Jan 11, 2008

On Bad Poetry, Good Karma, and Intellectual Elitism

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I am a voracious and compulsive reader, a person who finds it difficult to simply sit and meditate when he has a few spare moments. I recently had several minutes to kill while waiting for an appointment, and I paused to read a collection of poetry and prose I found in the waiting area.

Without giving away any particular details, let's just say that this was obviously a journal that did not compensate its poets and authors, and likely would have published every submission it received. Most of the writers were likely in the 16-20 age range, and the poems and short stories reflected the pervasive angst and limited life experiences of these young adults.

At first I found myself slipping into a sort of literary critic mode, critiquing the predictable structures, wooden characters, forced dialogue, and excessive clichés that the poems and stories possessed. Yes, there was even a shape poem about young lovers, which took the form of a heart.

I even chuckled to myself at some particularly stilted passages.

I admit that I have some negative views of contemporary pedagogical techniques in secondary English classrooms, and I believe that too much emphasis is placed upon encouraging student self-expression at the expense of developing students who have some mastery of grammar, style, and the mechanics of writing.

I paused, though, in my moment of haughty disdain toward these young writers, and began to chide myself for exhibiting the sort of elitist mentalité that I have long loathed as an up-and-coming writer. Who the hell am I to scoff - even internally - at the work of a budding writer? After all, I am the person who was once a 19-year-old would-be rock star, and who penned execrable verses like this:

I was thinking of a friend today
Pleasant thoughts indeed
I realized that we drifted away
Our gardens growing weeds
--M. Brooks, circa 1983


I am not sure whether to laugh, cry, or retch as I read my own beginning efforts at poetry and prose. Yet all writers pass through phases of creative growth, and even though some authors and poets are quick studies, the process of individual literary development cannot be circumvented.

So write from your hearts, all you young poets and novelists, and never let stuffy, middle-aged elitists dampen your spirits. Surround yourself with supportive people who will help you polish your skills, and ignore those who would engage in intellectual intimidation to maintain literary hierarchies or to assuage their own feelings of inadequacy.

Write on.

4 comments:

microdot said...

I was a bad poet, but I wrote lots of stupid rock songs, my best stuff started out to be Parodies....

This was a popular favorite circa 1981 and the music was very fast thrash/punk....

"Go Against The Flow"
ohhH...ohh (times 4)

Like a Salmon swimmin upstream
Never, Never again to see the sea
You gonna dance until you drop
You got tiny bubbles in your blood!
Tiny bubbles in your blood
gonna make you dance until
you drop!
Ohhhh...ohhh (times 2)
You gotta go against the flow!
You gotta go against the flow!

(Unearthly horrible scream here and wildly incoherent guitar solo)

Ohhh..oh (times 4)

YOU GOTTA GO AGAINST THE FLOW!


I still hum this snappy little ditty when I'm cutting the lawn.

microdot said...

Okay, you didn't like that one, here's another regional favorite:
"Little Creep From Detroit!"

I am obnoxious
I can't be trusted
I'll OD in your bathroom then I'll throw up on your rug!
I never really loved you,
I only loved your money!
All I ever wanted was all that I could steal!
I'm a little creep from Detroit!
DETROIT!
A little creep From Detroit
DETROIT!
(horrid scream, thenm a guitar solo that could only have been played by one of Ted Nugents inbred relatives who had lost a few fingers in a hunting accident)
repeat verse........

Mad Jack said...

Hey froggy! Let us not be so quick to criticize the Nuge or his relatives.

I remember taking English 102 at the University of Toledo and much later realizing that I could write better than my Grad Ass instructor. I also recall another English major bemoaning the criticism heaped on her work by some kind of writers group that she attended. I advised her to ignore the group and submit her work for publication. My point to her was that no one would care what a bunch of grad school hacks thought about her work once it was published.

I recall reading that Johnathon Livingston Seagull was rejected over fifty times before it finally hit print. When Stephen King was finally published the poor soul was living in poverty. I'm sure there are others...

microdot said...

Yeah, I'm sure we all know about the single mother on welfare in England who wrote a fantasy adventure novel for kids and had it turned down by every publisher for reasons regarding the complexity and level of literacy....finally, jk rowling found a publisher.

Re "The Nuge"
So what do you think? Would you vote for him if he makes it to the ballot for Governor of Michigan?

Uhh, have you listened to any of his records that he recorded lately?

I do remember him and his guitar "shoot outs" where he would break a glass with a note.
I also remember seeing him at a Halloween Concert at the old Olympia in Detroit that was shut by the police and turned into a riot as Nugent, dressed in his white finged "birdman" outfit dramatiic leapt off of an amplifier and grabbed a cable suspended from the ceiling and swung out over the crowd as the cops frantically tried to stop him! It was great!
The Amboy Dukes and his band before them The Lourds were playing the High School dances when I was growing up in Detroit.