Have you ever tried to define poetry? It’s not easy, and I learned recently that grabbing a dictionary doesn’t help much. Here is Merriam-Webster‘s word-soupy definition of the word: “writing that formulates a concentrated imaginitive awareness of experience in language chosen and arranged to create a specific emotional response through meaning, sound, and rhythm.”
Concentrated imaginitive awareness? Even the definition of poetry sounds pretentious, right? No wonder most people shy away from reading and writing it.
And sophomore lit classes probably don’t help either. I don’t know about you, but Mrs. Hendrickson taught me that poems only had one meaning and that connecting to the words in any personal way would result in an F on the mid-term. I firmly believe one of the major perks of adulthood is the ability to read whatever you want without having to fill out a Scantron worksheet afterward. I also believe most people would dig poetry just as much as they dig the latest Bruno Mars song if they forgot the weird “right way/wrong way” method of reading poetry and just gave it another shot.
For me, “to create a specific emotional response” is the key phrase of the definition of poetry. A poem’s purpose is to elicit an emotion in the reader. If the poet is doing his/her job, the reader shouldn’t have to “get” every detail of a poem to receive the overall emotional message. Reading poetry is very different from reading fiction in that sense. If the four most important qualities of a poem—voice, mood, word choice, and imagery—aren’t connecting emotionally with readers, then it just plain isn’t a good poem. Here’s two examples of my point. Everybody loves them some e.e. cummings, and everyone should try out a new poet every now and then. Finding a poet you like is exactly like finding a new band to obsess over. Here’s some Stephen Dobyns, a very down-to-earth poet.
(Tell me the truth. Scantron. Am I dating myself there?)
March Poetry Slam: Blank Verse
We want to get back to the basics this month. The basics of poetry, that is. It’s been almost two years since we first delved into blank verse for a poetry slam, and while we’d like to pretend all the new folks go back through our writing help section regularly, even we don’t do that. But blank verse is one of the building blocks of great poetry, and even if it’s not your favorite form, there’s tremendous value in learning to do it well. So this month we’re going back to the blank page to write some blank verse. Learn more from Rowan here.
Prompt Up is our optional weekly writing prompt for the fiction|poetry challenge! Here’s how it works: we choose a sentence prompt from last week’s winning nonfiction post and announce it in the kickoff. It’s your job to use that prompt in your poem or story and then run with it. The prompt is just a springboard, though: feel free to use it as your first sentence, move it, change it, or float it down to other territories.
Danielle’s mother found herself at the center of an emergency in Danielle’s post, Her Bravery. This week’s Prompt Up taken from her essay is: “You stay here,” she said, using her voice that meant business.
How to submit and fully participate in the challenge:
Basic YeahWrite guidelines: 750 word limit; your entry can be dated no earlier than this past Sunday; fiction or poetry only.
1. In the sidebar of this week’s post, please grab the code beneath the fiction|poetry badge and paste it into the HTML view of your entry;
2. Follow the Inlinkz instructions after clicking “add your link” to upload your entry to this week’s challenge grid;
3. Your entry should appear immediately on the grid if you don’t receive an error message;
4. Please make the rounds to read all the entries in this week’s challenge; and
5. Consider turning off moderated comments and CAPTCHA on your own blog.
Submissions for this week’s challenges will close on Wednesday at 10pm ET. Voting will then open immediately thereafter and close on Thursday at 10pm ET. The winners, as always, will be celebrated on Friday.
Thank you for sharing with us your hard work! Good luck in the challenge…
About the author:
As a professional editor and writer, Nate has published his work in numerous English and history textbooks and in on-line reading programs. In February 2014, he found his way back to creative writing and began submitting to YeahWrite. Soon after, he became an editor of the Fiction|Poetry challenge. You can read his work at The Relative Cartographer, a blog that has been recognized by WordPress, Five Star Mix-tape, Genealogy á la Cart, and BlogHer’s Voice of the Year. He lives in Chicago with his partner, a French princess, and a jungle explorer.