ear, and not about the eye.

I seek some syncopation, where the basic beat’s off-beat, and the rhythm really rocks you, knocks you neatly off your feet. It behooves a bard to try real hard to sing with symmetry, when putting pen to paper and composing poetry.

Poetry for the sake of line breaks is a lie. It’s really all about the ear, and not about the eye.

Craving consonance is clearly an addiction to the craft, and heroic couplets with iambic feet are where it’s at. If you understand “trochaic,” “amphibrachic,” and such terms, then you truly understand the craft of poetry with words.

Poetry for the sake of line breaks is a lie. It’s really all about the ear, and not about the eye.


…that’s just my opinion. And you know me:

I could conjure up a sentence, break the beast into lovely little lines, and pander the packaged piece as poetry.

I just don’t get it.

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