My Approach to Poetry

a writing by Denis Barter

That we can look at poetry, like a house, from so many angles. Both from the outside looking in, or the inside looking out: as inhabitants or as strangers.

Therein lies the truth!

Personally I am of the considered opinion that any poetic piece, essay, story or whatever, like music, can only be truly rendered or performed by the author. He alone was privy to his thoughts and moods at the time of his writing and knows what he was trying to impart to the listener and his intentions.

It is much the same with music. I listen to music as written by one of my favourite composers - Grieg - as performed by various orchestras under various excellent and famous conductors and although one can recognise the melody running throughout all of them, still each rendering is different. Vastly so in some instances and I would have it no other way.

Likewise poetry, no matter what style or manner of its composition, still it would be a rare occasion and purely coincidental I think, when a speaker/reader can capture and emulate the author’s true intention. One must ask what inspired the writing in the first place? This has to have great bearing and influence on the reason and manner as to why it was written. Was he sad: hurting: angry: in Love, mourning the loss of a loved one? There are dozens of legitimate reasons why he might have written the piece?

As one who often writes his poetry when I have a great need to purge myself of angst, or heartfelt feelings, perhaps at times when I have been so furious as to want to express my feelings in something greater than everyday common language, then I write in a manner of poetry that few others would ever be able to read as I had intended. This is one damned good reason I hate critics! The person reading my words, puts their own ‘mood’ to my writing. Rightly or wrongly it is the way they see my reason for writing it. They could be further from the truth than they ever imagined! A critic per se, has no idea of what the author intended. He/She sees only the grammatical construction of the piece and seldom grasps the importance of certain words used.

Okay so some will say, this then, is the author’s fault. That I as the author, should be clearer in my wording, to better capture the mood by using a manner of presenting my poetry that leaves no doubts in the mind of those reading! I disagree. Should one be so disposed to write in 'poorer' or 'lesser' words, then by so doing, the piece might well become unwieldy or lose its effective dynamism, which in turn, impacts less upon the reader.

When I pen my own lines, I try to write by capturing my sincerest, innermost feelings. By such means I hope to allow my passion free rein but still to impart my true intentions. This may well have been so great at the time that I searched for words that may be appear illusory and better used to describe something else. But analogy is an important essence of good poetry I think? For some today, some words used might even be considered archaic and obscure? Much depends upon the age and background of the author/poet, as it does for the reader. When writing one can and does resort to little used interpretations and even dialect (I do this at times).

Lets face facts as I see them. Many of the esteemed older poets would be lost in our modern world and often today, we see an interpretation of their poems that I feel ranges from the sublime, through to the ridiculous! I have personally heard readings of Shakespeare’s sonnets by well known ‘experts’ that purport to be the truthful rending of what the Bard meant when he wrote them! How the devil does the presenter know? He wasn’t there and never spoke with William, so he can only give his own portrayal of what he ‘thinks’ the Bard intended. Likewise when someone reads my poetry and then deigns to tell me how I should have written it? Not likely! Sorry but my approach is that I write because I have a need to express myself and I shall choose the style and manner by which I write. If the reader does not care for either? Then move on. I wrote to satisfy my own desires not those of someone who might or might not grasp my meaning?

For many people, reading a poem is little more than a matter of semantics or if you prefer, interpretation. My personal manner, is to read, re-read and if need be, read yet again, what the author wrote - paying little heed to the grammar and style until I have either managed to come to a conclusion as to why the author wrote his piece, or why he wrote it at all? Only then will I think of the grammar and construction of the piece in question. And yes, of course this does have a lot to do with whether I like the piece: find it competent and well written: or merely another piece of poorly written doggerel that can be dismissed out of hand.

Maybe a little more than you expected? But it is something I find disturbing at times. So many self styled experts, leave me wondering, what qualifications they possess, that gives them the right to say, this is what the author intended! It ain’t on for me.

Rhymer.

This was written in answer to a self-proclaimed critic, who seemed to think 'he of all readers' could and should advise me in writing my verse.

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