by Amanda Spadel
I didn’t always enjoy reading poetry the way I do now. There was a point in time when all I was interested in reading was fiction novels--especially when I first started having an interest in reading stories as a kid. Series such as Goosebumps, A Series of Unfortunate Events, and Harry Potter intrigued my initial interest in reading fiction for young adults—particularly suspense and science fiction stories. But in recent years, I’ve become a frequent poetry reader too. Actually, I’ve decided that poetry holds the same meaningful impact that longer stories do, if not more.
In my opinion, the meaning in poetry can hold even more weight to young readers, especially if they don’t already avidly read. I’m not talking about introducing more traditional poems to young readers and have them relive the high school torment of figuring out a Shakespearean sonnet. Young readers should read more contemporary poetry because it’s current, most likely more relevant to their lives, and more importantly, a lot of contemporary poems seem more personal and transferable to audiences in today’s world where we are all pressed for time.
by Mark Krupinski
“Anything and everything can be art!” is, I feel, a deceptively sinister phrase. You could substitute the rather generic “art” in this situation with your medium of choice, be it poetry, film, literature, or what have you, and the situation remains unchanged. It seems innocuous at first, even encouraging. Anything can be art; no matter how lost you may feel, no matter what vision you lack, your expression has merit. You exist and you are valid. As someone who has spent more time than perhaps he’d like to admit pacing fretfully to and fro, hyperventilating into a McDonald’s bag because the words don’t sound the way they’re supposed to, I understand. Writing is a painful, clumsy, often fruitless task, so positive affirmation is as valuable as it is rare. But there’s a danger in creating that sense of comfort, tossing standards by the wayside in favor of blind positivity and confidence. The idea that everything, every single careless, thoughtless, witless, messy, wishy-washy, meandering, pointless thing is art gives me pause.
by G. Mitchell Layton
The porn aspect of these pages is obviously exaggerated, because no one has the same reaction to a key lime pie as they would to hardcore pornography (at least I would hope not). However, the concept remains the same, and some of these pages on Facebook and Twitter have millions of followers.
This brings me to my personal favorite of the “porn” pages: “Poems Porn.” It’s a bit misleading as, in my opinion, the page has nothing to do with poetry despite the description on their Facebook page that states, “Beautiful poems found online. We Claim no rights to the pics that are posted here.” Beauty is relative and up for interpretation, and apparently so is the concept of poetry. Where the “food porn” page at least posts pictures of tasty treats, the poems porn page has not posted one poem, or rather, none that seem like actual poems to me. They seem more like quotes or inspiring phrases. So if they’re not poems, and they’re definitely not porn, what are they?
by Carly Szabo
With its roots clinging to a Chicago jazz club, it’s no wonder that slam poetry holds musicality at its very core. The success of slam poetry is dependent on the performance of the author, the voice of the poet. It’s not enough to have pretty words scribbled on the page. One must know how to perform the piece in a way that makes the words come to life. Oftentimes, slam poetry can look completely dull on the page. It can appear as prose poetry to some, or a stream of consciousness piece with awkward enjambment and nonsensical patterns. Its lack of form on the page is what makes slam poetry terrible, at times impossible, to read. Take the following example from Slam Nuba’s Volume Knob:
“This - is not a heart, it is a volume knob, you turn it this way when you wish to scream, you turn it this way when you wish to whisper”
Even this small excerpt from the poem’s very beginning is lackluster on the page. You can see the places where performance is necessary to the piece’s success. Which way are we turning the volume knob? Why is this a good analogy? What images are we not seeing on the page that we would see in the performance piece edition? All of these questions are answered in the following video:
So what makes Smith’s approach to poetry so appealing? What differentiates it from traditional poetry? Slam poetry is different in that there is a performance quality to it that is not always present in traditional poetry. Slam poetry deals more with cadence and musicality, relying on wordplay, rhyme, and alliteration more so than traditional poetry. Poems that appear on the page contain these elements as well, but slam poetry works to synthesize these elements in a way that is more audibly appealing. The result is a strong and distinct authorial voice that can be heard rather than guessed at through silent readings. The poet knows which words to emphasize, which moments to speed up and slow down, where to whisper and where to scream. All of these elements go beyond the page and, without written cues, can be lost on the reader completely. Think of it in the same way you would think about screenwriting. You wouldn’t pay the box office $13.00 just to get a written copy of a film. The true experience is in the performance of the piece, the actors allowing what is written on the page to come to life. It is for the same reason that slam poetry should not be read on the page. Indeed, it should never be published in ink.
Google Poetry, Authorship, and Copyright
In October 2012, a poet named Sampsa Nuotio created a site called “Google Poetics,” which posts submissions by poets from around the world, each of which is created in a nontraditional way. Each submission is derived from Google’s autocomplete suggestions, which appear when any Google user is typing in a search phrase. The suggested searches are predictions about what a user might be searching for, based on common searches performed by other users:
The suggested searches can form a unique and sometimes moving series of phrases that read like poetry: they demonstrate poetic repetition, show a particular mood or theme, and evoke an emotional reaction in the reader. A recent example from November 5, 2013 demonstrates how these poems can be very moving. The first line shows what the poet typed, and the following four lines show Google’s suggested searches:
The result reads like a poem, with the repetition of the phrase “Though I” as a way of contrasting the different lines. It has the tone of a poem, speaking about love and death, which are common themes in poetry. It even makes the reader consider the deeper meaning behind the lines, such as what the poet “disagreed with” and whether the “departure” in the last line might be an implied death. These elements are all common in poetry, but is this really a poem? Three important questions emerge when considering this style of poetry. First, can such a poem be considered a creative or literary work, when it was randomly generated with very little influence from the poet? Second, can the poet truly be considered the author of the poem, when they didn’t write it, but instead discovered it? And third, should such poems be protected under copyright, or instead be considered part of the public domain?