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February 1, 2003

“An online quiz you actually need to know about,”
Posted by Teresa at 11:05 PM *

read the subject line of a letter from Scraps DeSelby; then added, in the letter proper, “I think this is the first one I regret not thinking of myself: Which Poetry Form Are You?

I’m thus spared wondering whether Scraps wrote that quiz, since otherwise I would surely have suspected it. The questions are elegantly inscrutable, and the fortunes they tell are even more so. You might, for instance, be told that you’re a triolet:

If they told you I’m mad, then they lied.
I’m odd, but it isn’t compulsive.
I’m the triolet, bursting with pride;
If they told you I’m mad, then they lied.
No, it isn’t obsessive. Now hide
All the spoons or I might get convulsive.
If they told you I’m mad then they lied.
I’m odd, but it isn’t compulsive.
Or even a clerihew:
I, as a clerihew,
Tend to be merry; too
Merry, it might, perhaps, by some, be claimed;
But I’m sure that these people are wrong, and need to be grievously maimed.
But if you’re Patrick, you get told you’re heroic couplets:
I am heroic couplets; most precise
And fond of order. Planned and structured. Nice.
I know, of course, just what I want; I know,
As well, what I will do to make it so.
This doesn’t mean that I attempt to shun
Excitement, entertainment, pleasure, fun;
But they must keep their place, like all the rest;
They might be good, but ordered life is best.
It remains only to learn what poetic form Scraps proved to be. (And how is your dear old dog, Variable Foot?)
Comments on "An online quiz you actually need to know about,":
#1 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2003, 11:45 PM:

I'm Heroic Couplets, too. With a triolet chaser.

#2 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2003, 12:04 AM:

Okay, I am the bloody sonnet form,
Heroic couplets taking second place,
And as that is my formalistic norm,
The test does not have ova on its face.
The online quiz is far too often bare
Of subtlety, and points too obviously
Toward "Dante," "salsa," "offbeat underwear;"
It only asks To Be or Not To Be.
Yet once again a-checking we will go,
Behaving as if when the button's pressed
We'll see something we don't already know
And be more Us, instead of More Or Lessed.
Yet toward the Multiphasic we're disposed;
For inventory we are never closed.

#3 ::: Glenn Hauman ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2003, 12:26 AM:

Higgeldy piggeldy,
Teresa N. Hayden
Told me to look at an
Internet quiz.

But the test didn't have
To describe the type of
Person I is.

#4 ::: Glenn Hauman ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2003, 12:48 AM:

H-t-t-p colon,
Forward slash, Forward slash,
Double-u, Double-u,
Double-u, Dot

Nielsen Hayden Dot-com,
L-I-G-H-T slash
Now, your turn, wot?

#5 ::: Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2003, 02:16 AM:

It seems terribly confused by me. It gave terza rima as first choice but then said or else a sonnet. But the terza rima likes people while the sonnet doesn't. Which is contracdictory and if I had to choose I'd say the sonnet. I wrote a sonnet cycle once...


#6 ::: Lois Fundis ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2003, 02:18 AM:

I too, Mike, am the graceful sonnet form,
Alternatively, I might be blank verse,
But formalism mostly is my norm.
Thus I like haiku, too, for it is terse,
And sorry am that it's not on my list.
Which answers must I give to bring it out?
The chance to be a haiku has been missed!
And lacking limerick also makes me pout,
Though terza rime I don't miss at all,
Nor the exotic Cywydd Llosgyrnog [1]
And neither does the clerihew enthrall
Nor to the descort does my spirit flock.
Heroic couplet though, or triolet,
Or ballad I would sing most any day.

[1] I had to look it up!'s.sanctuary.irishforms.cywyddllosgyrnog.html
say's it's pronounced "cuh-with lo-seer-nock".

#7 ::: PiscusFiche ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2003, 02:46 AM:

Short, terse, unfriendly,
Yet sometimes quite emotive;
I am the Haiku.

(Somehow this does not surprise me. Except. I am friendly. But I am also short. And occasionally friends and I will conduct conversations in haiku. In fact, one of the first poems I was truly proud of was a haiku. See below. The title was "Haiku". Pronounce it like you just sneezed.)


A small wind blows south
Little green goobers flying
Get me a Kleenex!


Thank you.

#8 ::: Maureen Speller ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2003, 04:29 AM:

Heroic couplets, with a side helping of triolet. Very good for the ego. I want to feel heroic today. I imagine Mr Kincaid falling over laughing if he reads the Heroic Couplets poem and then looks at my study ... but we strive. And as a quiz, a considerable improvement on 'which thingie you've never heard of are you?'. Quizzes make me feel old and out of touch.

However, I'm about to drag this conversation off poetry and onto the word 'spruiker' which featured in a question, a word I don't know at all (I'm posting from the UK). I could go off and Google but I'm more interested in the flavour of usage rather than a dry definition. The look of the word suggests Dutch ... an NYC word?


#9 ::: Jane Yolen ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2003, 05:51 AM:

Like Mary Kay, I was unpredictably a terza rima with a side helping of sonnet. Am feeling decidedly non-poetic today, though. Am in awe of the poetry done instantaneously above. You guys should really write for a living, you know.


#10 ::: Beth Bernobich ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2003, 08:55 AM:

Oh dear. I am either a sonnet or a limerick. Those two seem so...contradictory. But yes, this test is a tasty one.

#11 ::: John Farrell ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2003, 09:07 AM:

Heroic couplet, with Triolet as the back-up.

#12 ::: Vicki Rosenzweig ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2003, 10:38 AM:

Like Mary Kay and Jane, I'm terza rima with a second choice of sonnet. At least I'm in good company.

What I particularly liked is that it offered to let me choose a different form if I wasn't happy with either of those.

#13 ::: Kip ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2003, 01:42 PM:

Heroic couplets, eh? No big surprise.
An easier pattern scarcely could arise.
Let's face it, anyone can make a rhyme
With scheme of AA, BB, all the time.
(Though meter's just a little tougher, when
Your normal scheme is two feet short of ten.)
Alternately, lest anyone forgets,
I also could be raining triolets.

#14 ::: Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2003, 02:37 PM:

A limerick, that's what I am.
A format distinctly un-glam.
Yet I find myself vexed
That the haiku is next:
It throws off the rhyme,
Not to mention the scansion,
And ends with a slam.

#15 ::: Graham Sleight ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2003, 04:06 PM:

I turned out to be free verse,
Which made me

I don't know why, but I've run into a lot of
bad free verse

Second-choice haiku
was better, letting me be

#16 ::: Emma ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2003, 04:45 PM:

Well, I'm a terza rima with a lai alternate. Both airheaded. At least I hope I dropped the cream bun on somebody's head!

#17 ::: Jim Meadows ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2003, 05:04 PM:

I'm a sonnet, or alternately, an heroic couplet. Please remember this when doing your holiday gift shopping.

#18 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2003, 05:33 PM:

Oh, I'm glad to hear I'm not the only terza rima/lai. It must have been the cream bun! I was surprised, because I think of myself as something of an introvert, but then I realized: I enjoy the company of my *friends* very much. It's dealing with people-in-general, unfiltered by interest or affection, that I dislike.

#19 ::: Jordin Kare ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2003, 05:44 PM:

>In fact, one of the first poems I was truly proud of was a haiku.

I've always been exceptionally fond of a rather SFnal haiku (not mine, alas):

Haiku's inventor
Surely had seven fingers
On his middle hand

Jordin Kare

#20 ::: Berni Phillips Bratman ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2003, 06:55 PM:

Ah, the hubby and I both came out as sonnets. My backup form was heroic couplets and his blank verse.

I'm really more of a limerick or haiku person, I think. We have a new cat, and watching him interact the other morning with the other cat led me to write:

Cats running through house.
Little cat chases big cat.
Yikes! Table's turned now.

#21 ::: Glenn Hauman ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2003, 07:15 PM:

Goddamn and mother-f
Dear Darling Teresa,
Could I impose on you
To change a word?

Please change "Alas" to "But".
That's how my first poem was
Meant to be heard.

#22 ::: Kris Hasson-Jones ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2003, 12:25 AM:

I'm terza rima, or if not that, then heroic couplets. I like the terza rima form, but I'd never seen it before.

#23 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2003, 02:05 AM:

I got one I've never heard of, the tanka, with a sonnet secondary.

I prefer to believe that this is because the quiz has never heard of Old Lore Metre.

#24 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2003, 05:25 AM:

Tanka is a Japanese form; where haiku is 5-7-5, tanka is 5-7-5-7-7. (You could think of haiku as the first three lines of a tanka.)

I came out as heroic couplets / triolet. I wonder if this is because I declined to drop anything off the building.

#25 ::: Andrew Brown ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2003, 06:45 AM:

I too was a triolet, with sonnet backup. My daughter was a triolet, modulating into lai.

But scraps, I'm sorry to say, can't scan a limerick. If even he can't, what hope is there for literary civilisations?

#26 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2003, 07:50 AM:

There once was a chap named de Selby
Who, if soneone's going to tell me
About blogomania's
Verse, he's the bloke it might well be.

Yes, that's possibly the worst one of those not actually involving Nantucket. Do you know what TIME it is?

#27 ::: Bob Webber ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2003, 09:26 AM:

It's a magazine started in 1922 by Henry Luce and Briton Hadden. But that's not important right now...

#28 ::: LauraJMixon ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2003, 09:48 AM:

I'm hard-core terza rima (if you can call terza rima hard anything....) -- no side orders of anything.

What fun.

#29 ::: jennie ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2003, 10:57 AM:

"I92m a triolet bursting with pride",
Though I92m not really sure what it means.
To Google I92ve applied
I92m a triolet bursting with pride
"Simple and elegant" , not snide
No terrible thing it seems
I92m a triolet bursting with pride.

my second
answer was
free verse.

And I answered "cream bun", too

as I do,
just what this may be
(though not how to do it well --
though, at least no worse that I do
a triolet)

I'm happier being a

#30 ::: CN ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2003, 12:58 PM:

There is nothing else on this planet as irrelevant as poetry.

#31 ::: Emmet ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2003, 01:00 PM:

Heroic couplets, or failing that a triolet. I, too, would not drop things of a high building for fear of hurting anyone. I fail to see the relevance; still, I have given up expecting internal logic for these things since the "which gender stereotype are you ?" one told me I was an intellectual dyke.

There was an old man
From Peru, whose lim'ricks all
Look'd like haiku. He

Said with a laugh "I
Cut them in half, the pay is
Much better for two."

#32 ::: Bob Webber ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2003, 01:18 PM:

I think that online quizzes are less relevant than poetry.

There once was a fellow named Soren,
Who said, "All those quizzes are borin'!
But this one about verse?
Well, quite the reverse!
I'd surely buy that for a Florin."

#33 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2003, 01:39 PM:

Things can only be "relevant" to something else. 'Relevant' is not an absolute term; therefore CN's statement is a misusage almost exactly the reverse of calling something "very unique." Poetry, for example, is highly relevant to human happiness.

It's generally irrelevant to the stock market, although there are exceptions even there.

#34 ::: CN ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2003, 01:48 PM:

Let me clarify, then. In the entire history of the human race, there has never been a poem that was worth the trouble of writing it down. Think of poetry as masturbation without the accompanying pleasure.

#35 ::: jennie ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2003, 01:59 PM:

Can somebody tell me why almost every discussion of poetic forms morphs into an exchange of limericks?

There once was a blog in the blogosphere,
To whither flocked poets from far and near,
And writers and editors,
And Jack Stoddart's creditors,
Each others' limericks for to hear.

hmmmm....I should probably stick with prose.

#36 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2003, 02:01 PM:

Ah. I violated an important rule. DNFTT. I now repent, and turn from sin.

#37 ::: jennie ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2003, 02:03 PM:

I don't wish to even attempt to change CN's mind. It would be a wasted battle.

I'm curious, however, about what sort of writing CN _would_ consider worth writing down.

I'm equally curious about what poetry (or writing, or any creative endeavour) should be relevant to?

#38 ::: CN ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2003, 02:14 PM:

Jennie, just to answer your curiosity, I read constantly. My personal library at home contains 2000 books, not counting the cartons I sent to the public library lately.

But none of them contains any poetry, except accidentally.

One of the benefits of the varied education I was subjected to is that I am completely unable to enjoy such things as that, having had them force-fed to me throughout elementary school, high school, and various colleges and universities.

As a result of these efforts, I resent greatly the very existence of such things. You need merely tell me something is a "classic" of literature to insure that I won't be able to force myself through it. The inevitable result of my education is a complete inability to perceive poetry as anything other than a meaningless sequence of words, often misspelled.

Sorry to be a troll, but one of my hot buttons was pushed.

#39 ::: Bob Webber ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2003, 02:14 PM:

For me it's due to having been bitten by a radioactive camel with a wooden leg excessive exposure to W.S. Baring-Gould's The Lure of the Limerick at a vulnerable age. Plus they're the only thing even close to poetry I've ever had any success writing. And of course they're quick, so one can get from the urge to the mopping up and lassitude rather quickly.

#40 ::: Holly Messinger ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2003, 02:46 PM:

Mary Kay, I got the same option you did, terza rima or sonnet. All my Myers-Briggs scores come out like that, too. Schizy.

#41 ::: jennie ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2003, 02:47 PM:


Pace, I didn't mean to imply either that you should read poetry or that you should like it. Even less did I mean to imply that you weren't a literate, reading person. I'm *really* not trying to pick a bone, or raise your hackles, or anything. Please accept my apology if I have done so.

There are art and communication forms that I ignore completely: I don't watch television, I don't watch many films, I'm not certain when was the last time I went to a play, and the most I hear of popular music is the soft rock radio station that is piped into the bathroom at one of my clients' offices (that's more than enough!). I just don't find that these things really top the list of ways I like to spend my time (well, I would like to see more plays, actually -- that's the time being finite/self being indivisible problem).

It was your use of "relevant" that piqued my curiosity, as well as value judgement "not worth the trouble of writing...down".

I tend to be curious about how people assign *value* to art. Of course, just plain not liking it is your perogative, and is fine. I don't like much pop music. I consider most television shows to be poorly written, poorly characterised, somewhat vulgar, and not worth sitting still for given the time it takes to watch them. ( I've chosen to define "worth", as "sufficiently interesting/engrossing/ejoyable", in this context). However, a significant portion of the population finds some value in them, so I must conclude that those who comprise that portion are evaluating the shows differently.

That those who enjoy television (and having pop music piped into the bathroom) are different from me is neither surprising, nor upsetting. *Why* they're different, *what* they like about these shows (*why* the property managers of my clients' office building think people want to listen to Celine Dion when they're on the toilet) that's fascinating!

It's clear that you have your reasons for not liking poetry...and I wish you the joy of your prose.

#42 ::: Bob Webber ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2003, 02:54 PM:

I dunno, jennie, that bathroom thing could be useful. At least Celine Dion's singing has always annoyed the crap out of me.

#43 ::: Chuck Nolan ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2003, 03:11 PM:

PACE, as well, Jennie. I wasn't angry or annoyed, although the tone of my reply was perhaps not what I had intended. I took what you wrote as a serious question, and attempted to give a serious reply. I don't want to make an enemy of you, I'd rather be a friend.

What I was trying to convey was that for me, all value these things might have had was driven away by misguided attempts to educate me about the value these things might have had. More a complaint about the failures of my teachers, or perhaps a flaw within me (admittedly more likely).

"not worth the trouble of writing" was a venting, aimed at the undeniable fact that if they hadn't been written down, I couldn't have benn forced to read them. A similar thought defines what I referred to as relevancy: Most folks wouldn't read any of this stuff unless they were forced to. Poems do not connect with any aspect of my life. I suspect this is true of most folks. Therefore, they are not relevant.

As far as most pop culture, I must agree with you. Television, especially fiction as portrayed on television, is not done very well, IMHO.

Most of the music I play (my hobby) and listen to, has no lyrics. No emotion is expressed, or contained, therein. I'm reminded of a statement Pat Metheny made about his music: "I don't consciously put any emotional context into my music. As I write it, I'm usually thinking only of how to get from this chord to that one. If other people find that a song conveys an image to them, I'm glad. But it's not an image I placed there". I may not be quoting him word-for-word here. But I believe I'm acurately conveying his idea.

Does this help?

#44 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2003, 03:38 PM:

Chuck, I see you had an unhappy time with poetry; but some of the people who hang out here are published poets -- the real kind, who get paid money for it -- and many of the rest of us enjoy poetry quite a bit. We also think it's important. Heck, we know it's important.

Question: Did they teach you to read it out loud?

#45 ::: jennie ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2003, 03:53 PM:


Thanks for humoring my curiosity. I confess, it's partly professional, and partly personal. And yes, I fall into the "enjoy poetry quite a bit" camp, though not into the "published [or any other kind of] poet" one. Poor teaching can prejudice a student against just about anything. At my school, they really pushed Canadian Lit. Womens' Lit. and the sciences. Not all my teachers were bad, either. My rebellion? Dropping math (not sensible, but hardly catastrophic), reading Chretien de Troyes (neither Canadian nor Feminist), and studying Latin. If I can learn, if not how to make my kids love poetry and lit, at least not to make them hate reading it (I don't set the curriculum, so I can't simply let them read and study what they want), and possibly to find _something_ they can relate to, then I'm wedging a finger in the crack of the wall between them and a world whose intellectual, artistic, and social mores have shaped their own. If that door doesn't shut completely and totally, then maybe later, when they're ready, they can peep through and wander in the garden beyond, perhaps finding a corner they can love.

This can't be accomplished by brute force. Simply telling somebody something is beautiful, or interesting, or relevant to them can't make it so, and I wouldn't want it to. I just don't want them to hate it.

Future considerations aside, it's much easier to work with kids who don't *hate* what they're doing.

#46 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2003, 04:06 PM:

Chuck, It's fascinating to me that you characterize the music you listen to and play as being emotionless. Unless you're listening to Milton Babbit I can't imagine what such music could possibly sound like.

I've only heard Pat Metheny play one thing: Steve Reich's Electric Counterpoint. That's a minimalist composition, and they're considered kind of "dry," but his playing of it was, to my sensibility, far from emotionless. It don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing!

It wasn't possible, from your first couple of posts, to understand the issue: you have been abused by people who have used poetry as an instrument. Those first two posts omitted such phrases as 'to me' or 'as far as I'm concerned', and therefore seemed to be making sweeping, pseudo-objective judgements about the value of poetry in the world in general. That's why I took you for a troll. I wouldn't have if you'd said "I can't stand poetry, and I never could."

There's a difference between "I don't like X" and "X is no good." There are some things of good quality that I don't appreciate or enjoy; the plays of Lanford Wilson, for example. The last time I went to one, I hated it even though I could tell that it was brilliantly conceived, well written, and superbly acted. (On the other side, I believe everyone has their own "guilty pleasure" - something they know is bad that they like anyway...for me it's cheesy vampire movies.)

Remember also that the misuse of a thing can never prove that there is no proper use for that thing.

#47 ::: jennie ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2003, 04:34 PM:

Further to Xopher's post, and picking up on something Chuck said, I've rarely found the desire for the next chord to be good (i.e. pleasant, euphonious, and fitting to the composition) to be lacking in emotion. If it were, would it make a difference which chord one played?

And thank you Xopher for elegantly articulating something I would have liked to have been able to say: the blame lies not with the tool but with the one who abuses it.

#48 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2003, 04:47 PM:

I'm a very slow poet, and I need to go out for groceries, so I'll just ask this in graceless prose: Am I really the only person here who came up as Ottava Rima?

#49 ::: Chuck Nolan ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2003, 05:03 PM:

Teresa, to answer your question first, yes, I read it aloud. And some, I recited from memory (I can STILl recite some of that).

Xopher, most of what I listen to, and attempt to play, is jazz, and fusion jazz. Metheny plays this stuff. See his "Imaginary Day" CD. No lyrics, and the songs mean no more than can be expressed in the titles.

Jennie, the comment about the next chord was a Metheny sentiment, although I agree. What he was referring to is an attempt to make the next chord "right" in a technical sense, I think.

I think the flaws in my teachers have to do with an excess of zeal, for the most part. IMHO, this is not an excuse. Parts of my education were Catholic, even Jesuit. ("You will read the classics of Western literature even if it's at gunpoint!!!!") Don't do that to your students. My 6 year old will be exposed to only such poetry and classics of literature as she can find for herself, or be given by her mother. From me, she will hear music, as described above. If she ever asks what it means, or what it's about, I'll leave the room.

There are people in here who've been paid to write poetry??? Incomprehensible!!

#50 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2003, 05:42 PM:

Well, talking about music is like dancing about architecture. But that doesn't mean it means nothing.

I once told someone who asked what a poem of mine meant, "If I could tell you plainly what it meant, I wouldn't have had to write a poem about it, would I?" I just got a dumb look. Oh well.

I have heard of people who think it's not only "incomprehensible" but deeply immoral to be paid for playing music. The parents of a musician I used to know had that attitude.

And I have never heard a jazz piece that I thought was devoid of emotional expression. Sometimes a person who thinks there's nothing on the radio just has hir radio turned off.

#51 ::: cheem ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2003, 05:50 PM:

Poetry is one of those things I never got. It seems to me to be a mere game with words. Restrict oneself to a form and try to get a message across. Or, better yet, *throw* the form away and try to get people to see meaning and the abstract collection of imagery you've collected together. To make up an example on the spot:

Rise up O swells of Pine! Surge forth, tides of spruce! Splash your pointed pines! Etc.

See the unique juxtaposition of earth and sea! The depth of imagery inherent in a few lines! He evokes the wild, coastal nature of his home, which is why this is such a West Coast poem! Etc.

Look! I'm an abstract poet! Anyone can be an abstract poet!

It's a game, and it can be pretty funny, but I'm hardly deeply touched by it. And I'm pretty glad I managed to avoid touching too much poetry in those intro to lit courses we all had to take (although I'm still scarred by that damned _Anthem for Doomed Youth_).

#52 ::: James Veitch ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2003, 06:06 PM:

Teresa, the Ottava Rima came up as my second, with Terza Rima coming up first. I'd attempt one, but I've never been comfortable with my attempts at poetry.

#53 ::: LauraJMixon ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2003, 07:11 PM:

I never had the patience for poetry, when I was young. Intellectually I could see the craft involved, and the beautiful language, but on a gut level, it made me crazy. Now, I love it.

#54 ::: Bob Webber ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2003, 08:09 PM:

It's a funny thing, cheem, but that little fragment of imagery made a strong wave of nostalgia and yearning for the beauty and slow dynamism of a boreal forest growing on hills and mountains. I don't think I've ever seen those lines before.

I might have flunked a test on it, though, because it didn't strike me as particularly coastal: to me the ocean and the forest have a resonance of wilderness that is not dependent on the location of the forest. Didn't even occur to me until I read what I presume is the "official" interpretation.

#55 ::: ers ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2003, 09:07 PM:

I came up as terza rima, with lai as a runner-up (o well, at least I got lai'd?). I confess to being somewhat baffled, since I am an introvert and have been playing hermit lately. How-some-ever, I'm an extremely VERBAL introvert, and I am fond of my own community. Like a previous commenter, it's humankind-at-large that gives me screaming meemies.

As for the worth-of-poetry debate, I used to hate it until a 10th grade teacher had us create a Chinese-menu sort of anthology for a project (x number of poems of one sort, y number of another), and I began to like the stuff. The more I read of it, the more I realized that poetry can be another language. As xopher remarked, the reason one writes a poem is because one has something to say that cannot be expressed in prose. Poetry is a more elliptical, more symbolic language, wherein the structure of the poem (and/or its form) can be as much a part of the concepts, images, and ideas expressed as the words are. (Hope that was parsable. And yes, I'm a bit of a frustrated English teacher, why do you ask?)

That doesn't mean it's to everyone's taste. And, forgive the metaphor, but I can see how having something rammed down one's throat could spoil one's taste for it.

#56 ::: Chuck Nolan ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2003, 09:20 AM:

"As xopher remarked, the reason one writes a poem is because one has something to say that cannot be expressed in prose. "

And so it's necessary to play obscuring word games in order to get it expressed?? This speaks more of a failure of prose style than it does a justification of poetry.

#57 ::: Bob Webber ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2003, 11:08 AM:

Chuck, poetry is a failure of ability in prose style like jazz is a failure of ability to compose classical music properly.

Could you maybe dial the aggression down a little bit? I'm starting to doubt your disavowals of trolldom as you continue to vent your scorn for verse in a forum full of people who clearly love poetry. I have no right and no intention to say you can't hate it, but I don't see that you're doing anybody any good with the tone of your comments, e.g. you could have written, "I can't imagine that there would be anything expressed in poetry that couldn't be expressed in prose, and well-styled prose is a much clearer expression."

The way you wrote your comment you might be taken to be saying that Xopher and the rest of us who enjoy some poetry are dupes, fools, or liars, which is surely not what you intended.

#58 ::: Chuck Nolan ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2003, 12:05 PM:

I'll shut down.

#59 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2003, 12:44 PM:

Gd. Svs m lt f trbl.

#60 ::: Bob Webber ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2003, 01:15 PM:

Chuck, I'm sorry to read that your experiences made your dislike of poetry so visceral that it can only be expressed with bile. I wish you well with your music, and envy your talent and affinity for music, an art form I find delightful, specifically including everything of Pat Metheny's I've heard, and many instances of jazz as well as a fair bit of classical music and rock & roll.

Please understand that my comment wasn't meant as a slap against your preferences, but an attempt to demonstrate a parallel instance of categorical denunciation where statement of personal preferences would suffice, and the emotional disturbance this can cause to someone who loves that particular category. I believe that you're entitled to hold your opinions and express them, but think that this comment thread isn't the best place for that expression.

All my best wishes for happiness and success go out to you and your family, who I agree can do fine without poetry or "meanings" assigned to wordless music.

#61 ::: Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2003, 12:30 AM:

Teresa: I hope you don't mind (much) me using your blog comments for research. The way the universe has been throwing poetry in my face for the last couple of weeks makes me wonder if it's trying to tell me something. Like maybe I should be writing poetry instead of short stories.

However, my Enlish Lit degree was earned a long time ago in a galaxy far far away. And formal forms weren't fashionable then. So does anyone out there have a recommendation for a good book about poetic form, preferably with good examples. And I know nothing of contemporary poetry. Any recommendations?


#62 ::: Stefanie Murray ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2003, 02:01 AM:

Mary Kay,

May I recommend a contemporary poet who is a wizard with formal poetry? My fave poet, Marilyn Hacker. Especially _Winter Numbers_ and _Love, Death, and the Changing of the Seasons_.

#63 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2003, 10:57 AM:

Isn't she Chip Delany's ex-wife?

#64 ::: Stefanie Murray ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2003, 12:00 PM:



#65 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2003, 12:17 PM:

A couple other thoughts:

Poetry is to prose as singing is to speaking.

Poetry started because people used to have to memorize long (hi-)stories and such. Metric rhyming text is easier to memorize. Even a quick bit of doggerel ("Leaflets three: let it be!") will serve this purpose; the art (making it pretty) came later.

Good poetry is a more compact way of saying things than prose can (generally) achieve. It may seem like code for that reason. That's assuming the needed thing can be said in prose (not always the case).

Actually it probably can, eventually. Just with a prohibitively large wordcount (readers drift off to other tasks or to sleep). It's damn tough to discuss relativity in English; it's very easy in Hopi, where the concepts fit very naturally (so I'm told by people who did their theses and dissies on it).

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