Sunday, September 22, 2013
Poem: The Steam Cranes/Why Novelists Read Poetry
the steam cranes
a team of steam cranes, hydraulically
lifting brownish-gray metaphors
quarreling over work methods
and over who has a bigger engine shaft
but what good are industrial efforts
in the days of nuclear rains?
(c) Nissa Annakindt 2012
Shared on Poetry Pantry #168
This is a sijo--- a Korean poetry form. The topic was chosen by opening one of my encyclopedias at random. This poem is NOT included in my poetry book, Where the Opium Cactus Grows, which is available on Amazon.com.
Why Novelists Read Poetry
Some time I read about the working habits of well-known writers. One writer, whose name I do not remember, started each writing session by reading poetry. It helped him use sharper and more meaningful language in his novels.
Poetry is not much appreciated these days, and 'therapeutic' poetry which consists in someone's prose whines arranged as if it were free verse is considered of equal worth with the greatest poems ever written.
I don't claim to be expert in knowing the literary value of a poem, like the experts who think Nikki Giovanni's poem about 'n-gg-r can you kill a honkey' is the work of one of the greatest poets of our age. But I do feel I have a grasp on what poems are 'strong' and thus useful for the novelist reading to improve his prose. It's the language--- vivid images, strong and meaningful words, combinations of ideas which are unexpected, and strong attention to the sound of the words--- and, yes, that can include rhyme and alliteration even in modern times.
A novelist's reading list of poetry will include the great poets of the past like Robert Burns and Friedrich Schiller, and it will include something modern. In the case of modern poets it is perfectly acceptable to reject vast numbers of poets and schools of poets that don't speak to the reader. The verdict of literary history has not yet been passed on these works.
I would also include poems in translation. In college I read poems translated from Russian and Chinese and quite enjoyed them--- even though my experience in reading German poems in the original and then in translation made me aware that poems, like everything else, cannot really be translating without losing something.
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