in rebuttal to some comments from yesterday

by jhon baker

Mel, I have enjoyed your work in the past and will continue to do so in the future. In general, artists have very strong opinions about things and are not very reticent about sharing them. However, I am a bit dismayed that you did not truly read my commentary or that of those who disagree with you who I believe had quite solid points that are left unaddressed in rebuttal.
None of us here are stroking the phallus of academia – we are saying something quite different and that you and L. do not see that invalidates your argument in it’s entirety.

Here is a list of things I did not say in my argument:
 – Academia is the only way to go. (we are not stoking the phallus of academia here)
 – you must adhere to rules to write good poetry. (on the contrary, actually, I say you should know them in order to write without them)
 – you must dissect a poem to find its value. (I don’t know where you and L got this from)
 – without training, people should not try new things. (quite the opposite which is clearly stated in my original commentary.)
– of the “1000 styles of poetry” [sic] you must be versed in each of them to create without boundaries. ( I am unaware of all 1000 and would need to research that bit of proofiness, however, this has no place in my argument and does not follow my line of thought.((but there may be truth to it – I don’t know, I don’t create without constraints)) )

What I am saying:
 – You must learn to further your art, learning from those who are better and more advanced – reading only what you write and that of people of you caliber does nothing to extend your endeavor.
 – Writing in one style is not writing without restriction if you only know that one style. On the contrary – you are totally constricted to that one style.
 – Learn what is offered to know – then forget what you have learned to write without restriction. (mel, you did this and it seems to have benefited you quite handsomely)
 – My comment on the MBA has more to do with putting me in the position of teaching to expound on a greater level the value of learning not the value of formal training.
 – thinking that you don’t need to learn and shouldn’t study to be able to create truly and that is what is best is self centered in the extreme. (I find it difficult to parse why you are defending a line of thought that is so partisan, allowing no room for other expression)

What I should have added:
  – Whether or not any of us wants to admit it – all creation is done within constraints, chosen or unchosen – being able to choose your constraints creates more informed and better work.
 – I am basing my commentary on what he says, where quoted or referenced, not what he intends as I do not know his intention – I only have his direct wording.
– reading and quoting from his blog where he tries to pass himself off as a well learned and trained writer.

What I should have left out:
 – My personal opinion of his poetry as it has little to do with what I am talking about. Though I did think what I read was bad and self-centered – it may have been poor examples of his work as a whole – he may well be the second coming of Bukowski (who was indeed a trained writer and obsessive autodidact as well.)

Your argument is not a direct rebuttal of my statements but a continuation of L.’s which did not address my commentary and took everything I said out of context and inflamed it beyond its point.

Answer me this -, in poetry, after you have nearly mastered one form (in this case, free form) how is it creation to continue to write in that form when it isn’t a choice but a limitation by chosen ignorance.

and L. You made my point with your argument about the laws of the land – you are not able to exercise your freedoms without knowing what they are, and the limits to them. If you create within one form only without knowing the other avenues how can you possibly expect to further your art? As K said – how can you create from within a box? I am sorry, L., I cannot answer your question without first knowing who the greatest poet ever is, and having some information about the parental tutelage as you inferred.

Is someone who can change oil a mechanic? Someone who can install a faucet a plumber? when you take out the garbage are you a garbageman/woman/person, when you mow your lawn are you a landscaper, when you fix a chair are you a woodworker, file your own taxes an accountant? what makes the difference? and are you limited to not do these things because you aren’t fully informed? of course not.
If you are not learned should you resist the urge to write poetry or paint? not at all – you should give in to the temptation to create – if it suits you, you should continue in the endeavor and learn, study – no institution is necessary for this, but a love for what you are trying to do.

I thank you all for weighing in on the thought process and turning it to a debate of sorts – I would hope that you always feel comfortable enough here to disagree with me and my “elite” (so called) opinions.

I look forward to the beating that I may get as a response to this post. If writing in rebuttal on your own blog – I only ask for direct quotation of what you are rebutting and a link back. If you choose to not do this, that is fine as well but not honest. I chose to not link back in my original article as I didn’t want to bring the argument to the person in question as I have no want to hurt his feelings or dissuade him from continuing to learn. This may be a mistake and I will consider informing him directly of my commentary.

11 Comments to “in rebuttal to some comments from yesterday”

  1. alas…i must go to work and do not have time to respond properly — although respond, i shall.

    i very much appreciate the opportunity to discuss this further…i think we may end up having to agree to disagree, but i hope that will not harm further discourse between us.

    i apologize for not linking to your post in my blog — this was more out of desiring to keep my observations *general*….having been prodded into a blind rage by your post. ;)…than to not attribute your thoughts/opinions.

    in peace…

  2. Damn.. should have hired you as mu divorce attorney.. you would have whipped ass in the courtroom..Not because I like you ( I disagree with friends), but on this you are correct..
    I will not disect your reubuttal only say Ole'!!!!!!!!

    Thank you for thinking I have it in me to spread out and tackle new styles. That was a great confidence booster for me whether you realize it or not.

  3. forgive the typos.. I need afternoon coffee and my eyelids are fading..

  4. Good points Jhon, and I do agree that calling the unnamed fellows poetry “bad” may have been a misstep. (Not that I might not have thought the same thing) I struggle to appreciate certain types of poetry, which isn't to say I struggle to like it. There is much poetry that I don't like and never will, and that's OK, it has it's own place and I'm not the intended audience for a lot of the poetry I encounter. SO I try not to call it “bad” as much as “not for me.” Taste is subjective certainly. I can't accept however, the implication that reading and being aware of the poetry of others is an irrelevant pursuit. If not for the work of others, why would you call your own work “poetry” at all? To call something anything, you're using the qualities of the title you use. So your poem, like it or not, draws on your knowledge of what a poem is, but if you don't read poetry you're drawing onn perhaps a vaguely remembered knowledge. You also miss the reminder when reading someone else's fine work, of what a great poem can do. It doesn't make sense to me. I also don't understand why someone would read poetry selectively, for example reading poets up to Wordsworth and never accepting contemporary language, but again, that falls under “not for me.”

  5. Poets! Do not attack each other but enjoy the last days of your form in a Bacchanalian orgy of word-pleasure and mutual-understanding .. for if you ask ten people on the street passing by if they read poetry. You will get twenty emphatic NO's. If the eleventh person is a poet, you will get a YES for every NO you got, and then he or she will have a strong opinion for how to do it best, that is highly personal. In my experience and as a fairly successful poet-only other poets read poetry any more. If Whitman were alive today he'd likely be writing twitter posts and be a graffiti street artist. If you want to be read, poetry might not be the most successful way to do that. If you don't care if you are read, then have at it, have at each other .. but it seems like a bit of pointless battle. Now back to my Twitter ..

  6. Hi, I came here after reading another person's response to your original post on this subject. Your opinion is so interesting, with such heart and such obvious love for poetry. I find myself both agreeing and disagreeing with you … although to be honest, you really lost me with your first sentence, and I struggled to be open-minded after that. It took several rereadings until I felt I was “hearing” you fairly, beyond what I initially perceived as arrogance but later came to see as genuine care and regard for the poetic craft.

    I agree with you that there is indeed a great deal of dreadful poetry out there. I used to get annoyed about it too. But it seems to me as I mature in my craft that poetry is not the same as novel writing, nor analytical writing, where there is a generally accepted standard of practice. Poetry (particularly of the modern type) can so often be a pure expression of the soul. Anyone can write a poem without any training, study, skill – because everyone has a soul and something to say. Of course, their language may be trite, their understanding poor, but their desire to express themselves has value. And seeing it from that perspective, it is unnecessary (even perhaps unhelpful) to study other poets, as your own voice may get confused with echoes of theirs.

    It depends though on how you define a poem and its value.

    I truly believe a poem can be written even without no education in “what makes a poem”, because it is not a technical activity, it is not the sum of its techniques, it is not even necessarily a reflection of what we know or have learned or have picked up from the masters. It can be purely a way to express what is within us.

    I say this as someone who majored in the study of poetry at university, who has read most of the masters, and who has written poetry also. (Good poetry? I don't know. To those who bought it, yes. To others, almost certainly no. The appreciation of poetry, unique to all literary forms, is entirely subjective.)

    For me, there are two ways to approach a written piece of work. Firstly, you can look at its form, and there is a great deal of richness, information, and delight to be obtained from this if it is done well. But secondly, you can seek the message within. I did this with your original post, which I found disagreeable in form but actually containing a wonderful heart and a deeply felt message. I teach my students that, to truly appreciate a poem, we must read it in both those ways. Sometimes, the form fails. But the message is always important and real, although it may be difficult to unpeel, and although we may not agree with it ourselves.

    I feel perhaps our perspective on this will never meet, and I can only say I understand where you are coming from, and respect your opinion. But I do not believe poetry is (or should be) about techniques and styles. I do not think an artist needs to study before expressing something, however they choose, from their soul. I do not believe someone drawing only from within themselves is “confining themselves.” I think in many ways they are allowing themselves great freedom.

    Thank you for opening this invigorating discussion.

  7. Sarah, My opening comment is indeed regrettable and I wish that I had not made it – it pains me that I would treat someone willing to share in such a manner even not mentioning who this person was. I would remove it but feel as I had already put out my own fault as opinion and doing so would only work to disguise what we all know was said. I have thought to maybe reproduce more of the interview to show his arrogance in his opinion that to learn is to be stifled but I do not want to bring this to his door for fear of hurting him as he never asked my opinion – nor would he according to his statements.
    I stand by my larger argument as I am not commenting on the act of writing poetry for personal gain or pleasure but for a serious journey into the heart of great writing. Everyone should write – from the heart, we will all be influenced by other voices and in knowing those voices more intimately are we able to reign in the sway they hold on and over our writing. I mean to say that everyone should follow what the soul leads them to do – if that is write poetry for the sake of expressing what is inside – than by all means! The voices of our fathers and mothers is our first poetry, our first song and this holds great influence over what we write and express. Hearing other voices helps to minimize the damage, the voices of our friends and brethren also hold sway as does the simple sounds of our cities. The more we broaden our aspect the less each of these influence but by choice. Kevin has said (no, you were not left out of the conversation) that we have obvious influence when trying to play music – because we listen to music, if you are only listening to rock than all you will ever be able to hear is rock unless you listen to something else – if you play three chords – there are only so many ways to arrange those until you have hit the end of your experience – simply by learning a fourth you are now able to expand your endeavor by a large degree. By learning only the three and than stating that learning any more you will be confined defies explanation.
    In writing poetry I mean to further the poem, to bring it to new heights and to do that I cannot become staid in the same place – which not giving the art a larger perspective would do.
    I am not in disagreement with what you have entered into our little conversation with – it is well thought out and quite right.
    I would say that all poetry has technique and that without an ability to understand it the poet has no control over the poem. Language is the first ability we need, clear communication through the tools given us is paramount, unless you are writing in a style that abandons that willingly. Through language we find our first teacher, Meter is important but no paramount as all verse has meter – lest it not be verse. As writers we first find our footing without constraint of knowledge – only constraint of no knowledge – it is then up to us whether or not we want to progress in whole or only in part.
    I do not believe that poetry should be about the technique or style either but that to further our art is need be grounded with it – if it were about it then we could have stopped with “the waste land”
    Start with only the self – surmount this when ready and go on with self study to find what it is that you think makes a good poem, ground yourself in the most basic of forms and meter, learn at full speed so you can forget that you learned anything at all!
    In addition to the study of poetry I have made a life long study of philosophy and would think of Plato's cave when thinking about what real freedom in expression is – we may think we are free only until our eyes are opened to a larger perspective.

    This is a little rambling – I apologize, I couldn't sleep and found myself at the computer – In the end I don't think we disagree much at all – Mel, you or I. We are simply coming at this from only slightly different perspectives. I hope you continue to read my blog and my work as I know I can benefit from other world and poetic view.

  8. You are right, we are not far in disagreement. And I must say, you write beautifully. I am very impressed with how you have conducted this discussion and I love alot of what you have written in your reply to me here. Thank you 🙂

  9. Okay I wish I could offer up some new, deep philosophical angle here, but sadly I know as much about writing poetry as the chap I met a few months back knew about pleasing a woman. Shameful.

    So instead I thought I'd just go ahead and lower the tone of the argument (as that's my particular forte) and say,

    Jhon, I fancied your poetry alright, but your debating skills? Dead sexy.

    Also, try not to let the occasional negative comment get you down. I know they're the ones that seem to stand out, but don't forget how far outweighed they are by the positive ones.

    Try to read them objectively, decide if they have merit, and respond accordingly.

    (Or just mentally blacken their names, place them into the c*nt file in your mind and deny their existence alltogether, as I generally do to anyone who dares criticise.)

    Beaucoup des bisous, mon amour.

    – B x

  10. I wrote myself out of the conversation :p
    Meaning, my comments didn't leave much room for conversation…
    I think my feelings on this run deeper than just their applications to art. Too often individuals are overlooked who have spent countless years in study, only to find that they've been overlooked for someone who's done very little study. I suppose that's why I would be ashamed if my poems where featured ahead of a learned poet who had invested the time to master their word craft… and were good at it.
    And I still stand by my thinking that as we work on our arts, we're learning. Pieces I wrote in my youth are very poor in comparison to my writings now, and I'm still very sophomoric in the art of poetry…

  11. Ah KM, that is always such a piss-off, to study for years and hone your craft and find yourself being trumped by some little bugger with more natural talent than you. (Not meaning you personally, as I know nothing about you or your writing.) It happens to so many artists, musicians, writers …

    And sometimes talent isn't even involved. Think of what some really learned and hard-working and capable writers feel about Stephenie Meyer, for example!

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