A Question for Readers

All I’ve ever done in this blog is post poems, and I have said nothing directly, but today I have questions. Since I am in my second year of going to school for poetry, I want to know what most people think of poetry. I’m sure a lot of you don’t write or read many poems, most people don’t. So what do you think poetry is? What’s poetry for? Why do you read poems or heck, why don’t you read poems? Why would anyone write poems? Are poems worth a damn? What makes a poem worth a damn? Are poems dying? I would love to hear what anybody thinks about any of this. I write poems, and I go to school to keep doing this and many of my friends now do the very same, so I’m curious of the general consensus about poems from people who aren’t going to school for poems. This will also serve as a way of seeing if anyone actually reads this blog. It makes me nervous.

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17 Comments

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17 responses to “A Question for Readers

  1. I like poems and I read them. I think they’re probably worth 2 damns, but definitely not 3.

  2. These are difficult questions that one could spend a lifetime wrestling with and still not adequately answer. What follows are my personal impressions and could be totally wrong.

    1. What is poetry? For me, the chief aim of poetry is to translate the memory or imagination of an experience or emotions into a compact, somewhat structured form that makes full use of the language(s) in which it is written.

    2. What is poetry for? Poetry is for communicating ideas, observations, and insights that are difficult or impossible to convey in other forms. It is for savoring language and for gaining a greater understanding of our world.

    3. Why do you read poems? I read poems for a variety of reasons. I enjoy looking at a situation in a way I hadn’t considered or from a perspective I hadn’t known. I enjoy the skillful use of language to evoke certain emotions or to sound a certain way rolling off the tongue. I enjoy being surprised by the power of the written and spoken word.

    4. Are poems worth a damn? Some are, many are not.

    5. What makes a poem worth a damn? This is highly subjective and depends on many factors, not the least of which is whether one is the producer (writer) or consumer (reader). From a writer’s standpoint, sometimes it is enough to have said what one needed to say, i.e., get something off one’s chest. Many of these poems probably shouldn’t be shared with the world. From a reader’s standpoint, there must be a sense of connection to something. The ability to connect, I think, is what elevates words to art. Other people may have different definitions, but this is how I see the matter.

    6. Are poems dying? No, but poets are.

    • Ryan Luz

      This is a wonderful response Geoff, thank you. I’m curious of what poets you enjoy and how much you write poetry. Please share.

      • Ryan, I enjoy many different poets but my two favorites are Gary Snyder and W.S. Merwin. As for my own experience, I used to write a fair amount of poetry back in the day. I haven’t written any poems of substance in 10+ years. One day, I may return. Once poetry is in you, it never really leaves.

    • Ryan Luz

      Do you know of UCSD’s Archive of New Poetry? Inside of the main library on campus at their Special Collections library they have an absolutely wonderful and abundant collection of papers by several very influential poets, publishers, and presses. I worked their for the past year and you’d absolutely love it. It’s really just an amazing resource and it’s right here in San Diego and open to the public. So in the case that you don’t already know of this you can see what they have here: http://libraries.ucsd.edu/locations/mscl/manuscripts/archive-for-new-poetry-manuscript-collections.html

      Some of Gary Snyder’s letters are there.

  3. Staralfur

    for centuries, people in the West defined poetry as words in verse to mean something – that was an incorrect definition. poetry in other parts of the world is almost sacred (in some cultures, it literally is). I think these questions are unanswerable, only because i believe poetry is a piece of work that illicit some kind of emotional response, either from the individual writing it or the people reading it. what is poetry to me is irrelevant in the end product. i’m not in an MFA program (so i am ignorant here), but i don’t think the point of an MFA program is to help you ‘know’ poetry, but rather, to help you ‘know’ your writing.

    • Ryan Luz

      I think perhaps all questions are ultimately unanswerable in a sense, we are extremely limited beings and I think it is a wonderful idea to seek bewilderment rather than finality. But I think it’s worth trying to answer these questions for ourselves and that it’s important to attempt to define what things mean for ourselves. As a poet of course I think it’s essential to constantly wrestle with our own definitions of poetry, I think our poems do that. You aren’t ignorant at all Nasir, an MFA program does not make one suddenly illuminated to the secret clickings of the poetry machine. I think personally, for me as a writer, it’s impossible to separate the idea of ‘knowing’ poetry and ‘knowing’ my writing, it is just one continuous conversation.

  4. Sarah Boonsirichai

    I think poetry, when spoken aloud, connects us to the spirit world. I love the idea of poems as prayers, linking us to God. People use to, and perhaps still do, used poems for chants and spells, evoking the power of the mouth and words. I truly believe words hold the power to heal or destroy and perhaps that’s why the word ‘poetry’ is so powerful.

  5. Ryan,
    You say you’ve said nothing directly, but I disagree. You’ve said exactly what you wanted to say. This is poetry. It is creative self-expression. Poetry is the means through which we take the things brewing, festering, or otherwise trying to get out of us, and release them. It is the vehicle for those of us who love language and alliterative action, or otherwise find the words exciting. It is our way of saying exactly what we want to say, exactly how we want to say it. It is a control mechanism of sorts. We get to organize the words into single or multiple meanings. We get to decide on juxtaposition, rhyme, and all of the fun things we can do with all the words we know – because we know so many of them and want to use them. Poetry is, because people like us have always known we had something to say. This is our way of saying it. Here’s one of mine:

    Consumed by fear from near death experience, since I was a teen I’ve been stuck between the anxiety of attack, watching my back, and a rage that’s grown with age. Page after page I read the diary of a depraved mind trying to find relief. What seems a brief event in time leads to crime and punishment. I’m so far gone, just one break away from a long stay or even death. It takes my breath away to envisage my demise. My wife cries watching me try to cope. Hopeless at times, I lie to myself and say I’m no good, that she would be better off if we’d never met. Yet she stays with me and prays for me and believes that we will overcome the malady of my mind – that together we’ll find peace.

    Good luck finishing your MFA. E mail me if you want to talk more.

    Dan

    • Ryan Luz

      Thank you so much for your response Dan, it really is appreciated and I admire how genuinely and passionately you speak about poetry. Also, thank you so much for sharing your work, do you write often?

  6. Carly

    Ryan,

    I actually discovered your blog while researching MFA programs. These are the types of questions that I am exploring while trying to prepare my personal statements. It finally hit me on Friday with what I want to convey– that poetry allows for multiple perspectives, a chance for one’s language to breathe. I read and write because I love seeing how one can take an object and situation and turn it into something more. Poems are definitely worth a damn, especially when they stick and steep under someone’s skin like a song.

    Keep up the amazing writing. Your poem, “My Learns”, has been shared with a few of my friends, and it sticks with me throughout the day 🙂

    • Ryan Luz

      Thank you so much for the comment Carly. How is your search going? Feel free to ask any questions you might have about the process, it can by dizzying. I’d love to see some of your poems. It might be nice if readers send me poems and every once in a while when I get ones I really enjoy I’ll post them. I do like that idea. Thank you so much for reading and responding Carly.

      • Carly

        Ryan,

        Thanks for the response back! The search has ended in terms of where I want to apply, and now I’m just solidifying the writing sample and personal statements.

        I’ll be more than happy to show you some of my work! Where shall I send it to you? If I post them up on my blog I will give you a link.

    • Ryan Luz

      Carly, my email is ryanaluz@gmail.com

      Please send them along. Did you end up applying to UCSD?

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