by Kevin Murray
Word Smithery Vs Content
Very often I read poems that appear to have been written straight from the heart with no thought given to metaphor, mental imagery or wordplay. These poems are generally not very good because they are so basic. On the other hand I've come across poems that are very clever in terms of how they are worded, they have secret meanings or complex metaphors, however they aren't about anything that is important or emotionally engaging.
I think the best poems are a combination of well thought out use of words and strong emotional or mental subject matter. Rarely are these two mediums in perfect harmony. Usually a poem will have a leaning to wards one or the other, but I believe they both must be present for a poem to be of a high quality.
The best way I can show examples of this is to use my own work, were on a few occasions I have found what I believe to be this happy medium. I can then explain by example.
So firstly an example of a few lines from a poem that has not been very well thought out...
"the pain inside me is so strong
I can't believe I was so wrong
It hurts and I cry
I never even got to say goodbye"
I wrote this just now in about 12 seconds, didn't even think about it. You would be surprised how many people would praise this as a good piece of work, when in actual fact it's garbage. There is no thought to it, no mystery and nothing clever. Now, one of my poems about missing someone you love.
"The leaves of a tree,
in Autumn I see,
are ever so slowly dying.
their colour is changed,
I'm sure they feel pain,
yet their beauty in death,
starts me crying.
amid the graveyard rustle,
of their fallen friends,
and think of you again."
Now this poem is simple, not overly complex but there is some nice mental imagery there, and more importantly the ways I have suggested that I miss the person are not direct. You should be able to tell that i was wandering around thinking of the person, staring at trees but thinking of the loved one....in fact it's suggested that everything reminded me of that person...even though I didn't say so. And the fallen friends line, which is about leaves on the ground shows the train of thought I was in that transformed everything around me into metaphors about them.
The difference between the two examples is that in the first one, though the emotions in both poems could be the same, in the second one there has been some thought to how to convey the emotion indirectly. In the first poem there is no thought.
You really should try to think about a medium to use to express your idea or emotion.
Now, here is a small section of another of my poems which is a quite clever play on words [rare for me] which still carries the message of the poem.
"In the Sigh I call Ology
though not explaining anew
just tagging as true
and changing nothing people sing
I still cry and offer apology"
Can you spot the clever play on words in the first line? This stanza is about psychology and it's inability to change the basic things humans feel, even though it is very good at naming them and adding lots of theories to simple emotions. So in the first line, to show my boredom with the subject, I say "in the sigh I call ology, which if you read it a certain way includes the word sounded out, "psychology" but also gets across the fact I think it's ultimately boring.
The rest of the stanza isn't particularly interesting, though it's a good example of large ideas condensed into small lines.
So there you have some examples of possible ways to say important things whilst also keeping the poem interesting and fun to read.
Submission date : 2007-09-05
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