Monday 14 November 2022

Ornamentation and aura

In the old days writers would iambize their prose and dangle rhymes on their line-endings to make their words seem more significant, adding poetic words as glitter. As Samuel Johnson said, some people think that anything that doesn't look like prose must be poetry. Nowadays writers use strange punctuation, deletions, discontinuities and line-breaks instead.

There's still something about the label "poetry" that writers find tempting. And why not? Poetic license still exists. If you label a piece "poetry", readers will look for hidden meanings. The meanings will expand to match the readers' expectations. It saves the writer needing to do so much. A short text (about doing the housework, say) can go far given a big title like "Death".

But readers might not be so compliant nowadays. They might distrust the label. They might think the shortness is a cop-out.

  • They're more alert to tricks of ads, the lure of mistique, aura, etc. They know how the addition of false eyelashes and tan can trick the eye.
  • They've seen how less pretentious "memes" and "tweets" can do so much in a few words.
  • Flash now offers an alternative vehicle for anecdotes, without recourse to the "poetry" label.
  • Books like "Grief is the thing with feathers" by Max Porter show what can be done with poetic ideas when they're developed. In comparison a slim poetry book with lots of white space looks if not unfinished then certainly expensive.

Consequently I'm on my guard when I read a text that's labelled as poetry. There's less need to label texts as such nowadays (short texts can be prose), so the request for my extra attention had better be genuine.

No comments:

Post a Comment