Thoughts on Poetry

I have visible contradictions

I rejoice in them

They keep me sane in a world organized by restricting labels


“What is it like being you?”

I don’t really know, I’ve never been anything else


“What is truth? What is life?”

God is truth. Everything else sort of falls into place after that. Life is a chance to do something redeemable.


I’ve been watching Dead Poet’s Society. My mom always claims that the English language has none of the power and prose of Arabic, but that’s the opinion anyone would have if their favorite author was Dan Brown.

While I’ve never been a huge poetry fan, it does induce an emotional stir in me. Not all poems, but certain poets and certain poems. Things I can relate to (relatable is a questionable word, apparently.)

For example, I don’t get Nizar Qabbani. A younger me would arrogantly dismiss him as a weak poet. But it’s probably because I’ve never been in love, so I can’t understand the emotions behind the words.

I like Robert Frost and Poe. Not because I can relate to the simple or macabre, but because the melody of the poems is pleasant. Not very high brow, I know, but I ain’t gonna lie. I hate T.S. Eliot for precisely that reason, this pretentious show of being clever. (H.P.Lovecraft gave him what for in his parody of “The Waste Land“)

I can appreciate a light-hearted, nonsense poem, but not in large quantities. (Ex. The Walrus and the Carpenter = amusing, The Hunting of the Snark = no. Lewis Carroll is still a favorite though)

I could be snobby and say I absolutely adore Tennyson or Yeats or Dickenson or Whitman. But the fact of the matter is, I read a few of their poems, which I came across after seeing them referenced in other places, and I rather enjoyed them. Despite the assertions of my mother, English can be a powerful and complex language if in the hands of the right person.

It can also be a horrible, grating mess in the hands of the very wrong individuals. I will not directly mention some of the excrement I’ve seen masquerading as poetry lately, but I can tell you they are an abomination and an insult to humankind.

So what makes a poem good or bad? Does it depend more on the skill of the author or the experiences of the reader? A little of both, I guess, which is the boring answer. The fun answer is “Everything my favorite poet does makes poetry good, and everything your favorite does makes it SUCK!” But I’m trying this thing for a friend where I’m pro-stuff more than anti-stuff.

What about modern poetry? Well, what constitutes modern poetry. The first thing that comes to mind is a certain poet who Does Not Capitalize, but I don’t know how modern they are considered. A quick Google search brings up boring results, as well as the confusion over modern poets vs. Modernist poets.

I am reminded of Def Poetry Jam, which is like an open-mic night for spoken word. It’s pretty recent and satisfies my criteria for “modern”. They address contemporary issues, they use common vernacular and are both entertaining and thought provoking. The most prominent one I can recall at the moment is Suheir Hammad’s “First Writing Since”. It’s got a very nice blend of abstract beauty and real world snap, with a subject that hits close to home. 

I’m probably very limited in my scope here. I don’t immerse myself in poetry, I often just stumble across it by accident. It’s also not a good idea to immerse ones self in poetry too much as they are in general a very bleak and (overly) emotional subculture.


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