Exploring Poetry

Poetry, as a form of art, has always both strongly attracted and repelled me over the years. The web now allows me ways to learn poetry that I never had before and so I decided to explore the blogging world of poetry — thus my recent absence from posting here since the day has only so many hours!

The blogging/commenting world of poetry blogs is very different from blogs like “Triangulations”. The etiquette is niceness and syrup sweetness. The questioning of concepts is almost absent.  So as you can imagine, it is a tough world for me to navigate — an interesting challenge. But I love anthropological explorations. We’ll see how it goes. So, if you are interested, come visit my new poetry blog over at “Fields of Yuan” and perhaps see a different sides of Sabio.  I will be experimenting with voice, emotion, shadows, forms, presentation and analytic understanding.  Contrary to most poetry blogs, I invite analytic, questioning, critical comments.  Bring it! 🙂

Question to readers:  What are your thoughts on “poetry”?


Filed under Philosophy & Religion

24 responses to “Exploring Poetry

  1. I was wondering why you were so quiet lately! Hopefully this won’t be a permanent shift in your atttention, though.

    I used to read and write a ton of poetry. I haven’t done so in a long time. Maybe reading your new blog will prod me into getting back into it? 🙂

  2. TWF

    I’ve written many poems, but scarce few have been any good. Every now and then I can knock out a solid stanza, but keeping the quality up for the whole poem is a real challenge, at least for me.

    I think that there are parallels between visual art and poetry. The best visual art to me is what “grabs” you and makes you feel. There are many pretty paintings, and many which have an incredible amount of skilful accuracy in their portrayal of the subjects, yet they usually don’t seem to motivate much more than a passing interest. Poetry is the same way (except that you can judge a painting much faster than a poem). There are many poems which are excellent and accurate portrayals, but progressing to the next level, where it actually grabs the reader at some emotional level, is more difficult. That’s what I think. 🙂

    I’ll check out your new project…

  3. Consider it brought!

  4. @ Lydia,
    Hey, thanks for dropping in. Comments sorted of died down so I decided to pursue something else for a while. Can’t do both at the same time. Lots left to write on Triangulations. We’ll see what the muses do for each site — part of my mind. But comments are what motivate me often. Thanx for yours.

    @ TWF,
    Cool, didn’t know you wrote. My poetry thing is more of an anthropological adventure — but many of my hobbies and love start like that — and many die like that. Ah, such is the explorers souvenirs.

    Poetry is tough. Too much hard work most of the time. I like the poems which are kinder and not so self-involved.

    I highly doubt that many readers here will enjoy my stuff over at “Fields of Yuan” — heck, I am not sure I do. 🙂

    @ myrthyrn,
    Looking forward to your insights.

  5. I love poetry. I enjoy the economy of words; so much can be said in such little space. While I do enjoy longer poems, I find my attention span struggles with longer poems in a way it doesn’t with long novels or short poems.

    I’ve been reading through a translation of Stéphane Mallarmé collected poetry whose poems so far are extremely baffling and challenging.

  6. @ Drkshadow03: I share your temperament and patience concerning long or baffling poetry!

  7. I’m a riddle, Sabio. There is very little poetry I can manage to read. If you asked me when I first started out blogging to write some poetry I would have laughed at you. But something happened along the way. At the urging of a friend I started to explore writing verse and free form poetry. I found it a challenge to convey my message without all the clutter. And I love a good challenge. I receive a lot of positive feedback for my efforts and it is encouraging but I am miles away from calling myself a poet. I think what is appealing about my style is that is very simple, readable and people can relate to the subject I’m writing about.

  8. @ Rene:
    Thanx for visiting, Rene. I enjoy your poems. Poetry is a fun way to throw Taroh cards in the mind.

  9. Ian

    I gave up on posting writing stuff, because the feedback was horribly positive. I’d write something I knew didn’t work and get no real help to make it better. just lots of “That’s great, you’re so awesome.” We have a strange culture around art. We tend to praise small children for drawing anything, or writing any risible poetry. Then at some point we criticise the same children for still drawing or writing like a 10 year old. We don’t do well helping them to improve to bridge the two, so we have this vast body of folks who say things like “I got told I couldn’t draw”, and then want to band together and tell each other “no, you’re drawing is just swell”. Missing out the craft.

    Top few things I’ve learned from writing bad poetry: 1. Never ever write in iambic quadrameter – it is an instant way to make a poem sound terrible. 2. Never weak rhyme a non-obvious rhyme scheme. 3. Don’t drop trisyllables into a disyllabic meter. 4. Remove all fill words: so, very, more, but. 5. If you’re struggling to work back from a rhyme, it will show. 6. Never invert word order to make a fit, espectially if you have to use ‘did’: “the garden, it did grow”.

    My poetry improved dramatically when I read http://www.amazon.com/The-Ode-Less-Travelled-Unlocking/dp/009179661X but YYMV!

  10. CRL

    I see poetry as the ultimate test of ability with a language: the ability to choose appropriate words to express a meaning, while choosing words with an appropriate sound to fit a rhythm or rhyme requires an immense vocabulary, the choice of an appropriate rhythm and rhyme scheme to fit a subject requires a deep understanding of the subject being written about, even in free verse. Because of this, I certainly appreciate a clever line.

    Still, I’m not usually motivated to pick up a book of poetry. Somewhat like Drkshadow03, I appreciate a short poem, but, after reading many poems, I get sick of them. (I have enjoyed books/plays written in verse, however, I would have enjoyed them without the verse as well.)

    I don’t greatly enjoy writing poetry, mainly because I don’t generally encounter topics best written about in poetry, and don’t consider myself talented enough to write a poem without a good subject. The last time I wrote any poetry, it was out of sheer boredom, with time left over on my AP Chemistry exam, when I wrote 20 or so couplets about water. (The only lines I remember: “Dihydrogen monoxide, both base and acid/dihydrogen monoxide, in a lake so placid” and “I want a bottle of dihydrogen monoxide, because it’s a hot day/But I can’t have any, because the College Board is becoming the TSA.”)

  11. I suggest you read Billy Collins’ poem “Introduction to Poetry”; or “Ars Poetica” by Archibald MacLeish ….. or simply enjoy this one from the satirical master, Alexander Pope:
    Sound and Sense
    True ease in writing comes from art, not chance,
    As those move easiest who have learned to dance.
    ‘Tis not enough no harshness gives offense,
    The sound must seem an echo to the sense:
    Soft is the strain when Zephyr gently blows,
    And the smooth stream in smoother numbers flows;
    But when loud surges lash the sounding shore,
    The hoarse, rough verse should like the torrent roar;
    When Ajax strives some rock’s vast weight to throw,
    The line too labors, and the words move slow;
    Not so, when swift Camilla scours the plain,
    Flies o’er the unbending corn, and skims along the main.
    Hear how Timotheus’ varied lays surprise,
    And bid alternate passions fall and rise!


  12. Syrupy sweetness is not mandatory!

  13. @ Ian:
    I agree about the culture of compliments — it is not useful if that is all one finds. And on poetry blogs — that is all one finds (for the most part). If one looks at poetry as therapy, instead of as an art form to improve, then sure, maybe compliments helps. But then, even in therapy, compliments often just reinforce bad psychological habits too.

    Thanx for the book recommendation — I ordered Fry.

    I am sure some would disagree with what you don’t like about poetry (though I agree), but then, art is taste and not success or failure only has the standard of opinion.

    I am trying to think of way to address this issue on

    BTW, see my comment to David King below. I am looking forward to seeing what he thinks.

    @ CRL:
    I find that fitting ideas into the constrain of rhyme and form to be a fun challenge. Content does take a hit, but if I were only about content, I may write prose instead.

    Yes, most of us prefer short poems, I think.

    Thanx for sharing about dihydrogen — made me smile this morning !

    @ red dirt girl:
    Thanx for the poems. The SOUNDS of words is something I am not concentrating on now. But perhaps my mind is, as I choose the words — perhaps I naturally lean toward rhythm and sound. Or not.

    I wish blogging poets offered footnotes to help with illusions and history. It would make their poems more meaningful. Instead, there seems a culture which thinks that being vague or puzzling is mysterious and deep. But it is not.

    For instance, in the poem above:
    Ajax, from Homer’s Iliad (lines 9-10)
    Camilla, from Virgil’s Aeneid (lines 11-12)
    Timotheus, a Greek poet (line 13)

    @ David King
    If you look at the comments on my poem about Iran. You will see only sweetness and sympathy. But, no thoughts about the CIA, Islam, Iran. No questions of why I was driving through there, my age. AND, I checked — not ONE person any of the eight links I supplied so they could further explore the history or the Persian poetry issue. Not so on this blog. They are a very different crowd in terms of commenting and blogging habits — probably in terms of thinking and socializing too. I find it anthropological fascinating.

    Sure, there is no requirement for syrup, but it seems the unspoken rule. Also, the vast majority of commentors don’t follow their comments — if you respond to their comment, you don’t hear from them. Again, very different from those here.

    So it seems there is a significant cultural difference. I think Ian’s criticisms are pretty accurate.

    I hope you are following – I look forward to your thoughts.

  14. If you were a poet, or educated reader, in Mr. Pope’s day, the classical references would have been a part of your lexicon – no need to add further definition. I find your notes annoying. I do not need you to define words for me. I understand your intent, but you are assuming a rather ignorant audience. We all have access to google or a good dictionary should the need arise. Otherwise, please do not attempt to teach me ‘what your poem is about.’ I’m more than capable of creating my own interpretation which resonates with me – even if it is far from the mark you struck.


  15. @ red dirt girl,

    Wow, I see the red and the dirt now!
    I’m afraid my posts may continue to annoy you — I will footnote them often — no offense meant, though some can’t help but taking it. I rarely write poems to be like Rorschack tests — though I know many do.

    As they say in Latin:

    “suum cuique” or was it “exteras verba non sapientiam”
    😉 this is fun

  16. LOL – You DID ask for this. I’m merely rising to the challenge. I’m not easily offended. And yes, please, annotate away … it will give me fuel for future critiques 🙂

    it was ‘suum cuique’

  17. Hello, Sabio. You have succeed in sparking my muse to reflect on the nature of poets who blog. Before reading my thoughts below, I must forewarn you that I am one of those poets. 🙂


    1. I agree that the comments on poetry blogs are 99% positive feedback. I have been blogging poetry for several years now (as opposed to just keeping them tucked away in my journals at home) because it is fun to connect with others who enjoy reading and writing poetry as much as I do, and it is rewarding to come across individuals who have had similar experiences to my own (which may be why you see so many supportive comments.)

    2. Most poets aren’t looking to debate the topic at hand. This coupled with the fact that at least half of those bloggers use Google’s Blogger platform which, unlike WordPress, doesn’t give you the ability to follow comment replies except through email, could explain the lack of extended exchanges on comment threads.

    3. Let us not forget that poetry, like the other arts, is subjective when it comes to style preference and content. A poet may enjoy writing in free verse more than in sonnet form, and whether he writes about his grandmother or his dog is another inconsequential point to debate. I think this adds to the nicey, nicey comments as well.

    4. A poet’s motivation to write is not dependent on engagement with others. Sure they enjoy it, otherwise they wouldn’t have a blog. But unlike you, who said, “Comments sorted of died down so I decided to pursue something else for a while,” poets write poetry because they have to, because they feel as though they will explode if they don’t. A poet would never stop writing poetry because of poor quality and/or low quantity blog comments which, ironically, is the crux of your little conundrum.


    1. Meter, form, rhyme, etc. are all ways to objectively measure the technical quality of a poem, but to quantify style and content is nothing more than polling for majority opinion (which I see you like to do.)

    2. Fun fact: Most poets don’t particularly care about a stranger’s opinion of their work unless of course, they are trying to win a contest or attain some sort of payment for it, financial or otherwise, which, as far as I know, is not the goal of the majority of poets who post poems on their blogs. However, I did not poll them so I can’t be sure. 😉 Nor is it their goal to defend their opinions to anyone. And the only time one can assume they are aiming to improve their technical skills is when they are writing for a poetry form prompt (like Gay’s sonnet prompt on Thursday.)

    Similarly, a painter, unless painting for a particular client, may think little of what type of painting his potential audience would prefer. Rather he chooses between working in an impressionistic style or a naturalist one, for example; to use a warm color palette versus a cool one.

    If people want constructive criticism on their poems, I find that they will specifically ask for it. There are also online poetry critique groups whose sole purpose is to provide in-depth constructive criticism so that the poet might improve not only the poem in question, but also his overall ability to write poetry at increasingly challenging skill levels, both linguistically and affectively.

    3. Poets like to connect with others who enjoy reading and writing in this particular style of language as opposed to essay, commentary, or short-story. It is akin to a visual artist who uses paints and brushes to express himself versus a camera to take pictures or steel tools to sculpt – different medium, different product.

    Like with anything, we all have our individual preferences when it comes to both medium and end product whether we are the creators or the viewers. To criticize without invitation in the non-professional art world is at best rude, and at worst tragic. Many artists use their mode of expression as a way to heal from emotional trauma and turmoil. To attack its quality when the feedback is unsolicited is not something that will be welcomed in the poetry community.


    1. Most of the bloggers I know, who choose poetry as their primary form of expressive writing, do not take the reader into consideration but concentrate instead on their own feelings and needs. It is a very emotional and vulnerable type of written expression, and its concern with the reader rarely goes beyond the goal of “showing” rather than “telling” them the story. Your average poet’s conative goal is, more often than not, to elicit an emotion or to entertain, not to persuade.

    2. Poets don’t care about the whole story. Poetry is meant to capture a moment in time, a “scene” if you will, not the facts before and after that scene like novels and films do. Word economy calls for the writer to pick and choose which information to include – not only which “scene” but which details in that scene.

    3. Poets like to share their views of the world through the use of metaphors, similes, familiar literary references and styles, and a multitude of other devices that focus on the overall composition of the message’s language. If you can’t empathize with their views or don’t understand their references without footnotes then it is up to you to put forth the effort to learn. These are poems we are talking about here, not research papers with bibliographies. It is not the norm for poets to be concerned metalinguistic writing.

    4. You can learn from people who are willing to teach you, but I suggest that you not assume that by leaving a curt comment on their blog, they will explain themselves to you. Maybe if you ask nicely with some syrupy sweetness on top, they’ll oblige, but then again, maybe not.

    5. In general, if the writer didn’t think something was important enough to include in the poem, or if he did not want to disclose certain information or details, for whatever reason, good poetry-reader etiquette calls for us to accept his personal decision, and out of mutual respect, not question his choices. Like I said before, the poet is not typically giving you a call to action. Therefore, justifications and detailed reasons for “this and that” are not essential.


    Let’s see, your poem was set in the year 1974. If you were the driver, you had to be at least in your mid-teens. I am going to guess a little older since you were traveling in a foreign country. Maybe a missionary, military or college trip, which would put you in your late teens. So let’s just say you were about twenty years old in 1974. That would make you around 60 years old now which could explain your highly opinionated nature, and, I fear, relatively closed mindedness, both of which may make your transition into the poetry world a bit difficult. Might want to stick to the political blog. Of course, after this comment of mine, I could say the same thing about myself and my poetry blog. 🙂

    Hope this much winded comment adds some useful data to your “anthropological study” of poets, although, I am merely one of thousands – hardly enough for any kind of valid conclusions at this point.

  18. Bravo Sheila, Bravo!
    or should that be Brava … ?! 😉

  19. @ Sheila,

    Wow, that is a lot, hmmmm where to start. 🙂
    Let’s see if a smiley face helps. Let’s start with two important points:

    (A) Attacks on me
    Estimating my age and then saying “which would explain your highly opinionated nature, and I fear, relatively closed mindedness.” reveals your poor skills in psychoanalysis and arrogance. Those who know me would never classify me as close minded. It seems you call people “close minded” who disagree with you. Or who you imagine disagreeing with you — since you asked me no questions here but just presupposed.

    (B) Speaking for all Poets
    I think it is important to recognize that lots of different people do poetry and not all of them share your opinions about “Poetry” in general. Poetry is a tool, not a philosophy, not a spirituality or any such thing.
    For instance, you said, “Poets don’t care about the whole story.” (well, some do, some don’t, it depends — you may not, but you are not all poets). Some of great epics where written poetically — it was the style back then — and the epics were a great story.

    You said, “Your average poet’s conative goal is, more often than not, to elicit an emotion or to entertain, not to persuade.” And while that may be true for some poems , for a huge number it is not. Indeed, while pretending to be purely emotive they often let out their opinions and try to be persuasive — I see this a lot.

    Again, you said, “A poet’s motivation to write is not dependent on engagement with others. ” As if you can really speak for all people who write poems. I am sure many folks write poems exactly to interact with others. Many certaintly don’t too. Point: lots of different poets out there. Poetry is not a worldview.


    #5. I have actually pointed out to several poets how their poems were confusing and other readers jumped in (gathering nerve after my questioning) to say the same and then the poet admitted it was a mistake. So though some poets may intend to be vague, some are just wrote poorly. Poetry is not holy. It is not infallible. It can be done poorly.

    #3. I’ve already had people thank me for footnotes. In college students depend on their teachers to supply teach notes to show their wisdom and have a job as a poetry teacher. The footnotes are not necessary, of course, but can be very fun and useful at times. It all depends.

    #3. You said, “To criticize without invitation in the non-professional art world is at best rude, and at worst tragic.”
    I think this is where you took great offense and are on the attack here.
    When posting in public (the web), we are open to all sorts of feedback. If we don’t want it, we can post comment rules, filter comments, delete them or run private blogs. And some people take offense much more easily than others — hard to tell where the ‘fault’ lies there.

    #2. Yeah, I think trying to figure out what people who run their own amateur poetry blog are after would be an interesting anthropology/psychology project. I am certain that it is very, very mixed.

    #2 You said, “Most poets aren’t looking to debate the topic at hand. ”
    Well, then they shouldn’t post controversial things in a public space. Or filter their blogs. But if the poem contains no controversy or debatable things, then I’d imagine you are right. But lots of poetry does contain controversy. Being “poetry” does not protect obnoxious, offensive, wrong ideas.

    Sorry if these were too frank replies, but the closing comment about my close-mindedness was not inviting. I guess someone preference for syrup may not tell us much about someone’s character.

  20. Wow, I suppose I have put my foot in my mouth as my closing intent was not to offend but to jest. Therefore, I sincerely apoligize for that frivolous insinuation about age having anything to do with closed-mindedness.

    I also see that I failed to preface each and every statement with “in my experience” or “some” poets, and in doing so lead you to believe that I thought I could speak for all poets. For this, too, I am sorry. If there is any thing I can do to make these mistakes up to you, please let me know.

    I’m not an expert, a professional, a great poet, or even someone who knows anything for a fact. My entire comment was comprised of my opinions based on my personal experience within the community of poets I am most involved with, and as hypothetical explanations to your observations of poetry bloggers.

    As far as my character goes, your closing comment is accurate…that is, unless you are willing to consider someone’s illness as something seperate from their character. I am often overcome by automatic, defensive, nuerotic passive-aggressive tendencies which stem from childhood trauma. And since poetry has often been my saving grace during very dark times, the possibility of others giving me unsolicited constructive criticism on something I write is extremely unnerving to me. I’d probably feel the same way if someone took out my therapist (haha.)

    That being said, your point about not posting such things in a public forum is something I will now take into consideration. I just never had to before because, with the exception of the feedback I receive in the private poetry critique groups I’ve joined, I have come to trust in the safe, supportive, criticism-free environment several online communities of poets introduced me to when I first started blogging. And these same communities have maintained such an environment throughout my blogging years. So, your comment on my poem took me by surprise, to say the least. Bottom line is that I was caught off guard and over-reacted, and impulsively to boot! I’ll probably write a poem about this someday (too soon to joke with you yet?)
    Thanks for listening.


  21. @ Sheila,
    Thank you. That explains a lot. Yeah, I thought my comment on your blog was benign enough — I just didn’t couch it in syrup, I guess.

    You said,

    “unsolicited constructive criticism on something I write is extremely unnerving to me.”

    But if you will look, my comment was simple questions and my subjective observations — not “criticisms”.

    So this all came from you taking offense at a comment. For readers (though I doubt there are any on this post any longer), I will copy the interaction below and let them see if there really was any “offense”.

    I said:

    “Who is putting you on a pedestal? Or is it you – are you writing this for someone else?”

    To which you curtly replied:

    “the who is not important”

    I questioned a word choices in your poem:

    If the half-rhyme at worse-course intentional? It made me stumble after perfect rhyme throughout. I read it “Curse” at first due to the rhyme momentum.

    Curious about the “decoy” use of the pedestal — I’d be interested what he is distracting.

    To which you again curtly responded:

    “worse-course is intentional, and decoy is another word for trap. Wow, never had so many questions about one of my poems…”

    But then you came to my blog ranting — and red dirt girl cheered you on. Unbelievable.

    I asked three questions, and you said, “Never had so many questions”. That is because poetry blogs are, as you said, are often just feel good blogs — where people only expect support.

    You and red girl have demonstrated very well how difficult it is from some on-line poetry bloggers to receive anything but vacuous syrupy comments.

    On another note, you said:

    I also see that I failed to preface each and every statement with “in my experience” or “some” poets, and in doing so lead you to believe that I thought I could speak for all poets.

    This was sarcasm, of course — and in an apparent apologetic note, another jab saying that I am too picky and not seeing the obvious truth. But you came on my blog lecturing me about poetry and poets and somehow self-righteously trying to straighten out my view of things (because of your imagined offense). So, in a sense you were trying to tell me how poets think and more importantly, how I should think and act. I hope I illustrated that just because you took offense and that many poets may not have and may not agree with your view of what poetry should be.

    BTW: I love your site and your writing. Your creativity makes me smile. But out of respect, I will not ask questions on your blog least I stir the bees again unless you invite me. As for now, you have posted a huge sign saying “Do Not Enter!”

  22. My apology for the speaking for all poets was sincere. Unfortunately, theres no way for me to prove my intent to you. my rant was primarily based off of this comment thread which I stumbled upon after following a link on your poetry blog. I regret the rant with my whole being. It was a huge mistake regardless of our subsequent exchanges. Writing poetry is therapeutic for me. You are welcome to my blog anytime.

  23. Apology accepted — thanx for the note. Things were unnecessarily amplified by “red dirt girl” (another blogging poet) when she high-fived you above and tried to stir things ups on your blog. She is still ranting on her own blog.

    Anyway, I truly get your apology and look forward to visiting your blog again.

  24. I agree with your sentiments in regard to the niceness. Cloying, syrupy and meaningless. I believe courtesy is crucial but I cannot see the point of comments unless they are brutally honest, wherever that takes them. I suppose in many ways posting online is an ego exercise when it comes to comments. You have to write for yourself or you will never be true to yourself. I wonder actually how much someone else’s opinion matters – good or bad.

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