Why humans like to read poetry

July 28, 2009 at 6:59 am | Posted in poetry, writing | 21 Comments
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This post by Stu Hatton, asking why humans like to read poetry set me to to thinking. The quote from Philip Mead that Stu uses in his post suggests that we are attracted to complexity and I agree that whenever a human sees a question, they will attempt to answer it. Curiosity has evolutionary benefits. But I think there is more to it than that.

I started thinking about why humans like to listen to music, I’m sure if you could answer that you would find part of the answer to the poem question. There is the pleasure of extinguishing the self through meditation in music and our first memory being the rhythmic sound of our mother’s heartbeat, the drive to organise the chaos of unfiltered perception and our strange obsession with beauty. All of these can be found in both music and poetry.

And then there is our childish joy in being astonished. Surprised. Delighted. If you could explain why humans like to watch stage magic, you will have gone a long way to explaining why we like to read poetry.

Here is Penn and Teller explaining the seven techniques of poetry in motion.

Palm. Ditch. Steal. Load. Simulation. Misdirection. Switch.
Now, Squires. Explain why the techniques of stage magic are identical to the techniques of poetry. One at a time. (coming soon, unless someone else wants to have a bash at it (insert link))


January 13, 2009 at 7:45 pm | Posted in writing | 22 Comments
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In the interests of simplification I have decided to do away with one word each day. I shall choose a word each day to put away and never use again and in this way my life will become lighter and easier. The great ocean of language with its infinite directions, tides, texts, undertows, subtexts, overflows and contexts will be reduced gradually to a small pond fit only for late season herons in search of easy frogs.

It surprises many people that I am monosyllabic in person. When forced into conversation I feel like a slow animal laden with a great burden and I often go a whole week without saying anything other than please and thankyou to shopkeepers. Perhaps my peculiarly ornate writing style is an overcompensation for my tendancy to silence.

Now it is time to bring my typing into line with my speaking and by the end of the year there will be over three hundred less words from which to choose. By the end of my life perhaps I shall be down to only a handful. One should hang onto these dreams.

And so, the first word to be discarded forever. I have been thinking about it all day, flicking through favourites like pusillanimous and parsimonious, serendipity and consequence but for this act to be more than empty symbolism it should be a smaller word that I use more often. And I have decided, quite arbitrarily in the end, on the word ‘gravity’.

homonym and metaphor (4)

November 5, 2008 at 6:25 pm | Posted in poetry, writing | 13 Comments
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the drunken cartographer
is lost in his charts
the answer is caught between
his head and his heart, hmm

that’s a little obvious. Poetry is a strange thing, endlessly provocative. It’s a kind of tightrope walk of blatancy and suggestion. Basically all you want to do is imply more in a general direction rather than make a direct statement and it is that art which frees the reader’s imagination and allows them to dress the story in a way that includes them, includes some of their understanding of the world. Structural devices, the mechanics of poetry are deliberate (or instinctive) manipulations of the experience of time. Rhythm and rhyme exist for a reason, without them poetry is kinda pointless.

And it is because time is not linear and poetry allows one to escape at least in part the linearity of language that poetry is in fact the best description of the world available in words. It is a conjuring act.

in silence, morality fails
mortality and urgency
then some steady
hand prevails.

consorting with the enemy

October 31, 2008 at 6:38 pm | Posted in poetry, writing | 14 Comments
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for which the sudden penalty is death
just for a short while, Squires, she says
slow down you move too fast you gotta
a small bird twittering between your beating heart
and floating ribs

he coughs, the nurse looks up
from her Romance novel,
you’re bloody lucky old man,
she says and smiles

and your time has come and lifts
the pillow your time has come
right now,

3 haiku schmaiku

May 12, 2008 at 7:00 pm | Posted in antihaiku, poetry, writing | 11 Comments
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there is a difference between the ocean and the sea,
the sea stretches flat to the horizon and the ocean
turns back on itself and crashes as a wave of sound and energy,

that is to say i
promised controversy and
failed, never mind,

it may be possible to learn how to write poetry
but perhaps it is not possible
to learn how to be a poet,

not such a subtle shuffle,

March 26, 2008 at 6:13 pm | Posted in prosepoemthingy, writing | 15 Comments
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Welcome, he said, putting his arm around my shoulders, to the first Cambooya Crafts and Arts fair. See if you can spot the difference. Here is a roughhewn piece of whale bone upon which some stubby fingered sailor has carved a poor portrait of an anonymous Polynesian dancing girl and his hand has slipped, here, see this dark stain, the probable result. And here, carefully crafted, the complete works of Oscar Wilde. Which of these men was more honest?

Oh leave him alone, old man, she said cackling with an air of wild inspiracy. Come with me, he will only have you working. He’s all about utility and the hows and wherefores. I have both the Dali deck and the Crowley. I will raise a future for you, shuffle them together.

more complex mechanisms,

February 1, 2008 at 3:31 pm | Posted in poetry, writing | 18 Comments
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transmogrification requires the extinguishment of self, explanation of this process is not the work of philosophers, nor scientists, but of poets whose principle mechanism is the language.

transmogrification is key, in that is only possible to transform the world if we can transform ourselves,

Scot is a brilliant poet. Read his Jamaica Farewell (which I think has transmogrification in it, but he is a lot smarter than me.)

(or for something much less serious, a mysterious death, check out my post in The Orchid Room)

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