Poetic Requirements

What are the ingredients for a poetic experience? As a minimum one needs a text and a reader. Let's suppose (somewhat fancifully) that some texts are intrinsically more poetic than others. Let's also suppose that readers approach texts in various ways - they read a repair manual differently to the way they read a self-proclaimed poem. These options lead to the following possibilities. I've added examples of each scenerio to make things clearer.

Poetic Text?
YesNo
Poetic Reading?Yes"Do Not Go Gentle"found poetry
NoPop lyrics?repair manual

To increase the poetic effect of a text, you can make the text more poetic, or you can make the reader adopt a more poetic approach. The latter option is not to be underestimated - if you make your text look like a poem, readers are more likely to treat it as such. They may read into your poem things you didn't put there, but at least they'll see more of what you meant them to see. The downside is that it risks accusations of quackery if the text fails to match the expectations.

But of course there's more to it than having a text and a reader - the 2 need to get together under suitable conditions. In Acumen 54 (Jan 2006) Judy Gahagan wrote "the once unique poetry habitat is a threatened one", a metaphor which can be extended. When a species' habitat shrinks, a few things are likely to happen

  • populations become isolated - the performance poets, the academics, the comedians become isolated from each other and develop independently. Some species require large contiguous areas.
  • evolutionary pressures change - species survival depends increasingly on its ability to copy with marginal situations and isolation
  • artificial habitats are created - zoos help species survive, but also lead to cannibalism, inbreeding, loss of parental and eating skills, etc. Poetry magazines can have side-effects too.
  • Poets may be in control of their text, and have some control over how the reader will approach the piece. It's rather harder to affect the environmental conditions, but the effort maybe be worthwhile. In the long run it may even be necessary.


    Updated February 2006.
    Tim Love

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