Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Please help me understand poetry

Though I truly try, I have a lot of problems with poetry, and I know for a fact that I cannot write it. I have read poetry that is both beautiful and profound.

However, I consistently have problems accepting what the experts say is great poetry. For example, I was recently reading The 100 Best Love Poems of All Time edited by Leslie Pockell. Some of the poems were familiar ones by William Shakespeare and others were more obscure.

One poem in the book is 'Valentine' by Donald Hall. Frankly, it reads like a poem that could have been written in any freshman English class. But like I wrote a moment ago, I sometimes have problems recognizing great poetry. The only poems I can recite from heart all begin with the line: 'There once was a man from Nantucket...'

So, here it is for you to consider. Once again, remember that this poem appears in a book as one of the 100 greatest love poems of all time.

'Valentine' by Donald Hall

Chipmunks jump, and
Greensnakes slither.
Rather burst than
Not be with her.

Bluebirds fight, but
Bears are stronger.
We've got fifty
Years or longer.

Hoptoads hop, but
Hogs are fatter.
Nothing else but
Us can matter.

That's it. Hogs are not animals I usually associate with love, but I'm not exactly an expert on love either. The use of greensnakes may be an attempt to add an erotic quality to the piece, but I'm guessing not.

I just don't get this poem.

Won't somebody tell me I am not crazy?


Tenn Irish said...

Eye, or in this case, ear of the beholder. He might've thought the person he wrote it for would appreciate it. She might well have said, "Dude, it's one of the 100 greatest love poems of all time!" right before she hurled. You never know.

Joltin' Django said...

In 1956, Allen Ginsberg published the poem "Howl," and he's been "famous" for it ever since.

If you've ever read "Howl," you know that it's a drug-fueled stream of conscious lacking ryme and/or meter.

That is, it's **** on a popsicle stick. And Ginsberg became famous for it.

For what it's worth, there's not been a quality poet in the U.S. since Robert Frost died. Sorry, Klyd, Clyde ... whatever, whomever ...!

Tenn Irish said...

Have to agree with you, Django, even though it's probably taking the road less taken.