Sunday, 12 February 2012

Knocking Down the Walls

10:16:00 Posted by Damp incendiary device , , , , , , , , , , , 15 comments
by Jessica Bell

Today I’m supposed to be discussing the difference between narrative and lyric poetry. You know, I could do that. I could tell you that “lyric” comes from the ancient Greek instrument, the lyre, and that the Greeks used to always sing their poetry to its accompaniment. I could also tell you that lyric poems resemble songs in three distinct ways: they are shorter than epic (narrative) poetry, they usually express the thoughts of the poet, and they often give you the feeling they can be sung.

On that note, I’d also mention that epic (narrative) poetry stems from Greek too. From the word “epos,” which means to speak or to tell a tale. Homer’s Iliad is and example of an epic poem. So is the Odyssey. Epic poems are supposed to enhance the reader’s sense of good and evil, by focusing on the heroism of a certain individual that is a symbol of strength, virtue, courage … really I could go on and on telling you what these forms of poetry are and bore the crikeyness out of you. So let me tell you a little something about myself …

I hate rules. I love to learn them, however, and I love to know that I know them. But rarely do I utilize them, and rarely do I label poetry as this, that, and the other. Poetry, to me, is art. There are no limits to art. You can’t pigeon hole it. This is another reason why I don’t much like ‘genres’ in fiction. But that’s a completely different discussion.

The ‘type’ or style of poem, ultimately has no significant meaning. They’re there for scholars to refer to in their lectures and print in their theses, so … Narrative or Lyric? Who cares! Does your poem evoke emotion? Yes? Then you’re good to go in my book. Does your poem keep me engaged? Does it make me want to read more of it? Does it use vocabulary creatively, avoid cliché, kick me in the gut and make me want to write like you? Does it make me email all my friends and tell them to check out this new and upcoming genius? Does it make me read the same poem over and over and over and find new meaning in it with every reading? Yes? Brilliant. Then keep doing what you’re doing.

And if you’ve mixed and matched various forms of poetry to create your own, then you deserve a standing ovation. Because seriously, rules can suck the life out of art … they can also enhance it, but again, that’s another discussion, and maybe Vicky can invite me back one day to tell you what I think about that. So I’ll just leave you with this:

Don’t ever listen to people who begin a sentence with, “You can’t do that because … .”

You can do that. Do it. And show everybody how it’s done.

Jessica Bell Online:

String Bridge (a novel)
Retreat & workshop
Vine Leaves Journal


vicky ellis said...

This post really inspired me. In particular the line 'does it make me want to write like you?' encapsulates what some of my favourite poetry does for me.

Here's to mixing and matching ad infinitum! Thank you for joining us Jessica :)

Jessica Bell said...

Thank you so much for having me, Vicky! :o)

Roslyn Ross said...

I suspect most writers/poets have a natural tendency or instinct to a particular style. It can be useful to practise using other forms but my feeling is that if you lean toward a particular style or form of expression then this will be the most effective way of communicating and creating.
It is not about wrong or right but about what suits you best.

Ashley R Lister said...


I was nodding agreement whilst I read every word of your post.

Rules can be useful in some aspects of creative writing - I find them an invaluable resources when I'm trying to fix something I've broken in a narrative. But if we all adhere to a fixed set of rules for the creation of our writing we can just give up and let computers take over the work.

Thanks for such sage words this weekend.


February Grace said...

I LOVED this post! Inspirational doesn't begin to cover it for me.

Thank you so much for hosting Jessica at A Dead Good Blog and thank you Jessica for writing it!


vicky ellis said...

February Grace

Damn, that's a great name :)

What about...

August Fury


October Hope


April Serenity


Theresa Milstein said...

I like your perspective better.

There are two short middle grade novels in verse: Love that Dog and Hate that Cat by Sharon Creech. It's from a boy's point of view. His teacher is having the class explore poetry. At first he's intimidate about rules and meaning, but his teacher teaches him poetry is more flexible than that. Through poetry the boy works out some hard things in his life.

I learned a lesson from those books because I've been intimidated by poetry. I won't write it because I'm worried it won't be right. And I can't critique it because I'm not worthy. I've become more flexible about reading it. Not writing yet though.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Don't worry, I ignore the rules! Interesting the differences though.

Laura Marcella said...

Hello to all the Dead Good Bloggers! Great guest post today!

Jessica, when I was a kid I used to like reading poetry but hated writing it because there was all these rules for it that the teachers insisted upon. Finally in 7th grade I had a teacher who encouraged creative thinking and writing and had no rules for writing. When I wasn't forced to write poetry in a certain way, such as making it rhyme or something, I really enjoyed it! Now I like experimenting with all different kinds of forms because I like the challenge of keeping to the rules. It's a lot more fun when no teacher is making you do it that way and I know I can bend the rules if I want!

Hope you're all having a great weekend!

Susan Oloier said...

I've always believed it is important to know the rules before you break them. And I believe breaking them is the key to true creativity. Wonderful post, Jessica.

Anonymous said...

I enjoy the different forms of poetry and trying them at. That's not to say that's all poetry is to me but formalism has a place too.

Melissa Bradley said...

Amen my sister writer! Rules subvert art. I am all about free expression with verse. The poetry I've written has no rhyme or form, it's just a flow. I love reading your descriptions of the forms though. Very informative. :)

Jessica Bell said...

Thanks for dropping by everyone! Anonymous, yes, formalism DOES have a place. That's why I said, "rules... can also enhance [art], but again, that’s another discussion."

There have been times that I've forced myself to write a formal poem, simply because I felt like that challenge, and have created poems that I never would have done hadn't it been for the limitations. So yes, it definitely has a place. But I do believe that limitations will only hurt us if we're not open to it. Being told that there is only one specific way to do things will only stunt a person's creativity if they're not free to experiment as well. While the 'rules' teach us how to better our craft, there needs to be room to break boundaries for our hearts to be completely 'in it'. You know what I mean?

Trisha said...

I've written a fair bit of poetry. And a fair few songs. Sometimes old high school poems get dug out & made into lyrics. It's fun to see that happen.

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