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When is a poem not a poem?

My poems tend to rhyme. I appreciate that poems do not necessarily have to rhyme, but there should be a rhythm to them shouldn't there? Much of the work I read on this site just seem to be short stories broken up into lines at random.

Sat, 3 Feb 2018 09:16 pm
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Big Sal

Some of those that are pretentious on here may get offended by such a question, but in all honesty, on this site it's up for personal preference really. Some on here prefer to make use of creative language until it flows thought patterns that strongly resemble poetic aesthetic, others do simple rhymes. If you like rhythm in your poetry, honestly, you may be better off reading some classics instead of on here, as a lot of the poetry on here is free verse based on, like I said, personal preference/experience. Although I think you'll find a healthy dose on here of the cerebral, the mystical, the thoughtful, and even the awe-inspiring. Link to my poetry if you want to hear a rhyme or two, and have a good day hunting for those rhythms.
Sat, 3 Feb 2018 10:23 pm
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When it says it's a poem. The earliest English poems (Beowulf, The Wanderer and all the Anglo-Saxon poetry of the 8th-9th centuries) used alliteration.) Rhyme was imported from the continent via the Norman conquest and likes to pretend it's natural to the English.

Free verse in English is both an importation from the continent (in particular France) and a return to the rythmic patterning of old English. It's been around for over a century now (TS Eliot's Prufrock published in 1918!) so I'd say it's earned its place by now.

Mind you, prose poetry started even earlier than that, and there's been visual and shape poetry since the ancient Greek poets.
Sun, 4 Feb 2018 08:14 am
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Oh, and by the way, the Greek and Latin poets all thought rhyme something only suitable for childrens' poems.
Sun, 4 Feb 2018 08:16 am
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I believe a poem is not a poem when no emotion is behind it. When the poem doesn't communicate. When those reading and hearing it aren't moved by it. Then that seizes to become a poem and becomes a story
Sun, 4 Feb 2018 07:40 pm
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I believe that to be a poem it has to have feeling to it that only the reader or writer can interpret. I think that to one person a poem might mean or feel like one thing when to another it might mean a totally different thing. I think it really depends on the reader. If you read the literature and feel real meaning to it. If it really strikes emotion to you then I think that it is really up to the reader or writer to determine if it is poetry. Poetry can make people feel different things. I don't think that there is a huge line to where it is not a poem anymore. I think that it is up to each person to decide for themselves if it is a poem or not. Every one feels different emotions so I think it should be up to them to decide what they feel.
Thu, 8 Feb 2018 04:55 am
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There almost seems to be a continuum these days from prose to poetry. School teaches people to judge and categorise literature, and people want to express their thoughts and feelings using language without being told it fits this or that category. Others want to use structures that have been honoured with the title of poetry in the past, to shape their thoughts and give weight to their words.
People make short lines, which gives focus on bits of the writing at a time, as if saying 'look more closely at my words' which is a poetic idea. Poetry is about using words effectively, and making patterns that help the words to be memorable. That can be true of speeches too and other forms of literature.
Rhythm and rhyme help to make words memorable. Performance poets need to remember their words, so patterns help. But the pattern doesn't need to be end rhymes and conventional rhythms. You can make up your own rhythms. You can repeat vowels, or consonants, at any point in a line.
Anglo Saxon poetry uses repeated vowel-consonant combinations, which are great for reading aloud, and memorising, and lovely to listen too.
Your question is a bit equivalent to 'what is music?'

People have greater respect for writing that shows thought and care went into it, and where the way it is presented fits with the subject matter. So if you are sad, you may write humourously, but let some of the sadness creep in. If you want to be romantic, your language may be more caring than if you are having a rant about politics.
That's all just my opinion.
Sat, 17 Feb 2018 02:59 pm
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I personally think it has a lot to do with feelings, i use my emotions and feelings and thoughts when i write my poems. I do however make some rhyming ones also. It just depends what vibe i'm going for.
Sun, 18 Feb 2018 09:00 pm
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I'm going to take a lot of flak about this...

I think it generally takes more effort to create a poem that rhymes. It requires a structure (e.g. beginning, middle, end), a cadence, and rhymes that fit the work and are not just contrived for the sake of the rhyme.

The other sort of work just seems to involve thinking up random thoughts, writing them down, and breaking up the thoughts into different length of lines for aesthetic value.

Am I wrong?
Mon, 19 Feb 2018 10:24 am
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Yes you are wrong. Next question?
Mon, 19 Feb 2018 05:02 pm
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yep. definitely wrong.
Tue, 20 Feb 2018 05:06 pm
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Who said anything about banning?
Thu, 22 Feb 2018 08:36 am
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Great thread developing here (thanks Brian we need more subjects like this).

For my two-pennyworth I do think Brian has a point to a certain degree. A poem does need some "music" to help the reader through it. Whether that is rhythm or rhyme is another debate.

Myself I get put off reading a lot of work here on WOL because they do not feel friendly as it were to the reader.

Often the way a piece is laid out also puts me off.

Punctuation is another debate but is fo me a crucial part of the written word (as is emphasis and pause in performance work).

On the greater subject, "when is a poem not a poem" it's when you are still creating it and it hasn't been given its wings.
Thu, 22 Feb 2018 10:10 am
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Imagine if I were to say, it's not real poetry if it rhymes and has metre. That's just playing with words. Real poetry is a splurge of emotion poured out formless on the page.

Imagine the furore that would cause! (And I bet some versifiers have not read past the first paragraph and are already penning angry responses...)

There is, of course, lots of lazily written verse of all kinds out there in poetry land; but as Eliot knew, good free verse like good rhyme takes effort. It's supposed to be "the best words in the best order" after all, not just a splurge.

But there's even a place for the splurge. Sometimes all you want to do is express emotions, get them out there in the open air instead of bottling them up. We don't all want to be great poets; some poets just want to get their experiences on paper. I think we should respect that.

For those of us who want to be "better poets" there's no substitute for reading poetry, listening to it, exploring different forms, and getting out of your comfort zone sometimes. Read internationally: read widely; fall in love with the sounds of language as well as the meanings.

Sitting in your own prejudices muttering about rhyme and metre like it's some kind of shibboleth will get you nowhere.
Thu, 22 Feb 2018 12:00 pm
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Hey op, Brian! I’m new! But if you believe rhyming schemes and rigid structures still have a place in modern poetry, you may really like Robert Service. I love the guy.

In terms of the majority of poetry on the site seeming like just short stories broken up or whatever, the biggest reason for this is that the numbers of “poets” and “writers” has skyrocketed per capita since the birth of t.s. Eliot.

Read about modernism in poetry, read Eliot and Thomas and Heaney. Check out the bay poets like jack spicer and jack Gilbert, and for god sakes look at Gerald stern.

The rest of us writing are just reaching and they did it.

This bit by Keith Flynn is SUPER enlightening on the subject of when a poem is not a poem. At the end he includes a check list for ya , for a good poem.


Feel free to peruse the apr site. Anything on their by Richard Jackson is worth reading.
Thu, 22 Feb 2018 09:52 pm
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There is definitely no such thing as a poem v not a poem,
....a poem is a poem because the writer writes it and states that it is a poem. That’s a boon to the art.

However, there is absolutely bad poetry and good poetry.

If metaphors written seem familiar or tired, it’s a bad poem. If a cliche is used for any other reason to than to be ironic, it’s a bad poem. I it can rhyme, but if it rhymes in the exact same way as every other rhyming poem ever has... or if you expecting the writer to rhyme death with breath and it does, than sorry but I t’s boring and predictable.

Never repeat an image or a metaphor or simile you have ever seen in a poem before. I live by that.

One we know that rhyme (death and breath) is likely,
Wherever either appears, is because it has the double heft of being contrary (breathe and death) and because you are dealing with the greatest matter dealt with in art, mortality...
It’s an easy rhyme.

You can avoid this dissappointment by either still using the word death or breathe but too far apart in your cadence to really be considered a true rhyme, OR slanting the rhyme inside the Cadence, perhaps with the word oppressed, or desk, or yes, or kept.
It’s easy to write rhymed and metered poems, but increas8ngly difficult to write GOOD ones that way. It is predictable. Read about modernism in poetry
Thu, 22 Feb 2018 10:15 pm
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