Monday, January 09, 2006

The Evolution of Poetry


In high school English, we learned all about poetry and iambic pentameter, free verse, blank verse, etc. It seemed confusing, ridiculous and difficult to write your thoughts in such a rhythm so as to adhere to this preconceived and designed idea of what poetry should be by counting syllables and finding an appropriate word that would rhyme with the correct line. William Shakespeare seemed to have been born to write poetry considering the staggering number of sonnets he penned. I remember sitting in a literary criticism class in college dissecting poem after poem interpreting what the author must have meant by it wondering what the point of it all was because the essence of a poem is that it is entirely subjective. There really is no way to determine what the true meaning behind a poem is unless the author is available for personal interpretation and even then the meaning is subject to change under different circumstances. These days, it seems poetry rebels against the archaic formulas of construction and has evolved into a free verse expression of internal turmoil and stream of consciousness. Gone are the days of lilies and dandelions, using the trite metaphors of seas and meadows only to come to a conclusion that lacks the power and depth of true human emotion. In comes the play on words, uninhibited expression of personal struggle, triumph, gratitude and anger through the iridescent display of our language’s most creative words.

I haven’t written a poem in a long time. I fell prey to a lot of the common poetry conundrums of incorrect form, overused and less than influential metaphors to express something I felt or thought. I struggled to adhere to the formulaic way of writing and still produce something that reflected the true essence of my thoughts and emotions. So I toyed with free verse for a while but realized my poetry was elementary, inadequate to my own tastes and unsatisfying. So now I just write without barriers, rules and formulas. I have recently discovered that this could technically be considered poetry because it is really all about the delivery and presentation.

Friday night I went to the Nuyorican Café in the East Village for a poetry slam with some friends. Laura had tried to get us down there one night a couple of months ago, but we didn’t make it because the lower east side is the most inconvenient location to get to and we weren’t up for the late night trek. I have been wanting to go ever since. Every night of the week, it’s open mic at the Nuyorican. People can get up and read their poems to the audience. At the end of the night, someone is picked to compete at the slam on Friday night. We were there for the four winners of the week to compete against each other. This is not a venue for the weak of heart, easily offended, close minded or thin skinned. The subject matter can be somewhat vulgar, political, controversial and shocking and the language… colorful. But I have to say that despite the introduction to this new kind of modern poetry, I was impressed by the power and effect their words could have on such a diverse crowd. What may seem like just nonsense on a piece of paper becomes a grand performance of unimaginable power due to the personal delivery. The emotion comes from the core through the volume, facial expressions and movements of the author. I found myself becoming enveloped in their poetical world. It was humorous, touching, angering and empowering. That is just one of the many well kept secrets in this city and turned out to be one of the most enjoyable nights I have had.

In the end, writing is about expression. It is something we do to release the intense passion and emotions that will drive us to insanity if we do not get rid of them. It is a way to say something without verbally saying it. It is a way to uncover the real you while continuing to stand behind the disguise of ambiguity. But it is not always meant for the masses or to be understood. Sometimes there is no explanation. Friedrich Nietzsche said, “One does not only wish to be understood when one writes; one wishes just as surely not to be understood.” Would I get up and recite a poem at the Nuyorican Café? Not likely considering my dislike of performing solo in front of large groups. Besides, I think my thoughts are not coherent enough to make much sense in verbal delivery in those circumstances. I share my thoughts with some reservation on a consistent basis on my own stage I call a computer. I am a master at creating a feeling of personal connection and intimate association with most people who read what I write while still standing behind the disguise of ambiguity and generalization. I agree with Nietzsche. I would say more often than not, I don’t want to be understood. I just want to feel, so I write.

What we called poetry in elementary school is not what we call poetry today. I have a better understanding and appreciation for those who write with such force and intensity that it affects everyone who reads or hears the words. We all feel. We all have something to say. We all just express it in different ways. There is no right or wrong, no counting syllables or forced rhyming. It’s the confidence and comfort of exposing your inner everything in whatever way you wish. This is the evolution of poetry.

13 comments:

Stephen said...

nikki:

all i have to say: "april is the cruelest month...."

stephen

Stephen said...

i'm back

nikki said...

Stephen: "...breading lilacs out of the dead land, mixing memory with desire, stirring dull roots with spring rain."

nothing like a little TS Eliot first thing on Tuesday morning. Glad you are back.

Stephen said...

you are right. there is nothing like it.

petey said...

nikki_
stephen is so proud of you. i know he is.

and ps. i know i told you this already, but i particularly enjoyed the muse this week.

liz said...

i also particulary enjoyed the muse this week (by the way petey i'm thrilled to see that you have changed the picture that shows up with your name,it was the right thing to do)
i have an intense envy for those who are able to so powerfully evoke emotion using only words -


nikki:is poetical really a word?

paul said...

stephen and nikki,

i can think of something...a hot bath.

nikki said...

Paul: how about a hot bath with TS Eliot?

Petey: not sure why Stevey should be proud of me but I will take it. Also, thank you. You did tell me that, and I appreciate it.

Liz: Of course poetical is a word... meaning "fancifully depicted, embellished; idealized; poetic." Dictionary.com is amazing...

paul said...

isn't TS eliot dead?

paul said...

bad joke. i'll have to try it. maybe a recording?

Stephen said...

nikki: he's dead. necrophilia is so last year.

Paul: it was a good joke. get a recording. call andrew wright. we used to turn the recording up as loud as it would go and lock the door to our dorm room and leave (at 8:00 am) and then everyone would get mad at us, but really they were getting mad at t.s.

nikki said...

You guys totally missed the boat. No one would really want to take a bath with TS, especially a dead one... there is this thing we call reading. It involves a book with a bunch of letters that form words. The words form sentences and/or thoughts. You should try it.

Stephen said...

it's called a job. its a thing you do for money....you know what? nevermind, i don't want to spoil the surprise for you.