Thursday, August 22, 2013

Hi. My name is Katie. I am a poet.

They say the first step is acknowledgement... (think AA confession, added since few seem to catch the reference)

Now that we've all had a chance to laugh at my absurd discomfort, I thought we might move on with the subject. Thanks to a lovely website found at Relative Finder which lets you link up with your LDS Family Tree account and then pulls out the relations to some of the big names in church and world history, I know I can pass some of the blame on a distant relation to T S Eliot and some twelve composer/lyricists of LDS hymns. Not that I claim any significant skill or aspiration in the medium. I just seem to be cursed with a mind that sometimes finds its easiest expression in verse format.

So why does having to admit some poetic tendencies literally make me nauseated? That would be due to this recurring image that I have of the stereotyped 'emo' person at a poetry reading typified from a Home Improvement episode I saw as a child. The Taylor family (likely at mother Jill's urging) sat in disbelief and discomfort while the unrestrained and directionless spewing of emotional wallowing. The only part I recall is one girl standing at the microphone forcefully... cursing (?), "Die. Die! DIE! Go on - DIE!" and Randy retorting, "You first." His attitude rather parallels my own to those who choose to glory in the dark of depression.

Please don't get me wrong, here - depression is a real and serious issue for many people. I do not have it and I can't say I understand it. I have had to deal with some pretty heavy emotional stresses in my life, however, and they even found a great release in the form of poetry. Which leads me to my main complaint with a characteristic often represented in poets: they glory in the underbelly of emotion. Really? Why? What's the point? That happens to be a very quick turn-off for me in writing, music, tv/film, and even in people in general. Case-in-point, I knew a kid some years back with great potential but hung up on some partially disclosed issues of his past. Emotionally, I actually got pretty darn close with him until I realized that it was easier for him to complain about being stuck, not knowing what to do, when it was his move in life. There's a difference in struggling under burdens you can't change that overwhelm you and those that 'surround' you because you're unwilling to get off your duff (no offense to Hillary intended) and do something about it.

Come to think of it, I have a poem about it:

November 7, 2008

Make a choice and go
To see where it will lead
Or choose instead to stay,
But "Choose!" I beg, I plead.

And worse yet still is fear
To commit to things unknown.
When did courage come to be
No longer garden grown?

Or then there's blame and fault
To deny a duty's yours.
For others are not meant to be
Assigned your rightful chores.

So leave me then, I pray,
To weed my garden's choice.
But don't be shy to call when
You need a bold, strong voice.

I am actually well aware that it's not always clear-cut from person to person who is truly trapped and who is not. But everyone can act. Even if it is only to look for a way to keep going. Or even just put a voice to the nightmare so it's not all bottled up inside. Such are not how I see the 'emo'. Such cries rend my heart for their pain and leave me sending prayers to heaven on their behalf. I just seem to have no patience for those who make camp in the dark and then complain about it, or worse - glorify it. Yech.

The other nauseating element of poetry was reinforced by my semester of Victorian Literature where we learned of the poets and audience who cared not for substance but for how the sounds could cause swoons. Again: really? 'Who cares if it makes sense so long as it elicits a visceral reaction?' Well... that explains a large majority of modern media, too. There's a fine line running through the idea of "art for art's sake" and I've discovered that it's far more frequent for such claims to fall on the side of the ridiculous. It is not always empty, but I still find less of value when a thing is meaningless.

For example: There are many songs in foreign languages, usually with a certain tonal sound, that I greatly like. Take "Transformation" by Phil Collins from Brother Bear, or "Baba Yetu" by Christopher Tin from the computer game Civilization IV (nope, only know of it from the music - never played it). The first is an Inuit translation of the lyrics and the second is Swahili for "The Lord's Prayer". Both are favorites of mine. Then consider Adiemus by Karl Jenkins (music that came up on the Pandora station). I loved the sound and looked it up to learn what it was saying only to discover it said nothing. It managed to avoid the ridiculous but I simply can't engage on the same level without something to focus the lingual meaning.

There it is. You may disagree. One person I knew had a habit of posting the second type of poetry on facebook as well as her resulting swoons and if she were to see this post, she'd surely be one of those disagreeing. None-the-less, these are the reasons why I always feel a sense of shame at the designation of poet which automatically is applied to one who has ever written in verse. It is something I have consciously been trying to re-frame in my mind as it logically should not be a shameful thing. I remind myself most of all of Eliza R. Snow as a talented and meaningful poet whose works uplift and inspire and show the good poetry can bring. I think of how songs are simply poems put to music and of the music version of Robert Frost's "Walking Through Woods on a Snowy Evening" learned in grade school. I think of the epics of Homer, and yes, it even occurs to me now to think of Shakespeare (having spent four years in a festival city, it'd be embarrassing if I forgot him...). I am trying to change my perception of poets and therefore my connection to poetry. And in writing this post, I'm hoping it'll help it sink in a little deeper. Also, this sets the stage so that I might actually let myself share some of the things I have written over the past sixteen years in possible future posts. Don't expect incredible, but they do all actually say something...

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