When I make a serious study of poetry, that is! I am using Laurence Perrine’s Sound and Sense: An Introduction to Poetry Eleventh Edition. I went with a later edition for cost purposes, I hope I don’t regret that choice. As frequent readers have probably heard me say before – I hold older is better as we approach the terminal retardation levels portrayed in Mike Judge’s Idiocracy. It seems it retains one of the authors that was present on earlier editions with Perrine, and browsing through the list of poets, seems to cover mostly the classics.
I found no entries “analyzing” Ziggy Ho’ Doggs Where ‘Dem White Hoe’s At? Nor anything discussing the deep meaning of the “song” Pimp Juice (yes, kiddies that’s a “song”). They did oust the limerick in this edition, but I think we can get by.
This should be fun. I have read poetry in the past and have even dabbled in constructing a few. However I simply read them straight through, if it appealed to me, I liked it, if not, not. If I understood it, I would be prone to like it, if not, not.
This, I am sure is the most common approach to poetry. Life is short, etc, etc.
I finished the first little section earlier. It starts with a poem called THE EAGLE by Tennyson which is a great one to start with because it is quite straightforward, is singular in subject and it is short.
The next one is WINTER by Shakespeare. I found myself having to go to the dictionary on the second line. “And Dick the shepherd blows his nail.” He does what? So I had to look up and see alternative definitions for nail. Still not sure specifically what this means. It is supposed to be a winter image since the poem consists of a series of images of English country winter. Oh, and the hoot of the owl!
Poems this old represent a different level of challenge; greasy Joan keels the
pot. Is she cleaning it? Does she collapse against and capsize it?
I also have Perrine’s Literature: Structure, Sound and Sense because I thought it would be fun.
At the beginning of chapter one under the heading What is Poetry? Is a discussion of the uses of language: Informational, persuasive, and experience or the poetic use (which subsumes literature of all kinds). It then explains the difference (as well as this notion can be conveyed) between looking up information on eagles in an encyclopedia vs. what you acquire by reading a good poem about an eagle. Mere information vs. the poetic image.
Such a difference is obvious to me and has always consumed me as I fear that we are quickly losing all sense of the poetic in favor of mere data. Mind, data is fine, data is very important. But when you watch one of the most popular scientists (and I use that term with charity because these celebrity scientists don’t seem to do much science-ing) deride Twinkle Twinkle Little Star because we now know specifically, scientifically, what causes the star to twinkle and that it may not even have been a star but a planet that was twinkling in the little girl’s eye, you are seeing the death of the poetic mind.
Data about things is not the thing. There is something shocking about the mind that can know all about the properties of stars and planets and gravitation, etc, but miss the wonder in a poem about stars. In my mind there is more in that poem than in a thousand reams of astrological data on stars. That data will never give you what that poem does as it does with experience how it is experienced. The poem gives you the actual star, forms a connection between you and it, it brings it millions, billions, trillions of miles in deep space to a little girl’s window and wonder on a starry night.
That people think one replaces the other – that one was some form of primitive level of understanding now to be informed by strict measurements, logic, and attribution of objects. Much as some people view religion and philosophy as primitive forms of reasoning about the world (oh, yes, there are creatures who toss Aristotle and the whole crew in with Moses and Christ – off to the ape dump with ya!) so poetry is some remnant that modern man will deal away with by DATA!
And before this turns into a rant I’d like to offer one personal observation. I hear the strictly Science! types talk about the wonders of the universe. I fail to find the wonder in a universe of mere data. Take the twinkle out of the little girl’s eye and it is just a void.