We’ve all been there at one time or another – whether it’s staring blankly at a GCSE anthology or sitting with your head in your hands in Hallward library, we have faced a poem that makes no conceivable sense. Staring incredulously at the mass of adjectives, desperately trying to find meaning in the ‘fragmented sentence structure’ or ‘concrete imagery’ – poetry is enough to cause an English student’s breakdown. And it probably has.
Now don’t get me wrong – poetry can be great. Filled with creative ideas and personal thoughts, a poem can express a thousand different things all at once in a way that prose sometimes cannot. I will concede that some of the more obscure poetry that crops up can be the most interesting and that the different perceptions caused by them can provoke engaging literary debate. It is okay for a poem not to rhyme, to have irregular meter, to be on obscure subjects, to even be unclear about what the poem is even about. That is fine.
They will enthusiastically babble for hours over the deep psychological, philosophical and *insert-fancy-word-here*-ological meanings
However what gets my goat, and I’m sure many of you feel the same, is when poetry becomes so obscure and ‘out there’ that it arguably stops being poetry. The genre of modern and contemporary poetry, whilst producing some admittedly great poems and poets who break boundaries, also spews out an enormous amount of what can only be described as bulls**t. Maybe it’s me being a philistine that can’t appreciate greatness when I see it. Maybe I’m just not intelligent enough to ‘get it’. But when faced with a poem that consists of three repeated words scattered over the page as if they are shreds of Parmesan sprinkled over spaghetti the only meaning I can derive is that the poet is a pretentious prat desperately trying to be ‘different’. A poet that thinks that by cheerfully throwing every single writing convention out of the window (such as actual words), they are somehow being ‘ground breaking’ or ‘controversial’. No. Just no.
Inevitably there will always be an army of devoted hipsters, who should also be avoided, defending this poetry. They will enthusiastically babble for hours over the deep psychological, philosophical and *insert-fancy-word-here*-ological meanings to be found in a single full stop until your ears start to bleed, but in the end all we can do is nod and smile politely. If you say what you actually think they will judge you as an unenlightened fool. Sadly the poetry hipster is not often open to criticism – unless it sounds as pretentious as the twaddle they themselves have just come out with.
So it is best to avoid poetry altogether. All we can do is hope as little of this specific type of poetry falls into our path as possible. And if it does, well, it’s always better to laugh than to cry.
Image courtesy of César Viteri Ramirez via Flickr
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