Narrative Story Telling, or Poetry?

a writing by Denis Barter

As I See It.

This is written as someone who chooses and prefers to write rhyming poetry, with little interest or ability to write in any other genre, which probably harks back to my early schooling, where I was taught rhyme exclusively. Although this might well be the logical explanation for my choice, it was also the genre I chose quite deliberately, when I returned to writing again, at a much later date. Perhaps too, this is why I am invariably confused to some extent when I come upon ‘poetry’ as it is written by so many ‘moderns’ today. The calling of ‘narrative’ or any free verse descriptive ‘writing’ does not, for me, make it poetry, despite the tendency of many writers so doing.

Rhyme written in a structured, lyrical format is what I term poetry, for it not only appeals to me, but is also the basic essential of a truly good read in this genre. I reinforce its appeal by pointing the reader to poetry as written by the universally acknowledged Classical Poets. Accomplished composers such as Shelley, Hood, Byron, Hardy and many others which laid down the foundations for this genre. That is not to forget the greatly revered and much loved Playwright and Poet, William Shakespeare. He I believe, has epitomised a quality we should all aspire to attain, when it comes to Sonnets, and musical ditties, whilst his Blank Verse shows his incredible expertise and ability to write in a variety of forms. A trait he has employed within his numerous plays, which are accepted as the ‘standard norm’ by most of the literary world. Poets such as those I’ve mentioned are invariably the ones called to mind when one quotes lines to emphasize a point or draw attention to a subject under discussion.

Despite my having studied and analysed the ‘form’ and ‘composition’ of much of what is posted on the Internet today under the guise of poetry, it is difficult to find first rate examples of competence. A skill that many lack. In so many instances, the author fails dismally in the use of words, phrase and punctuation, and often as not, betrays a complete lack of understanding or correct meaning of words they use. All too frequently one gets to think a word has been chosen simply because it ‘sounds nice’ and is accepted as being ‘appropriate’. At times a word is inserted to coax the reader into thinking the writer, is expertly accomplished in the use of the English language. As for punctuation? Well that’s another story altogether and demands an essay devoted to it alone.

Far too often, a string of words is put together without aforethought, and so it then becomes non-productive, defeating the true intention of the poet. Maybe the author did have a great idea for a poem, when they decided they had something of substance to record, but inspiration goes nowhere, unless some skill is apparent. The end result is that they do little more than assemble a conglomeration of words that achieve nothing!

Who knows why those lines were penned? Does it matter? I think not, provided that some thought and rationale is given when the writer proceeds to compose. Suffice it to say that, no matter what excites anyone of us to write, the end result must warrant the reader taking the time to read and digest what has been placed before him/her to read. Having to wade through a mess of flamboyant verbiage does not sit well with me, if the lines written possess no passion, nor valued message. When it obviously fails in intent, I quickly dismiss it as being a waste of my time. After some discussion with others, I find I am not alone in this thinking. Furthermore, when I come to read lines that are little more than an illogical, garbled mess, possessed of little or no bearing on the subject, then I am not only disappointed, but frustrated and annoyed. All too often it seems the author, has stumbled on words they thought sounded great, so come hell or high water, they’ll be included in their written piece of ‘poetry?’ as they will call it!

Even when words chosen are pertinent and appropriate, they must be used with discretion and care, or they do not become poetry. Instead, or so it would seem, they come under the heading of - as one person stated in a comment to me - not so much poetry as an undefined form of ‘narrative story telling’. Perhaps the term ‘descriptive narrative’ would be better and more appropriately appended to such a piece? If this is so? Then all power to the author, for then, provided the reader can immediately recognise the intent of a piece, before reading - this requires a posting with an appropriate description - the author will probably garner more fans than they would by calling it something it is not found to be!

One acquaintance of mine bluntly terms much of such work as ‘psycho-gobbledegook’! A little harsh maybe, but on occasion that seems to be a more apt and descriptive phrase. All too often a poet(?) is carried away by their exuberance to a subject, and completely disregards the basic tenets of writing. Tense changes are noted - in some instances - almost line by line: verbs, adjectives and adverbs are interchanged with or incorrectly used as nouns, which leads to a state of confusion in the mind of the discerning reader. Instead of a logical progression, which - as I see it - requires an opening passage, followed by the middle or substance of a piece, then concludes with a logical ending, the reader discovers they have become entangled in a confused mish-mash of thoughts, from which they are unable to disentangle. This may well happen even though the subject matter, may be written with regard to something dear to their heart.

Frequently we find ourselves extremely frustrated in trying to understand a work presented, and this in turn, invariably results in our moving on to seek another piece without passing a comment - good or bad - which disappoints the writer.

Summing up, I am of the opinion, that much of poetry written and displayed today, would best be described as ‘narrative’ or ‘descriptive story telling’ with sub titles added, when and where required. Lyrical and/or Rhyming Poetry should remain free of such postings. Even as Blank and Free Verse should be. There are a multitude of descriptive poetic terms that allow for all manner of variations of form and genre. A variety that includes Ballad, Doggerel, Limerick, Clerihew and many others. This applies to other genres as well, of which an author should be aware of which goes where, and why, before posting or publishing their work.

As the reader will appreciate, this is my personal viewpoint and, although you may not agree with my findings? They are how I feel about this matter.

Rhymer.

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