Sunday, September 22, 2013

Poem: The Steam Cranes/Why Novelists Read Poetry


the steam cranes

a sijo

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

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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Natašek said...

i love the closing lines. so true. wasn't familiar with this poetry form, seems very interesting.

Brian Miller said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Vandana Sharma said...

:)for me too this is new , but its worth trying. Thanks a lot for the encouragement

Mary said...

Wow, that sijo packs a punch. Makes me stop and think about whether the world is on the right path.....or not.

Sherry Blue Sky said...

Those closing lines really hit home......a thought-provoking piece!

ruth said...

great form... the closing lines really pack a bunch, well done

Nissa Annakindt said...

Thanks for all the kind words, folks!