What was the first poem you’ve ever read?
It is not my favorite but the first poem that I can remember reading was “Casey at the Bat” by Ernest Thayer. We read this in grade school. I suppose it was chosen because it tells a story that was accessible to boys, as most lessons tended to be (or perhaps still are) towards boys.
Poetry didn’t really click with me until later when I read the works of Stephen Crane as a teenager. I didn’t know why then, but the poetry seemed to unlock a different way of seeing the world. Interestingly, I also became a fan of Jazz at that time.
The type of poetry that appeals to me the most is simple but powerful. It uses descriptive but lean language to reveal or illustrate the truth. I strive to write this way whether it is poetry or prose.
In a subtle, abstract way, I suppose that has influence the philosophy with which I approach my life.
In your opinion, what makes a poorly written poem?
I am not fond of the role of critic or judge. I try to take an ‘impressionistic’ approach to criticism, embracing the concept of, “The apple is in the eye of the beholder.” Who am I to say that a poem is poorly written, if it speaks truth or beauty to the writer or another reader? Also, I don’t think I am qualified to say. Beyond high school, I haven’t studied poetry. I read and try to write poetry. I know what I like and I tend to think that what I like is good. However, I know something is not bad just because I don’t like it.
As I noted, I prefer poetry that is clear and lean. That is not to say literal. I love poetry that employs symbolism and abstract forms.
How would you persuade a nonreader to read poetry?
I think performance, especially live performance, is the most appealing way to expose a non-reader to poetry (or literature in general). I say performance because most people today have been raised with visual media (magazines, TV, movies and now video games too). Live performance is dynamic and has an infectious energy.
I have never been a huge fan of Shakespeare because the baroque nature of the language tends to act as a barrier. But when I first saw a performance of “The Two Gentlemen of Verona”, I was riveted.
Here is a link to a series of commercials that the Union Bank of Switzerland made featuring great actors reading great works of poetry. I think it can better illustrate the power of ‘performed’ poetry.
Also, something I have learned from my studies of art history, I feel context helps too. The environment that led to the poems creation, or more simply put, the story behind it can make it more accessible and intriguing.
Is poetry useful?
I am not exactly impartial in this argument. I feel all forms of art are useful in that they exercise and empower our critical thought processes and deepen our understanding of the world and ourselves. Moreover, creating art is important in order to serve as an outlet and to develop our ability to express ourselves. Without creativity, there is only stagnation and decay.
Bonus Joshua shares with us today a poem he wrote:
The elm surrendered its limbs.
The earth relinquished its ore.
The goose gave of its plume.
The fletcher crafted it true.
Yet, bereft archer and the aim,
what good is this arrow.
© Joshua Bowman – used with permission
In my life, I have met rich characters and heard great stories (I’ve even lived a few). Inspired by these people and tales, I am trying to capture the world around me in my writing and photography.