On Modern Poetry, A Rant

A Rant, 16 May 2020. Copyright 2020 Forgotten Fields. All rights reserved.

P

oetry is not without its rules, and just as in every other discipline they must first be assimilated before they can be effectively broken, so in Poesy, there are basic mechanisms a poet must grasp and diligently seek to master in his work.

In contemporary poetry, this is a skill notably absent.

A failure to comprehend and appreciate the principles of expressive language is a scourge upon it. Nearly all compositions in the style would be vastly improved had the poet a rudimentary understanding of what makes a poem a poem.

There exists a fine line between prose and free verse.

Writing something that resembles a poem does not make it one. How much of what one reads today has themes not worth contemplating, blurted out (for composed they are not) in lumbering stanzas that do nothing to give them form?

Not every man who fancies himself a poet can verse.

For a poem to be good, it must resound in the halls of human experience. It must elevate the mundane through a celebration of language and a distillation of thought that compels the reader to exclaim: Yes! I know—I feel—your meaning!

Is such a thing too great a task for the modern poet?

Perhaps. Consider what we who long for a sublimation of the modern experience are presented with in vers libre: the poetic equivalent of Yeezy—crude phrasal fragments that barely resemble language, unworthy of the ear and soul.

“Skaapwagtertjie” is following the same path of development as its English counterpart, “Shepherd Girl”, with an early resolution of all the stanzas but the second. Just like “Shepherd Girl”, two weeks into its composition, the drafts for stanzas one, three and four are reduced to one or two versions, whilst for stanza two, there are more than ten (from a total of about twenty) yet to be whittled down to that number. This is my task in the days to come.

Presently translating “Shepherd Girl” into the Afrikaans “Skaapwagtertjie”, I am encouraged to do the same for another poem titled “Little River” (yet unfinished). The sketch contains several Afrikaans bird and place names which justify a full translation, I think. When I composed the first draft of “Little River”, I thought of it as a way of enjoying Afrikaans without actually composing a work in the language; but “Skaapwagtertjie” shows me the delights of doing so. Perhaps I shall eventually translate the entire anthology into Afrikaans; but for now, this set shall be my indulgence.