April 30, 2010

What is the Secret of Poetry?

Professor David Morley welcomes you to the first Poetry Challenge "in which we plunge into the woods of poetry weaving magical tales behind us, and leave before dawn with our poems gathered in our arms."

Don't be shy about sharing your responses to this poetry challenge here on the blog where others will be able to appreciate them and Professor Morley will make an appearance from time to time.

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  1. Paul Edkins

    A famous haiku which was related to me by a poet friend of mine, which I then saw subsequently on someone’s T-shirt:

    Haikus are easy
    But sometimes they don’t make sense

    30 Apr 2010, 13:34

  2. Philip

    The poet Billy Collins has a useful comment on the secret to becoming a poet:
    “Read as many poets as you can until you find one (or more) who make you jealous. Then try to imitate his or her voice. One of the paradoxes of the writing life is that the only way to originality is through imitation. If you don’t imitate others, you will sound clichéd and flat. You find your voice by trying on the voices of others. Almost every poet can teach you something about writing.”

    01 May 2010, 02:05

  3. Philip Neilsen

    The poet Billy Collins has a useful comment on the secret to becomign a poet:
    “Read as many poets as you can until you find one (or more) who make you jealous. Then try to imitate his or her voice. One of the paradoxes of the writing life is that the only way to originality is through imitation. If you don’t imitate others, you will sound clichéd and flat. You find your voice by trying on the voices of others. Almost every poet can teach you something about writing.”

    01 May 2010, 02:10

  4. Philip Neilsen

    Another favourite quote:

    “Poetry is not a pretty way of saying something straight, but the straightest way of saying something complex.”
    George Szirtes The Guardian 2005

    01 May 2010, 02:47

  5. novice

    It is true that tempo and melody naturally exist in our language, so their occurence within the poetic language is inevitable. That is because as all languages, (no restraints: we could even talk about body or sign language), poetry depicts reality, the natural and even supernatural world we live in; music, dramaturgy and plasticity seem to be inherent in our daily acts, words, gestures and lives in general so they are reflected in any kind of art that purports to portray our reality… Perhaps the (obvious) secret of poetry is that it does not try to give or manufacture any answers but it only tries to portary reality.
    Personally I am not really fond of rhyme in poetry, maybe because it sounds too planned and unnatural. I find that a poet can/should depart from pre-structured moulds of poetic attii and attempt to utilise words in more creative ways so as to evoke sentiments..

    01 May 2010, 12:28

  6. J Bolzern, 16

    Okay, I listened to the podcast and had a little think and a try. I wrote a fourteen-lined poem with rhyme and iambic pentameter a few days ago, so I’m contributing that sonnet that I had already written, but my twenty-lined poem without rhyme but with iambic pentameter I wrote today in response to the challenge. Neither poem is titled.

    Twenty-lined poem without rhyme but with iambic pentameter:

    I saw it there, a little ugly sketch
    So crudely scrawled beside the poster’s words-
    A cartoon penis, drawn in biro pen
    To mock my confidence and ruined goals
    I know the thing was likely drawn in jest
    Without a thought to how I might react
    And yet the world seems now a crueller place
    A place where spite and malice do their work
    For what harm had my sinless poster caused
    To be so roughly, vulgarly defiled?
    And now a loathsome blemish comes to stay
    To stain the once-white paper with its brand
    To spoil the love that drew and wrote and made
    To taint the effort put into my task
    Perhaps a real live person did the deed
    And scratched the little image on the page
    I find it much more likely that a wraith
    Or demon came and dirtied in their spite
    To harm the harmless, spatter the unsoiled
    To smear the innocent and foul the white.

    Fourteen lined poem with rhyme and iambic pentameter (probably more than a little juvenile, as it is after all a love sonnet written by a teenage girl):

    If only I could fall into your arms
    And cross the distance- be with you tonight.
    To feel your tender touch which so disarms
    Would thrill me as you held me close, and tight.
    I miss you so much, more than I can stand.
    My thoughts are never far from wondrous you.
    I stretch out now an empty, lonely hand
    As harsh reality hits me anew.
    Your love and solace lead me to take heart
    To misery you make me so immune.
    For even though we’re miles and miles apart
    We’ll be together someday- someday soon.
    Now as to you I make my heart’s appeal
    I’ll feel your touch, no matter how unreal.

    05 May 2010, 17:57

  7. David Morley

    These are both strong attempts, especially the first piece in which the iambic pulse pushes the movement of language. There is no need to qualify the second piece in any way: it is more important to risk sentiment than to it is to write something that has no life. Keep going!

    05 May 2010, 19:46

  8. River

    Having a bit of a bee in my bonnet about poetry seemingly written only for the appreciation of other similar poets, i found this exercise facilitated this rather cathartic rant…

    What is the secret of poetry?

    You intellectual poets trade your skills
    and take apart and tinker with Ideas,
    you have a box of trick, the works are slick,
    I see that. I’m impressed but not enthralled.

    Your stage is set. The tickets are expensive,
    but i find your theatre stifling and drab.
    I understand you’re very educated.
    I’m not, at least not in your sort of school.

    You often seem a bit obsessed by darkness,
    you open doors to bleak and empty rooms,
    stuff them with mither, mistresses and muses.
    Perhaps you’re lacking fresh air and clean fun.

    You’ve studied lots of history, arts and science,
    so erudite, you critique, edit, strut.
    Your stuff is funky (not the common usage)
    I’d recommend some movement therapy,

    but would you ever dance like no-one’s watching,
    close your eyes, surrender to the beat?
    Keep strutting, conscious of your clever cock,
    I’m listening, the secret’s safe with me.

    07 May 2010, 17:55

  9. Jack

    This piece is a metaphysical exploration of intimate similarities between religious faith and the complex nature of deeply embedded human relationships. Ultimately this poem underlines the volatility of this existence and how it can transcend into fanaticism. (I would be grateful for some feedback)


    Love is church,
    And you are my Jesus,
    I’ll carry our search,
    forever to please us,

    For your kiss is my communion,
    Our praying hands linked in union,
    Clasping our bible of affection,
    A crucifictine image of perfection,


    The candles in our church burn too bright,
    Holy water tries to douse, but our church is alight,
    Embers of passion igniting our alter,
    Torching the memories we once shared.

    07 May 2010, 21:16

  10. David Morley

    I offer this quotation to think about, ‘Treat the other man’s faith gently; it is all he has to believe with. His mind was created for his own thoughts, not yours or mine.’ – Henry Haskins

    10 May 2010, 12:58

  11. Sue


    He puts his brush to canvas,
    with one quick stroke
    unfolds a bird from the sky
    Steps back, considers.
    Takes pity.
    Unfolds another.

    Jane Hirshfield

    15 May 2010, 08:58

  12. Sue

    Yesterday morning I read a DH lawrence poem for what I think was the first time. This is it:-

    I never saw a wild thing
    sorry for itself.
    A small bird will drop
    frozen dead from a bough
    without ever having felt
    sorry fo itself.

    I was very moved by this poem though when I mentioned it to someone else they thought it wasn’t particularly “deep”. Later we were sitting in a square when we saw a pigeon with no claws just little stubs where they should have been and I said “Poor pigeon” but then I remembered the poem and realised there was no need to feel sorry for it because it didn’t feel sorry for itself. The thought that it was unable to feel sorry for itself came into the subsequent discussion we had and the poem I’d read earlier took on new meaning and started to become fathoms deep and very profound. I don’t remember seeing such a disabled bird for a long time and it still seems strange to me that it appeared just after reading this poem.

    16 May 2010, 07:41

  13. Oscar Hammerstein

    A bell is no bell ‘Til you ring it,
    A song is no song ‘til you sing it,
    And love in your heart
    Wasn’t put there to stay
    Love isn’t love
    ‘Til you give it away.

    19 May 2010, 23:50

  14. Judith Ann Gorgon

    Yes, you have left me
    but you have not gone away
    You rest deep inside.

    19 May 2010, 23:51

  15. Kurt Carbone

    Cocolate is perfect
    A lush fragrance
    Mired to the fingers,
    Infinitely edible,
    Let us celebrate
    The eating of the chocolate.

    19 May 2010, 23:53

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