Friday, June 19, 2009

Overdosing on Poetry

Growing up, we had a couple of poetry anthologies in our home and one other poetry book. The town library was a room about the size of our den and had a scant selection of books, none of them poetry. My parents enjoyed poetry, so I became a fan, too, returning to the anthologies to read and reread my favorites. I memorized The Highwayman so I could recite it to myself when I was away from the book. I was 14. Poems were rare and became jewels to be cherished. More and more I've realized that as the internet brings me poem after poem on a daily basis I don't cherish them as much. To be honest, I prefer going to youtube right now and finding a good piece of music. Yes, I do stumble across poems and poets I love and yes, I still do read some poetry every day. I admit I've lost the thrill of it, though (except when a winner of a poem comes down the pike). I no longer fondle the pages of a poem, sigh, come back to read and reread...there's no time. It's on to the next. I still love writing poetry, but I suspect my own poetry gets a cursory glance from the reader as a mound of poetry links to move on to after mine.

With a novel, we stick with a story until the book is finished. We immerse ourselves in it, become part of the characters and settings. We're not trying to read part of ten books at the same time so the author can have feedback..instantly.

Well, that's my confession. I want poems to be diamonds again. I want space and time to enjoy when I'm ready.

nodding off
another poem slides
through my hands


Jozephine said...

I know what you mean. In a way I find poems harder to access since they demand total attention. With a novel you can tune in and out without really noticing. I read less poetry since the onset of my CFS/ME, well I read less full stop. But you'd think it would be the other way round, that novels would be the first to go because they are longer.

Pris said...

Hi J,
You're right about the attention. I couldn't read novels for about the first 15 years of CFS/ME because of their length. As an avid reader since age 4, this was a huge loss. Now, sometimes I can and sometimes I can't, but yes, being a speed reader, I can scan parts when I'm tired and still get the thrust of the book. Not so with poetry. I do love poetry. Just not so much of it.


Lyle Daggett said...

The thing you're talking about here, the toomuchness of poetry online, is one of the major reasons I prefer to read poetry in print.

Poetry seems to benefit from being on the page -- the paper medium seems to slow it down, and allows more for the space and silence around the poem (and which are, in fact, a part of the poem). Poetry, or any writing, online seems noisier to me than poetry on a paper page.

Poetry online seems to have an undercurrent of pressure to get through it and move on. Has something to do with the fast speed of zapping from one webpage to the next. (The old McLuhan thing of the medium being the message.) And reading on a computer involved less involvement by our bodies than reading from a book does.

As if to emphasize the point, word verification is (not making this up) "press".

Pris said...

You expressed it far better than I did, Lyle. Yes, that rush rush rush is what drives me nuts when what I want to do is cup my palms and hold.

Anna G Raman said...

I agree with one of the earlier comments. I try to read as little as possible, online. If I do read from books or paper, I do read and reread still.

Pris said...

Hi Anna, Thanks for your input. I'll read parts of an online journal I like, but a lot of those are changing their format so you can't click from the index and go to a poet you want to read , but have to go through the whole journal to get there. I don't want to go through the whole journal and esp when my reading time is limited.

The Storialist said...

I really like this post. I read my thick, heavy poetry anthologies all the time, and am always pleasantly reminded of how many people have written those diamond poems that you mention (for me, Robert Creeley's "The Language" and almost anything by Wallace Stevens).

mister jim said...

There is the huge cultural
phenom of mass(output) poetry, as a
preamble, and then the hi-production
.pdf and .doc loads that make it hard
to pick the gems without drowning.
I don't think the premium formats
hit search engines either. The Web
and the mind are both cognitively blinded almost. Definitely not just
you. There were hundreds of thousands,
and now, in opaque bundles of dozens.

I can only really soak in 1-2 a day,
and I have favorite spots to check.
I don't pay much attention to great
names versus little names, just
stick the net out when I can handle
something, trace a name around.

It does get to be a bit much.
And there is winnowing/reworking
one's own...

Pris said...

Thanks for the additional comments. It seems I definitely am not the only one to feel this way.

Jim, I've not been on the puter much...trying to keep my foot up to heal, but your book/s came yesterday and you did an excellent job. I just haven't been in here to write and tell you. I love the poems you selected!

mister jim said...

Thanks! I waver a little on them,
but that's what happens when you've
been over something too many times.

I feel like the collection is a
summing up before a regrouping.
Maybe a little one for each of the
other styles too. If it's small and
cheap, it doesn't matter if any move,
or when.

sb said...

Thanks for this, Pris. It clarifies for me my own experience.

It also makes me think again about submitting to print journals and/or doing a chapbook.

Not that I want another thing to think about doing...

Pris said...

sb, I hope this doesn't stop you from submitting. Despite the overload out there poems still appear that call out to be read!

Ms.F. said...

When I was in school I too memorized 'the Highwayman', along with Blake's 'Tiger tiger burning bright' and Wordsworth's 'Solitary Reaper'. But somewhere along the way, poetry lost its magic. I've almost completely stopped reading poetry any more. And I think it is at least partly due to our reliance on the net for all info, reading material etc...

I think I need to bring that magic back. Next time I'm at the library, I'm picking up a good old fashioned book of poems.

Anonymous said...

''The Highwayman'' is my Mum's all time favourite poem and she, like you memorised it in her teens and has never forgotten it...I enjoyed reading about your views.

Pris said...

Hi Ellen
Thanks. That poem is a good one, isn't it.

Ms. F, hope you do that.