Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Poetics (Mine)

Poets have different goals. Some write to be satirical (Alexander Pope or John Dryden), some write to thwart traditions (Shakespeare's sonnets), some write for reasons only they know. Sometimes the same poet has different intentions, depending on the poem--Alexander Pope is the author of both the wildly satirical Rape of the Lock and the more weighty philosophical The Epistle on Man.

Lately, I've found myself with the same idea in mind as I compose poetry. When I write a poem, my main goal is to convey some feeling with words. If you read the poem from yesterday, you may notice that when I'm describing rain, I use several words that begin with S and end with -ing. My intention was to give the feeling of motion, of rain moving wildly and energetically. When someone reads my poem, I want them to feel the movement of the rain, to visualize rain, and to allow that to transport them into an experience of the poem.

The same theme is repeated in the second stanza. I hoped to inspire a visualization of gray sky, rain, and sidewalks suddenly broken with a brilliant red umbrella. Then people also break the plane of motion by disrupting the downward fall of water with their horizontal movement. Even though they are inside shelter, out of the falling rain, they still are "raining" as the water drips off of them.

The final stanza was meant to convey my situation: I was sitting in a coffee shop reading when the storm suddenly struck. There was lightning, there was thunder. But I was cozy and observant. The final lines of calm form a tension with the kinetic energy of the rest of the poem, which I like. I could move it to the beginning and start the poem off with that tension, but I preferred the feeling of plunging in--you, the reader, are dashing in from the storm toward my place.

Here's the fun thing about analyzing your own poetry: ideas and feelings I got when reading the poem, I pretended I actually consciously thought about all of it. However, the truth is probably I only had a vague notion that I wanted to convey feelings of motion; all other meaning formed as I wrote about it. So does that make analysis pointless? Not really. I created meaning out of my own poem that I truly believe is there. Another reader might create some other, similar meaning from their own experience.

This is not a license for wild interpretation, though. You can't put something into a poem that is not there, in the language. You notice I didn't pretend that the tension was reflective of a conflict with my mother, though some might argue that "rain/nature" equals "mother", which you possibly could get away with as a psychoanalytical approach, maybe. If anything, the tension is reflective of indoor/outdoor distinctions. Not a conflict, per se, but rather a relationship. If I were analyzing this poem as a scholar, I would probably take into account that the author (myself) is interested more in the relationships between opposing forces, not necessarily the conflict (even though conflict is often the center of a relationship). Perhaps I (as the scholar) would conclude that the author's intent was to create tension between the wild outside and the calm inside to demonstrate how the two are compliments of one another. The heavy rain would not be so "merry" and full of "wild joy" if the author was not safe inside observing it.

Anyway, just some thoughts on interpretation. As someone whose job it is to analyze literature, it is difficult to toe the line between feasible interpretations and just making something up. Hopefully I tend away from the "just making something up" (also known as the "it's about God, death, or sex" interpretation). This is a personal conflict I've dealt with on here before, and will likely deal with again...

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