Poetry Overlords Mk II

Since my last blog entry, I’ve been stuck exploring the intriguing comparisons between poetry and music. I don’t know why, but I just am! And if you haven’t jumped on the “Follow UncannyDerek on Twitter” bandwagon, you’re missing out. Sort of.

Here’s the TL;DR version from my last blog:

Reading poetry out loud is a lot like performing music.

New Thoughts. Little. Yellow. Different.

Now what?

This next part is going to stir some debate, I’m sure, but try to follow me here.

As a musician, I personally find that with music I could record absolutely anything and put it out to the public. I could guarantee it would be understood and appreciated by people.

Take for examples, Fantômas – Suspended Animation (2005) or Devin Townsend – Devlab (2004). Both albums are ambient noise and rather chaotic to the listener. But I really enjoy both albums. There’s no real “sense” to each album and they’re both dramatically different from one another. For the average listener though, there’s no real construct or sense to them. For the most part, I’d confidently say that many people would dislike those albums.

Breaking down the instruments and themes, sure, one could find the inspiration and technicalities built within the albums. That being said, both albums can be difficult to listen all of the way through.

So, Poetry?

Right! So, this is where things get debate-y.

As I said, with music, it could get published despite how normal or bizarre it sounds (as with my examples found above). There’s an audience for everything in music. But with poetry and literature? I think it’s a bit more complicated than that. Sure there’s an audience for everyone, but. . . well let me explain.

There is a certain “universal standard,” per se, that is set with literature in which I think music is removed from. Due to “rules” in literature, a missing period could make or break a sentence. Paragraphs can’t be scattered too far as it could confuse the reader. The lack of capitalization could misplace titles or nouns. I could go on.

Now hold on a second because I know you’re already beginning to think of counter-arguments to mine. That’s good, because I had them too.

Let me yank out a few popular lines from Gertrude Stein’s Sacred Emily which appeared in Geography and Plays (1922).

Color mahogany.
Color mahogany center.
Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose.
Loveliness extreme.
Extra gaiters.
Loveliness extreme.
Sweetest ice-cream.
Page ages page ages page ages.

So to start: this is a Canadian blog and she spelled “colour” wrong.

Okay, I’m kidding. But we can see – as readers – how some of the lines, when they are read individually, seem like incomplete thoughts. The final line, “Page ages,” is repetitive and has no commas. It looks strange to the reader and requires some attention when performing it out loud. Should “Color mahogany” have a colon to read “Color: mahogany”?

While Stein’s poem can fit under the same category as the Fantômas and Devin Townsend albums posted above, I feel it is much harder to cater to a literary audience than a musical one due to what some could say “universal standards” put in place with reading.

Someone listening to an album can (mostly) understand when they hear guitar, drums, saxophone, trumpets, piano, or vocals.
But when someone reads or performs poetry, grammar and understanding can get lost in translation.

To ALMOST Conclude

I can play a guitar solo – regardless how awful it would be – but people would still understand it as a guitar solo.

I can perform poetry – regardless how chaotic it would be – but people would have a difficult time understanding it.

With these “universal standards” put in place with reading, such as periods needing to come at the end of sentences, I feel many readers and listeners to poetry may just miss the point. As someone who goes to poetry readings, I often get scoffed at when telling people I’m going. Is it because they think poetry is pretentious, or is it because they simply don’t understand it? Would a “universal standard” to poetry help? Is there even a way to create such a thing?

There’s nothing really conclusive here. It’s more meant to stir the pot and flesh out more ideas.

What are your thoughts on the matter?

Poetry Overlords

Not too long ago, I attended a poetry reading in my city. I’ve attended many over the years, but one thing had always made me cringe: the way some poets read out loud.

Stopping Here

My feelings towards this are entirely subjective and based on the fact that I am completely insane.

There are a few poets who do drone on monotonously when they speak. I do enjoy that when droning is actually part of the poetry they are performing (more on that soon). But other times, it simply does not work and whittles me down to nothingness (I’m over-dramatic).

I’ll touch upon this image later. But first,

I Gotta Backtrack

In my first year of University, I attended and performed at a poetry reading. I remember “covering” Robert Herrick’s famous “To the Virgins, To Make Much of Time” (aka, “Gather ye rosebuds”), and gave it my own personal meaning. I had not known the poem was so popular (and to this day, I still haven’t seen Dead Poets Society).

Anyway, I explained to the audience what the poem meant to me. I read it how I felt it should have been heard given my explanation to why I chose the poem.

Fast Forwarding to the Now

When I attended the poetry reading the other day, as I said above – the way some poets read make me cringe.

I feel as if the words being read could have an entirely different presence or meaning had only the poet changed the tonality of their voice or had someone else read their story for them.

As some people may already know, I’m a musician. I enjoy lots of stuff, ranging from ambient noise, to death metal, to classical, to jazz. I’m all over the map, really.

While writing the other night, it occurred to me how writing poetry is similar to writing music. You need the right words or “notes” to make everything flow together properly. But it was the idea performing poetry which struck me. I ended up writing out something about jazz and poetry. As an aside, I should add there were no poets the other night that did drone on at all. My ideas just came to me as I wrote my own dribble.

Poetry & Jazz?

From my notes:

Performing poetry is much like performing jazz.

As with music written down on paper, there is no sound when reading poetry. The poet is left to be a slave to the words on the page in front of them. It is up to the poet – or musician – to emote what is on the page.

When read out loud, poets will interpret the sounds like how a jazz musician performs a song when they feel it out loud. It transcends the page.

Like jazz, poetry has an infinite amount of emotions and relies heavily on the performer.

In a way, one would not be reading poetry out loud, but rather singing it.

“Jazz isn’t dead. It just smells funny.” – Frank Zappa

Whoop-de-do

Big whoop, right? So what I’m saying is when reading poetry out loud, one should approach it like a jazz musician – add their own feel and emotions into it. When I read Herrick’s poem out loud many years ago, I gave a rationality to why I performed it the way I did. I made it more than just words.

While I said how monotonous droning does work for some poets, others just do it because it may just be “words” to them. Now that is one big assumption on my part (see image above), and poetry can be entirely subjective. But I’m sure it would not hurt for someone to add extra feel to their performance. After all, I, for one, do not welcome our new poetry overlords.

Don’t forget to yell at me over on Twitter.

DoneMoWriMo

It’s been awhile since I’ve updated this, I know. I apologise. I’ll be getting back on track ASAP.

That’s probably a lie, but I’ll try my best.

To get you all caught up though: I’m done editing and my novel has been handed out to a few close friends to start peer editing it. I figure having them edit my novel it is either a great decision, or the perfect set up to end my friendships with them when they critique it too harshly. . . .

. . . Honestly though, I’m thankful for having close friends that I trust enough to hand over my year(s) of work to. It’s going to be one helluva ride.

The Plan

Aside from trying to kill The Batman, my plan is to have my peer editors finish editing in by the end of May/early-June. During that time, I’ll research whether I’ll self-publish or go to a publisher. Given the content of my novel, I really have opened it to a variety of different publishers. But we’ll see.

Once the peer editing is done, I’ll make one more massive edit, then either get it edited one more time, or go to publishing. Oh, the chaos of it all.

That being said, I’m sure a lot of you are still wondering what my story is about. I have not really revealed much about it. Perhaps with my “down-time” I’ll finally come up with a decent synopsis?

That’s also probably a lie, but I’ll try my best!

Also, aren’t you following me on Twitter yet?

Until next time, folks!

NotDeadNoWriMo

I’ll admit that I’m struggling to make these titles still work.

Anyway, Happy New Year! It’s been a bit, I know. As with the holidays, things become needlessly hectic and out of control. I unfortunately got zero editing done in the month of December. It felt as if it was the busiest month of 2013 for me – next to February (when I moved).

As of last week though, I got back on track. I’ve edited about an eighth* of my story and am still plugging along. I definitely plan on having it completely finished with edits by the end of February. From there I’ll be passing the story off to a few English Literature friends of mine to do a once-over.

From there I’ll be making the necessary changes to either send it to a professional editor, or head right to publishing!

Now whether I’m going to self-publish or go through a publisher has yet to be seen. I also am debating whether I should self-fund or Kickstart the novel. For one thing, Kickstarter definitely offers awesome publicity.

On the other hand, I have no idea what I’m doing.

We’ll see what happens next! I’ll keep you posted!

*I am awful with fractions.