Poetry essay: What goes into a poem isn’t seen

When a poet presents a finished poem, in many cases the poem wasn’t written that way.  As the poet worked on the poem, changes were made.  Lines were changed.  Words were changed.  Form elements were modified.  The poem took shape as the poet worked on it.  How it looked at different stages, might have been quite different than how it looked when finished.

This idea raises some issues for poets as they present their work.

First, a poet should understand that those who read their poetry might not perceive the amount of work that went into it.

When a person reads a wonderful sounding stanza of poetry for example, they don’t know if it was just written that way, or if it went through multiple variations.  This is something a poet should keep in mind when they present their work.

A poet wants their poetry to be appreciated, but they should understand that many readers won’t appreciate the work that goes into it, because they don’t understand the work that goes into it.

Second, sometimes a poet can remember what a poem was like at different stages.  A poet knows what words they changed, what lines were removed, and so forth.  This can sometimes influence the poet’s perception of their own work.  The poet knows what it was, and so they see how it is, differently.

Third, in addition to a poet perceiving their work differently from a reader, a poet might actually remember parts of poem that are no longer there, and understand those parts as part of the work.

For example, if a poet had a poem where a flower dies, and when working on the poem they at first explicitly state this, but then later they remove the statement, the poet might remember this line and understand the poem differently than a reader might.  A reader, not reading the line, might, for example, think the flower only wilted.

Fourth, as a poem develops it might improve.  The first rendition of it might not be as good as the last.  When a poet presents their work, they are presenting a refined product, and not a raw one.

This can have an effect on how people perceive the poet’s poetry.  People might think the poet comes up with the work simply as it is presented.  They might not understand that there were preceding drafts.

This idea can sometimes create a sense of disillusionment for readers if they ever watch a poet create a poem.  They may have thought that the work was created effortlessly and be disappointed when they find out it isn’t.  It would almost be like a person watching a great artist draw and the person seeing the artist erase.  They may have never considered that the artist made changes or mistakes.

 

When a poet creates a poem, work goes into it that isn’t normally seen.  A poet should be aware of this idea and how it impacts the perception of their work.

As an interesting exercise, a poet might record their work on a poem, for example be using a computer program that records what is on their screen.  It might interesting for a poet to present the development of a poem, in addition to its final form.  This would give readers a better insight into the poet’s work.

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Poetry essay: Poetry – write what you want

If you start reading poetry, you may notice a certain style in some poetry you read.  For example, you may read poetry in literary magazines, in published books, from famous poets, poetry that has critical acclaim, or poetry that has won awards.

As you look at this poetry, you may notice that the style might differ from your own.  You may be wondering if, given the fact that this poetry is in magazines, books, seems important, and so forth, if your poetry should be like what you read.  You may wonder if you should change your style to match what seems like “important” poetry.

The short answer to this is no.  You shouldn’t change your poetry to match a perceived style.  You should write what you want.  Still, there is more to it.

First, this idea of some disconnected group deciding something, is familiar in society.

Think about fashion.  Who decides fashion and what is fashionable?  Who decides what people should wear or shouldn’t?

As another example, think about movies.  Some movies get talked about in the media, win awards, and have critics talking about them.  Does this mean they are good?  Does it mean you should watch them?

There is sometimes this notion in society of “people who know” deciding what is good.  There’s nothing really wrong with the idea taking in the views of people involved in an industry or activity, but you shouldn’t let it influence you too much.

When it comes to fashion, movies, poetry, or anything else, you should do what makes you happy, even if it differs from what you perceive to be the way things “should” be.  You shouldn’t change your poetry just because you think others think poetry should be a certain way.

Second, poetry is meant for you and your audience.  There is no one out there judging your poetry (unless, of course, you send it in for a contest or something).  While you may sometimes feel that your poetry isn’t serious or important or literary or something else, don’t feel like there is someone out there looking down on your work.  There isn’t.  Of course, not everyone will like what you write, but it’s not like there’s some poetry establishment shaking their heads at your work.

When you write poetry it should appeal to you and the audience for your work.  You shouldn’t write it to appeal to some idea or some perception.

Third, don’t get into feeling that there is some intellectual standard for poetry.  Don’t think, for example, that a free verse, obscure poem about war is somehow more important than your rhyming sonnet about puppies.  While some may view your poem as less serious, there is no objective measure of importance.  Your poem that makes people smile, can be just as important as a poem that makes people think.

Fourth, when you write poetry, there will always be someone who doesn’t like it.  Don’t let that bother you though.  No poetry is liked by everyone.  If you and your audience like what you write, that’s what’s important.

Generally, when you write poetry, write what you want.  If you like inspirational poetry, silly poetry, poetry about unicorns, rhyming poetry, sonnets, poems about dating, sad poetry, or whatever, go ahead and write it.  Don’t worry that you work doesn’t match some outside perspective that you perceive.

Now, there are some times though, when you might want your poetry to conform to an outside perception.  While this might seem bad, given the ideas above, it isn’t necessarily.

First, if you send poetry submissions to publications, you will probably have to meet some sort of guidelines.  These could be things like the length of the poems, the number of poems you send, the topics of the poems, and so forth.  If you want your poems to be considered by publications, you’ll have to meet the guidelines they set.

Second, different publishers of poetry have different poetry styles.  Although they might say they accept all types of work, if you read over some of what they publish, you should start to see trends.  Editors can be consistent in what they like and what they don’t even if they don’t realize it.

If you want to get published in these publications, it could help if you poetry matched the style they published.  If they publish short, free verse poems, about social issues, then your long, rhyming, iambic pentameter poem about the death of your cat, might not get accepted.

If getting published in certain publications is important to you, you might find that you have to match their style, even if it is different from your own, if you want the possibility of being published.

Third, you might have an audience for your poetry.  This could range from your best friend, to a poetry group you are part of, to readers of your blog, to readers of a book you publish.  In each of the cases, you want your audience to like your work.  Part of this can be giving your audience what they like.

It can be hard sometimes when you write poetry and you feel it doesn’t meet the standard of “important” or “real” poetry.  Don’t let that bother you.  Write what you like.  Write what makes you happy.  Write what your audience wants.  Write what you want to express.

At times, you might have to conform your poetry for specific reasons, but don’t let that overwhelm your work.  Write what you want.

Poem with an explanation: through the lens

through the glass
the mirror speaks
and says the words
you want to hear

the world is known
through the lens

“What do you mean,
you don’t see?”

 

This poem is about news that leans one way or the other on the political spectrum.

In the poem, a person watches news that is on the same side of the political spectrum as they are.  They hear something they agree with.  This is symbolized by a mirror saying words a person wants to hear.  A reflection of the person’s views are presented to them.

The second stanza provides a commentary.  It says, the world is known/ through the lens.  This means that what a person knows about the world is influenced by how the information is presented.

In the third stanza, a person is taken aback when they encounter someone who perceives the world differently.  In this case, the person encounters someone who watches news that is on the opposite side of the political spectrum as what they see.  Because of this, the person encountered has received a different presentation of events and therefore perceives things differently.  The original person finds this confusing for two reasons.

First, they perceive the news as fundamental.  They don’t see a political leaning in the presentation.  Additionally, they don’t see how a political leaning could influence facts or their presentation.

Second, they had not considered that others might see news presented in a different way.  They had not considered that others might see the world through a different lens.

Because of these two reasons, they can’t understand why a person they encounter knows different facts than they do and why they see those facts differently.

Poem with an explanation: The rain fell

The rain fell –

the farmer celebrated,

the builder complained.

 

This poem is about how people respond to social issue news.

The news sometimes has stories about social issues.  It might be a law being passed, a change in public opinion, a change in industry practices, a survey, or something else.  The news presents some change in a social issue.

Upon hearing the news, people have different reactions.  People who support the change celebrate.  People who oppose the change complain.

The idiosyncrasy of the situation, is that although the reactions are different, the news is the same.  People hear exactly the same thing, but they have different responses to it.

This idea is portrayed in the poem.  In the poem it started to rain.  A farmer, who needs the rain for their crops, celebrates this occurrence.  The builder, who has to stop work because of the rain, complains.  Both people experience exactly the same thing, but they perceive it, are impacted by it, and respond to it in opposite ways.

The idea that people can see the same thing, but have different responses, can be a strange thing to an outside observer.  It seems inconsistent.  The poem highlights this idea.

Poem with an explanation: the weight of sand

Looking in the sand,
and seeing,
the imaginary reality,
for all the suns,
and all the moons.

Standing there,
silently speaking,
reflecting on sand,
and wondering.

In the corner,
a tally is made,
in the thoughts,
an inverse of worth.

The equation is simple,
so the figures say,
reduce x,
increase y,
reduce z.
Adding the numbers,
the answer doesn’t match.

In the cave,
thinking of sand,
and wondering if,
someone else,
will ever be there.

 

This poem is about a person struggling with their weight.  It is about the negative feelings a person can have as they have this struggle.  It is about the emotions a person can go through as they stand in the bathroom, look at themselves in the mirror, and weigh themselves on a scale.

At the start of the poem, the person looks in the mirror (Looking in the sand), and sees their reflection (and seeing).  The image they see is real, in the sense that it is what they really look like, but it is also distorted by their perception of themselves (the imaginary reality).  They have stood in front of the mirror on a regular basis for years (for all the suns, and all the moons) and looked at themselves like this.

The person stands in front of the mirror (Standing there), and they talk to themselves aloud.  They see their reflection speaking even though it isn’t making a sound (silently speaking).  They talk about how long they have been overweight (reflecting on sand – sand representing time and their image in the mirror), and they wonder if they will ever be able to change how they are (and wondering).

The person is in a bathroom.  In the corner (In the corner), there is a scale.  The person weighs themselves (a tally is made) and the person feels that the higher their weight the less their worth (in the thoughts, and inverse of worth).

As the person steps off of the scale, they think of the often repeated advice (The equation is simple, so the figures say): eat less (reduce x), move more (increase y), and weight will go down (reduce z).  The person thinks of their reality where they have done this (Adding the numbers), and thinks about how it hasn’t worked for them (the answer doesn’t match).

The person stands against their bathroom door (In the cave), and they think of time and how their reflection looks in the mirror (thinking of sand), and they wonder if (and wondering if) they will ever change how they are (someone else, will ever be there).

 

If you like poems with explanations, please consider purchasing a copy of M. Sakran’s self-published eBook, Understanding: poems with explanations.  It contains twenty original poems, with explanations of each of them.  The main purpose of the book is to help readers expand their understanding of poetry through the explanations.

Understanding: poems with explanations is available for a current price of $0.99 (plus tax where applicable).  It is also available in currencies other than the U.S. dollar.  It can be purchased with British Pounds, Euros (1, 2, 3, 4, 5), Japanese Yen, Brazilian Reals, Canadian Dollars, Mexican Pesos, Australian Dollars and Indian Rupees.

 

Poem with an explanation: the shadow, the book, and what she hears

she walked about
and took the pages
from all the books
she saw

she stacked them up
and glued the sides
and then she had a book

the book did say
what she should wear
what she should see
what she should hear
what she should say
what she should do

behind her eyes
a shadow dwelt
and spoke a whisper
that was not heard

she felt the pull
and heard the shouts
and saw the crowd
and feared outside

she felt the pull
the judges spoke
the crowd did cheer
the shadow hid

she put the words
from within her book
into the mouths
of the painted forms

what she should wear
what she should see
what she should hear
what she should say
what she should do

she feared outside
the shadow hid
she made the room
from all the words
and did all that
she heard them say

she held the book
and the read the words
and heard the forms
speak what she said

she held her sign
and joined the crowd
that she did form
while behind her eyes
the shadow hid

 

This poem is about the influence of perceived popular societal culture.  It’s about what a person thinks society is telling them to do.

In a person’s life, they encounter many influences from society that tell them how to live their lives.  Magazines say how to dress.  Television says what movies to see.  Various personalities (TV hosts, radio hosts, etc.) say what is important.  People are told how to live, what they should think, and what is important.

In all of these influences though, is the idea that a person picks to a degree the societal influences they see.  A person decides what magazines to read.  A person decides what shows to watch.  A person decides what websites to look at.  In all of this, a person has an influence in shaping the societal message they come in contact with, even if they are not aware of it.

Sometimes, a person can feel societal pressure.  There is the idea that there is something everyone is doing and that they should do it too.  There is some show everyone is watching.  Some movie everyone is seeing.  Some event everyone is going to.  There are variety of expressions regarding this idea.  Things like, “Social media can’t stop talking about …” or “The show everyone will be talking about tomorrow”.

There are more subtle pressures as well.  If a person sees something, like a movie, being heavily advertised, they might perceive that many people will see it.  If they hear a TV personality talk about a show, they might perceive the show to be important.  If they see characters in a show acting a certain way, they might feel that is how they should act.  In this, there is the fear that they will miss out on something, and won’t be part of the group, if they don’t see the movie or show or act a certain way.

Despite the ideas people often have about the value of being an individual, there is also the idea of being part of the group.  Sometimes conforming can be a strong influence on a person.  Sometimes there is a perceived value in being “like everyone else”.

This poem explores this idea under the backdrop of the idea that the person forms their own view of society.  In the poem, the person feels societal pressure, but this pressure comes from a view of society that they partially shaped.

The first stanza of the poem says, she walked about/ and took the pages/ from all the books/ she saw.  In this stanza, the character in the poem is starting to form her own view of society.  The “books” are all the places she gets influences.  They include TV shows, the news, billboards, the internet and other things.  She sees these things and pulls from them ideas of how she thinks society says she should be.

In the second stanza (she stacked them up/ and glued the sides/ and then she had a book), she over time forms a view of society.  From all the influences she has come in contact with, she has shaped, as it were, a guidebook for how to live.

In her book (in the third stanza), she has perceived how she feels society tells her to dress, what shows and movies to see, what songs to listen to, what she should feel about issues and how she should behave.

Inside her though, in the fourth stanza, the woman has a true personality.  There is the way she feels she should live her life.  This is described as a shadow whispering.  Much of how she feels she should live is at odds with the societal message she has shaped, and therefore she ignores how she feels.

In the fifth stanza, she feels societal pressure.  She feels that everyone is behaving a certain way and feels that she will be left out if she does not behave that way as well.  She feels she has to see the show everyone is seeing.  She has to see the movie everyone is watching.  She has to experience what everyone is experiencing.

In the sixth stanza, this idea is expressed.  She feels the pull of society.  She sees personalities (on TV, radio, etc.) as somehow judging behavior.  These people tell her what is important, what she should believe and how she should act.  She feels that society, in the form of the crowd, agrees with the judges.  In all of this, she hides her true feelings and personality.

The seventh stanza stresses the idea that she shapes her view of society.  In all the things she has seen, she has taken parts from them, and shaped a view of what she thinks society says she should be.  She is not aware that she has shaped this view.

In her view, in stanza eight, society tells her how to dress, what movies and shows to watch, what music to listen to, how she should believe about things and how she should act.

She feels, in the ninth stanza, that not conforming to this view is bad in some way.  She feels like it would make her on the outside.  She wants to fit in.  She wants to do what she perceives society to be saying is cool, popular, and good.  This causes her to hide her true personality and views and live her life the way she believes society is telling her to.

The tenth stanza reiterates the idea that she has had an influence on what she perceives as society.

In the last stanza, she conforms her life to her view of society while she hides her true personality.

The idea of this poem is to examine the idea of perceived societal pressure.  It looks at the idea that people shape their own views of how they think society tells them to be.  It focuses on the pressure as well as on the forming of what the pressure is about.

P. S. As a note, there will not be a new blog post on M. Sakran’s blog of and about poetry and poetry related things on Monday May 28, 2018.

Poem with an explanation: Hi there, it’s nice to see you.

Hi there,
it’s nice to see you.
You look great.

A smile,
some words,
a float in the air.

 

Hi there,
it’s nice to see you.
You look great.

A smile,
some words,
a fall in a pit.

 

This poem is about a difference in intent and perception.  There are three people in the poem.  Person A says stanzas one and three.  Person B experiences stanza two.  Person C experiences stanza four.

In the poem, there is a party.  Person A is the host and greets people as they arrive.  With Persons B and C, the greeting consisted of the same words, yet different intents.

Person A likes Person B and so the words of the greeting are said with a mild sense of sincerity.  Person A is genuinely greeting Person B, even though the greeting is mainly part of a social norm.  When Person A says it is nice to see Person B and that Person B looks great, there is a sense of truth in the words.

Person B also likes Person A.  Person B has a genuine response to the words of Person A.  Person B smiles, returns the greeting, and, metaphorically, floats into the party.  The situation is very light, happy and calm for Person B.

By contrast, Person A and Person C do not like each other.  There is animosity between them.  Person C is coming to the party, not because they want to be there, but because of social obligation.

Person A greets Person C when they arrive.  Person A is sarcastic in their words.  Person A is saying nice things, but in a way that is meant to stick at Person C.  Person A speaks in an exaggerated way so that Person C will understand that they mean the opposite of what they say.

Person C feels the meaning of the words.  They respond in the socially expected way, by smiling and returning the greeting, but the experience of going into the party is like falling into a pit.  It is dark and filled with a sense of dread.

In the poem, Person A says the exact same thing to two people, yet the words have different intents.  Also, in the poem, each of the party goers hear the same words and responds the same way, but each has a completely different interpretation of the words and response to the party.

The form of the poem uses repeats with marked areas of difference to emphasize the point of the difference.

 

P. S. Happy second day of Christmas.