On new forms of poetry..

30 03 2009



I was taking a cover lesson of a year 10 English class for a colleague the other day and the students were doing a poetry exam. As I mentioned that they would be studying a novel next term, there was a noticeable “Whooop” from most of the boys in the class.

Having spent the last 16 years as a teacher on a solid diet of skepticism about most adolescent boys’ latent desire for fictional literature (without pictures), I did not for a second believe that they were overjoyed at the prospect of ripping into a new tome over Easter! (Notice how my writing style has emulated an English teacher over the last paragraph?).

Anyway, I digress. It dawned on me a second later that these boys, nay, young men, had just been subjected to poetry! For a term!! Where is the humanity?

I empathised with these young Australian men, whose ordeal would best be mirrored by subjecting your average facebook-obsessed, Australian-Idol addicted lass to a full term of Top Gear and highlights from the last decade of State of Origin Rugby League as a principal source of textual discourse.

Then, my hypocrisy alert went into meltdown as I remembered that era in my own life. Actually, I read and wrote quite a bit of poetry in my late teen years. Enough to fill a copy of the Weekend Australian at least. I reflected on why this was.

Chicks, mostly. They accounted for about half the content and perhaps 80% of the motivation. Young ladies dig guys who are comfortable enough with their manhood to indulge in a little poetry. Well, so my adolescent mind told me anyway. As it turned out, this, like so many of my adolescent theories was 1% inspiration and 99% sheer bollocks. These young ladies (my wife included!) still, by and large, went for the footy guys, those on the verge of expulsion and those most likely to carry an extra Y chromosome. It turned out that philosophical nerds and female interest in try-hard sensitive-new-age-guys peaked more at 22 years of age than 15 years of age . The fact that this generally coincided with the popular thugs of the cohort variously ending up in fatherhood, unemployment or prison was probably less than coincidental.

Writing good poetry is, and most likely  should be, difficult, in my less-than-humble opinion. If it’s not, well, for a bloke, what is the point? Now Dimitri Martin, a famous US comedian, wrote a 224 word PALINDROMIC poem. Now THAT is poetry! Not just mindless stream-of-consciousness prose, overly laden with obscure adjectives and pseudo-existential babble. Yep, a real poem either has to woo chicks or be cool. There is really no other justification for delving into this minefield of masculine vulnerability.

So how did I rate my own work? Mostly dross, I am sad to say. Some interesting (and hard to write) rhyming patterns and amateur philosophy. Although I did pen one weird one called “paradox lost” in which the “story” runs backwards and each adjective is selected on the basis that it is tautological to its subject. Still, it is a silly little piece and is best buried in whichever box it is buried in currently in my wardrobe. The rest is adolescent twaddle and has about as much existential angst as a toddler who really needs to go to the toilet. Actually that gives me an idea for a poem.

I have even, with the help of an experienced colleague at work, created a new version of poetry, modelled on the classic Japanese “haiku” but more hip than an orthopedic surgeon’s dumpster. It is called a “lowku” and instead of the standard 3-5-3 pattern with its mere three lines of syllabification, a lowku requires, nay demands, a postively svelte 1-3-1. Such verse are harder than they look and can be cool, or good for pulling chicks or both as the examples below clearly show:






what’s it good

Ok, lowku c) is not a good example of one which can be used for both, unless you happen to be targetting a pacifist in your local “Resistance” meeting but, hey, can’t hurt, right?

So what did I tell these fine young men about poetry? “Hey guys, take it from me, chicks LOVE poetry, study it, write it, read it!”. So did I knowingly perpetuate this myth? Absolutely, but I have daughters and I am happy for this myth to live in perpetuity at least until my daughters are well and truly married well. Keeps those lusty little toads off my front lawn doesn’t it?




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