Thursday, May 11, 2006

pet peeve

The most ridiculous question I am ever asked by non-poetry inclined folks is "What do you write about?" Or "What's this poem about?" If I could articulate that for you in any sort of normal way, I wouldn't need to write the damn poem.....

7 comments:

Radish King said...

Yes.
That, and why do you write?

Katja said...

I read and write poetry too, but that doesn't mean I can't communicate my inner workings in a 'normal way'.

If people do not understand what is pretty obvious to you, then maybe your communicative skills need working on?

Sorry, but I just hate to think that when I ask someone about their work they'll think "what an idiot!" because I don't do the same as they do and also, even if I should know the answer to my (possibly idiotic) question, it shows interest.

wickedpen said...

Hmmm..but that's just it..

It's not that it's OBVIOUS to me, it's that it's NOT. The meanings and what they're asking for are not something I can articulate in an understandable way without the poem. (And even then it's not always cut and dried.) The poems don't have plotlines or clear aims.

So many times, people I encounter think books of poetry are like novels. "What's your book about?"
It's not the DaVinci Code for chrissakes..It's also a lack of understanding of what poetry is and does in society at large that's frustrating.


And hey, I'll be the first to admit I'm not good at verbally articulating the things in my head...things get jumbled, wires cross...I write to understand what's in my head...

But thanks for the differing point of view...

Penultimatina said...

If I could articulate that for you in any sort of normal way, I wouldn't need to write the damn poem

Well said, Kristy!

I always just say, "I'm a nature poet!" which tends to satisfy people more than, "I write about birds and plants and naked bodies and shitty cars from the 1970's."

JHK said...

I know it's a question aimed at generating discussion, and it does show the honest interest of the questioner, but it's such a major and immediate burden. How do I answer it? I ramble, putter, sputter and sound like a complete idiot trying to compose something on the fly that makes sense. That ends the discussion, usually, and leaves me feeling like I've been hollowed out like a Halloween pumpkin.

Katja said...

Well, I must say, if you don’t know what your poetry is about, then there is little chance your readers will either – and that’s probably why they ask, don’t you think? In which case it seems unfair to say they are the most ridiculous questions and that people lack understanding in general.

I appreciate your meaning though, it happens to me too. That’s to say, I don’t find it particularly hard to convey my own thoughts, but when people ask me what Kant or Nietzsche is all about, that’s when I panic and think they ought to read Kant and Nietzsche instead of asking me.

But the whole point is that you need to put yourself in the questioner’s stead and imagine that you don’t know what you know – because the questioner does not, hence the questions. And if the questioner does not already know the answer, then it is hardly a ridiculous question, is it? (That was a rhetorical question, by the way)

Anyway, cheers ;)

wickedpen said...

You may have a point. Some of my poetry may be found a bit difficult at times to certain readers. But I am referring more to non-poetry readers and people who haven't read my work, asking the question and expecting me to be able to say "it's about x and y." A synopsis. An abstract. Which is impossible in poetry, and folks who write and read poetry probably know this.

My comment was actually spawned by a co-worker, one who's idea of high literary quality is Stephen King (enjoyable occasionally but even I know it's trashy trash), who asked "What do you write about?"-and my response...something vague about notions of corruption and the female body... was met with a sort of blank stare and a swift subject change.