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Picture of Richard English
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I have asked this question previously and the usual answer that I seem to get is that poetry (like art) is what its creator believes it to be. Which is why, I suppose, I like limericks since they follow a fairly strict form and it's difficult to pretend that a simple assemblage of words is a limerick.

However, it seems possible to do that for most other poetry forms. I was looking in my Oxford Book of English Verse for a Betjeman poem (there are very few of his works - maybe because he wrote very few that didn't rhyme and scan properly - and that seems to be a prime requirement for inclusion. Immediately before Betjeman's poem written on the death of King George V, there is a submission by Samuel Beckett entitled "What is the Word". It runs thus:

folly -
folly for to -
for to -
what is the word -
folly from this -
all this -
folly from this -
all this -
given -
folly given all this -
seeing -
folly seeing all this -
this -
what is the word -
this this -
this this there -

And so it continues for another 38 lines of similar construction. Now, why is that a poem? I could easily write a similarly non-rhyming, non-scanning work; would the OBOEV consider it? Would the OBOEV have considered "What is the Word" had it been written by me rather than Becket?

Please tell me; I have the ability to write any amount of non-scanning, non-rhyming and essentially meaningless verbiage if someone wants to pay me to do so!

Lest it be thought that I am writing this as a troll (and thank you for telling me what a troll really is) can I assure you all that I genuinely have no idea at all why one collection of words is a poem and another, apparently similar, collection is not.

In much the same way as I genuinely can't see how the recent Turner prize winning exhibit - a flourescent light flashing on and off in an empty room - is art whereas the flourescent light that won't stay on in my shed is just a nuisance.


Richard English
 
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RE - this post made me laugh aloud, more than just an LOL would express.

I can completely sympathize with you in this. What makes Mondrian a great work of art when my own basement wall has similar lines? An emotional response? Does true art always evoke emotion? Should it generally be a positive emotion? There is much art out there that evokes negative emotions, though. I"m not adding any sort of answer, I know, only asking more questions.


*******
"Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.
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This question came up when I was doing my Degree and there didn't appear to be an easy answer. Something cannot be poetry just because it uses recognised poetic techniques because many novelists, such as Dickens, can be extremely poetic in their use of language. There is also the issue, as Richard points out, that some poems appear to shun all known poetic devices like rhyme, rhythm, alliteration etc. It was concluded that a poem is a poem if it meets two basic criteria:

1) It looks like a poem on the page as opposed to merely prose.
2) Meaning can be derived from the vertical axis as opposed to the horizontal axis that defines prose writing. To put it simply, the meaning in a poetic text relies far more on the relationship between different lines than is the case with prose writing.
 
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Which all seems plausible enough until you recall the story of the man who managed to get a limerick advertisement into a stuffy newspaper by simply writing it as prose:

Episcopal vicar in want of a portable second-hand font, can offer for same a portrait (with frame) of the Bishop-elect or Vermont.

Mind you, even the most un-poetical of poems in the OBOEV all seem to have the "non-paragraph" line separation - even though the lines are not separated at regular, or even logical, places.

So, were I to write a quick descriptive piece about my garden (as I look at it now) I might say:

The lawn is now cut short; the leaves on the trees long and bright green. On the fig tree, this year's shrivelled promises of last year's fruit look mournfully at the leaves' fresh growth while in the pre-historic Ghinko tree a fresh-feathered fledgling - the dinasours' true descendent - forages for insects in his ancestors' old home.

Now. were I to write it thus:

The lawn is now cut short;
The leaves on the trees long and bright green.
On the fig tree, this year's shrivelled promises
Of last year's fruit look mournfully
At the leaves' fresh growth.
While in the pre-historic Ghinko tree a fresh-feathered fledgling
The dinasours' true descendent
Forages for insects in his ancestors' old home.

Does that make it poetry? And if not, why not?


Richard English
 
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Yes, I would say that you have now created a poem but I refrain from commenting on the quality Big Grin Roll Eyes Wink
 
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quote:
Originally posted by Richard English:

The lawn is now cut short;
The leaves on the trees long and bright green.
On the fig tree, this year's shrivelled promises
Of last year's fruit look mournfully
At the leaves' fresh growth.
While in the pre-historic Ghinko tree a fresh-feathered fledgling
The dinasours' true descendent
Forages for insects in his ancestors' old home.



If it walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck and everybody says that it's a duck then it's a duck.

That's a poem.
I'd have put another line break after "Ghinko tree" myself, but there's no question in my mind that it's a poem.
 
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This is, of course, an impossible question. Many years ago I was on holiday and I met a Professor of Music, I forget which University he was at. We had a long conversation in the bar one evening in which I daresay I contributed nothing but a willing ear where he pondered at some length the question "What is music?" It was prompted by an article in the newspaper about John Cage's famous 4'33 consisting of nothing but rest bars. Is it or isn't it a piece of music?

The music Professor pondered about the idea of greatly slowing down birdsong and transcribing it for piano. Would the slowed down birdsong be music? Is the original birdsong music even though the bird itself is innocent of any intent to create music? Does the act of transcription make it music? Or the act of performance on a piano? What if instead of transcribing it the "composer" tinkers with it first? How much tinkering is necessary before it becomes music?

Whenever you ask a question that boils down in some way or another to "what is art" you are asking a question that has no answer. Every answer you can give just creates more questions. This is true whether we are talking about painting, music poetry or the kind of conceptual art the Turner judges seem to love so much.

Incidentally Martin Creed's The Light's Going On... ...And Off was the Turner Prize winner in 2001. Since then we've had Keith Tyson who cast the contents of a Kentucky Fried Chicken menu in lead, Grayson Perry who decorates vases with violent and disturbing images (but is arguably more famous for crossdressing and usually appearing in public dressed as his alter-ego "Clare") and Jeremy Deller with (I'm quoting from a press release) "a film called Texas Memory Bucket, a journey through the American state that is home to George W. Bush, more than a year before his re-election. It featured, among other subjects, the President's favourite burger bar waitress and a cast of three million bats."

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quote:
Originally posted by Richard English:
I have asked this question previously and the usual answer that I seem to get is that poetry (like art) is what its creator believes it to be. Which is why, I suppose, I like limericks since they follow a fairly strict form and it's difficult to pretend that a simple assemblage of words is a limerick.

However, it seems possible to do that for most other poetry forms. I was looking in my Oxford Book of English Verse for a Betjeman poem (there are very few of his works - maybe because he wrote very few that didn't rhyme and scan properly - and that seems to be a prime requirement for inclusion. Immediately before Betjeman's poem written on the death of King George V, there is a submission by Samuel Beckett entitled "What is the Word". It runs thus:

folly -
folly for to -
for to -
what is the word -
folly from this -
all this -
folly from this -
all this -
given -
folly given all this -
seeing -
folly seeing all this -
this -
what is the word -
this this -
this this there -

And so it continues for another 38 lines of similar construction. Now, why is that a poem? I could easily write a similarly non-rhyming, non-scanning work; would the OBOEV consider it? Would the OBOEV have considered "What is the Word" had it been written by me rather than Becket?

Please tell me; I have the ability to write any amount of non-scanning, non-rhyming and essentially meaningless verbiage if someone wants to pay me to do so!

Lest it be thought that I am writing this as a troll (and thank you for telling me what a troll really is) can I assure you all that I genuinely have no idea at all why one collection of words is a poem and another, apparently similar, collection is not.

In much the same way as I genuinely can't see how the recent Turner prize winning exhibit - a flourescent light flashing on and off in an empty room - is art whereas the flourescent light that won't stay on in my shed is just a nuisance.


I can sympathise with that. I hate artworks that make me think "I could do that a lot better myself". Tracy Emin's unmade bed is another example of pretentious art and so is the graffiti exhibition I saw at a local art gallery a few years ago. I'd only gone in there because entrance was free and it was raining outside Frown. It annoyed me so much that I wrote in the Comments Book that I thought it was an excellent example of The Emperor's New Clothes - especially since others before me had written glowing comments about how wonderful it all was.

I badly upset one of my University professors when he read us the "poem" about plums by William Carlos Williams here. I have no idea what makes this a poem - apart from the layout - and I told him so. The professor got so annoyed that he played us a tape of Williams himself reading it to a chorus of appreciative chuckles and I compounded his annoyance by saying that I hadn't realised it was supposed to be humorous!

A few years ago, I had a go at making my own "modern poems" and these are the results below:

On “Modern” Poetry

Not so long ago, we all knew what “Poetry” was.
It went “de-dum, de-dum, de-dah, de-dah” and rhymed.

Nowadays, it all seems
to be
written
like
this.
The old ways are mocked.

I have noticed that people who have
this
style
seem to be acclaimed
as
very clever.
And become
very
famous (and rich).

I would like to be thought of in
this
way.
So I thought I’d
start
here.

THREE “MODERN” POEMS

Variations on a theme
My sky
I fly by,
cry “Try!”
Why?

Tie dry rye.
Pry. Spy high.
Lie, sigh - nigh die.
Bye.

Pink
Soft, fluffy. Candy floss and mohair. Barbara Cartland.
Sunset skies and damp dawns. Blackpool rock.
Clean, sleeping babies, excited children.
Rose-tinted spectacles and pretty-picture flowers.
“Dayglo” posters, old ladies, old-fashioned gardens.
Granite is pink. Some birds go “pink”.
Pink is rosy, cosy, posies. For all ages’ nostalgic moods.

Green
Grey-green willows by the river meandering languorously to a grey-green sea.
Polar and tropical seas -emerald-extremes.
Olive and bottle-green conifers in military formation, soldiers’ khaki camouflage.
Intense viridian of bog grasses, reeds and spring leaves in warm, sleepy sunshine
damp and humming with green grasshoppers and glittering beetles.
Fun green. Fluorescent adolescents in retina-searing synthetics, brash and noisy on eye as on ear.
Hospital green, soothing jangled nerves, operating team’s coveralls -dedicated commitment to life.
Majestic green of solitary oaks, churchyard yews and cedars. Trees in all their finery, clustering, jostling, nestling.
Green is innocence, idealism. Green is a dream - the fairy colour.

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<Asa Lovejoy>
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This thread caused some vague recollection of a philosophy class discussion, circa 1962, of John Dewey's Art As Experience, wherein it was posited that the "marshalling and reframing of human experience," or some such statement, was the essence of art. I suppose one could say it's a restatement - often quite subtle - of the mundane, the banal, in such a way that it takes on significance. To me, the test of poetry, or any other form of art, is whether it makes me feel more connected to the world around me.
 
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This discussion reminds me of the one we had last June about modern art. I think it is a matter of individual taste.
 
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I attended a concert of the Portland Baroque Orchestra this afternoon, and the pre-concert lecture was about our old friend, synaesthesia! The perfesser, late of the Umbria Institute and Academy Dell'Arte in Italy, stated that Vivaldi sensed color and climatic conditions in his use of parallel thirds and suspension. It seems to me to be a small mental leap to suggest that such techniques meet the criteria for creating "tone poems" with sound instead of written poems with words. Oh, you Brits may be familiar with the artictic director of this little local orchestra: Monica Huggett, a native Londoner.
 
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quote:
It was prompted by an article in the newspaper about John Cage's famous 4'33 consisting of nothing but rest bars. Is it or isn't it a piece of music?

To my mind it is no more a piece of music than would be a dead line on a telephone. The ony difference between the 4'33 silence and my silence is that John Cage was a composer and I'm not.

And don't even get me started on Stockhausen! At least 4'33 isn't offensive and I could see some value of it as a juke-box piece that will allow a respite from the normally incessant row. But Stockhausen's stuff has all the appeal of an unsilenced road drill.


Richard English
 
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Yes, I would say that you have now created a poem but I refrain from commenting on the quality

Actually I would prefer that you did. And if it's rubbish, please tell me why it's rubbish and how, in your opinion, Beckett's poem is better? I genuinely want to know.

Incidentally, the reason why I didn't put a line break after Ghinko was that I was also interested to see whether I was breaking any line-break rules and, if I was, how was I (and why didn't Beckett's poem with its equally random line breaks not break the rules?

My own (and very cynical view) is that the likes of Martin Creed, Keith Tyson and Tracy Emins have a supreme talent for conning people into believing that what they create is art. The same talent, indeed, as did the clothing salesmen who conned the Emperor into buying a suit of nothingness.

And,, incidentally, I read the William Carlos Williams poem and the learned commentary by Huck Gutman, Professor of English at The University of Vermont. I reckon he's justifying his eminent role by justifying the unjustifiable. The Willams poem is no more a poem (or no less a poem) than is mine.

Incidentally, in recent years there has been much learned discussion on the historic Goon Shows and the deeper meaning that underlied them. Indeed, doctorial research papers have been published on just that topic. However, when Spike Milligan (the writer of the scripts) was aksed to comment his reply was along the lines of "Hidden depth and meaning? We were all pissed and having a good time".

I wonder how much artistic analysis is doing the same thing. Tracy Emins is probably laughing all the way to the bank about the gullibility of the critics, and of the buyers who are making a fortune for her by buying her junk.


Richard English
 
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Now we have agreed I have created a poem - and nobody seems to feel that it isn't one of quality - can somebody tell me where I can sell it for a few thousand pounds? And while you're at it, I have just created a piece of modern sculpture that is at least as good as Tracy Emins's dirty bed and I'm happy to sell it for no more than half a million quid. Again, where do I go?


Richard English
 
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quote:
Originally posted by Richard English:
Now we have agreed I have created a poem - and nobody seems to feel that it isn't one of quality - can somebody tell me where I can sell it for a few thousand pounds? And while you're at it, I have just created a piece of modern sculpture that is at least as good as Tracy Emins's dirty bed and I'm happy to sell it for no more than half a million quid. Again, where do I go?


Richard, in my lifetime I have probably written several thousand poems. I have yet to sell one. (I've given away quite a few though.)
I have completed one book. (A travelogue) Manuscripts of it languish in my bottom drawer. I know at least three people who have completed novels. None of them has yet sold one.
You seem to under the impression that because Tracey Emmin can call her bed art or that because there are some successful poets (though I'd venture there aren't many, if any, that can sell a single poem for "a few thousand pounds") who write things that you personally don't consider poems then this is a route open to all would be artists.

As any true artist will tell you you do it for the art not the money. The money when you are succesful is just a bonus.

Still, to address your question in the spirit that it wasn't intended.

There are poetry magazines that you could send it to. We have a local one called Raw Edge - and boy would you hate it, narry a rhyme in sight in the whole of the last issue.
I suggest that you try your local library where they usually have a good supply of leaflets for poetry competitions and librarians who are clued up on the local literary scene.
Then you just follow their submission guidelines and if they like your poem it might get published.
Slog away at it for a few years, writing and submitting as much as you can and maybe, if you're very very good indeed you might eventually graduate to a fee paying publication. Once you reach those dizzy heights expect anything between a fiver and twenty quid per poem.

Don't plan to retire early on the income.
 
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Richard, in my lifetime I have probably written several thousand poems. I have yet to sell one. (I've given away quite a few though.)
I have completed one book. (A travelogue) Manuscripts of it languish in my bottom drawer. I know at least three people who have completed novels. None of them has yet sold one.
You seem to under the impression that because Tracey Emmin can call her bed art or that because there are some successful poets (though I'd venture there aren't many, if any, that can sell a single poem for "a few thousand pounds") who write things that you personally don't consider poems then this is a route open to all would be artists.


I still can't understand why some things are considered "art" and others (which are equally bad/good or whatever) aren't. Exactly what makes Tracy Emin's bed "art", but not mine? Maybe it's because, unlike her, I don't have the brass neck to go and tell the folks at Tate Modern that it is Frown.

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then this is a route open to all would be artists.

I suspect it's a route open to all but only a very few have the "brass neck" to get away with it.

I have long ago discovered that competence and ability have little to do with success. It's what people believe you are that makes you what you are.

Take the CEOs of many organisations in recent years who have made millions while at the same time mis-managing their companies to the point, or even beyond the point, of failure. And when they leave the failure they have created - they walk straight into another plum job at a few million a year.

If you are, as am I, simply honest and wanting always to do the best job possible, then you, like I will remain at the lower end of the achievement scale, watching pathetic poets, awful artists and useless CEOs laughing all the way to the bank at the stupidity of we who support them with our unappreciated efforts.


Richard English
 
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The crude working definition of art that I use is;"It took skill to construct and it communicates something emotional or intelectual without the need for explanation".

Most art improves with some explanation but the explanation should not be the whole point of the exercise.

This alows me to have a wholy inconsistant taste in art, visual, written or musical. Some things will just take my fancy even if they are in a catagory I normaly dislike. The Tate Modern's "WEE Man" is a case in point. This is a seven meter tall skeletal figure constructed from domestic electrical and electronic waste. Normaly I would hate such tosh, but it is well made and amusing. It also clearly identifies wastefullness which is good because WEE is the acronym for Waste from Electircal and Electronic Equipment.
 
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Originally posted by Quark:
The crude working definition of art that I use is;"It took skill to construct and it communicates something emotional or intelectual without the need for explanation".


Agreed. I often think that my entire flat (apartment) is a work of art on a par with Tracy Emin's bed Frown. I usually have a mad dash round if any visitors are expected and throw all the loose stuff lying around into cardboard boxes or plastic carrier bags and shove them into a cupboard (closet). Maybe I should proudly proclaim that I live in a work of art and charge people to come and see it Smile!!!

quote:
Most art improves with some explanation but the explanation should not be the whole point of the exercise.


Definitely.

quote:
This alows me to have a wholy inconsistant taste in art, visual, written or musical. Some things will just take my fancy even if they are in a catagory I normaly dislike. The Tate Modern's "WEE Man" is a case in point. This is a seven meter tall skeletal figure constructed from domestic electrical and electronic waste. Normaly I would hate such tosh, but it is well made and amusing. It also clearly identifies wastefullness which is good because WEE is the acronym for Waste from Electircal and Electronic Equipment.


I like the WEE Man too. It's extremely clever and it stops you short and makes you think.
 
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The crude working definition of art that I use is;"It took skill to construct and it communicates something emotional or intelectual without the need for explanation".

How does that square with the Turner Prize winner "lights going on and off"? I have one just like that in my shed and I call it a failed flourescent tube.


Richard English
 
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For me "lights going on and off" communicates nothing and is not art.

Thanks Dianthus for putting the link on, I must learn that trick.
 
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For me "lights going on and off" communicates nothing and is not art.

That's what I think - but the Turner Prize Committee awarded it the first prize that year!

Mind you, I wonder what Turner himself would have thought - he was a real and wonderful artist.


Richard English
 
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Thanks Dianthus for putting the link on, I must learn that trick.


To insert a link into a post in these Forums, you first copy the URL of the page you want to link to from the top of the website page (in this case, the WEE Man, which is http://www.we-make-money-not-art.com/archives/005557.php)

You then click on "URL" in the strip along the top of the Reply window and you get a drop down menu with two "fill in" boxes, one saying "URL" and the other saying "Title".

Paste your copied URL into the top box and then type in some explanatory text into the bottom box (in this case "WEE Man").

Click on "OK".

You have now turned the above URL into WEE Man, but you won't be able to see it until you click on "Post Now" because these Forums do not have a Preview.
 
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The Turner Prize Committee needs to court controversy to justify it's existance. Publicity helps to fuel a market in which they profit. The extreemly wealthy and vain love to feel part of something exclusive. They buy the art, and the bull, because they like to pretend that they "get it" and peasants do not. In art terms this is lamentable. In an economic sense it is a good way for the poor to hoodwink the rich and get some of their money back. Trickle down economics has failed in most respects, perhaps our last chance is to become conceptual artists?

Thanks for the lesson Dianthus I can't wait to try it.
 
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Although financially this benefits the likes of Tracey Emins who manages to con the wealthy few with her junk, it certainly does not benefit the thousands of real artists who can't sell, or even display, their work. All too often they have to give up their art (to the great loss of those who would benefit from seeing it) as they have somehow to earn enough money to eat.


Richard English
 
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