Write a poem in the first person that makes a definitive statement – 31p31d

The big tent

Bukowski's BMW
Bukowski standing by his BMW

In the comments these past few days, I have had a discussion with one of our participants, Rosemary, about poetry in forms and one poet in particular, W. B. Yeats. W.B. Yeats is widely recognized as a master. He won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1923, and most believe his best work happened after winning the prize. That said, I don’t particularly care for Yeats. It is easy for me to acknowledge his skill, but he writes in a style that leaves me cold. Reading his work feels like reading an English assignment. It brings me no pleasure. Rosemary does not agree with me. She’s not alone.

While I like to think of the poetry community as one big family, I don’t necessarily think of it as one big happy family. Just because you are in the same family doesn’t mean you have to like each other, although I certainly like Rosemary.

Feuds and expectations

Alexander Pope was by all accounts an insufferable little man (At 4 foot 6, I do mean little) who was loved by half the literary world and despised by the other half. Any poet his disliked, he insulted and parodied within his poems. Even poets that were his friends rarely escaped his poetic wrath. He was perhaps the best poet of his age, and he had no humility about that fact whatsoever.

In modern times, one of my poetic heroes, Charles Bukowski, was forever insulting the beat poets, and took great offense whenever his work was lumped in with theirs. On the surface, their work had many similarities, but Bukowski felt as if the beats were conspicuously trying to embrace the lifestyle of the poor and downtrodden, while for him that was simply the reality of his life. The moment he had money, he embraced it with both hands and wrote about it conspicuously. That ticked a lot of people off too. They wanted their poor, downtrodden poet to stay poor and downtrodden.

Write the way you write

Some people believe (or at least believed) that you cannot have poetry without meter. They believe that patterns are the very heart of poetry and that meter is the way of determining and defining those patterns. For most of the history of poetry, few poets questioned that poetry and meter were inextricably intertwined. In the twentieth century, however, poets began to reconsider the idea of meter. Poets such as William Carlos Williams began to focus on image over meter. They wrote poetry in which line length was determined by the image or the impression the line was meant to create rather than patterns of syllables, word lengths, sounds or stresses. This was a controversial act. Today though, this style is the dominant approach to poetry.

My point is that you will never please everybody. Some people will like your poems and others will, most decidedly, dislike them. You have to write what feels true to you. Embrace your voice, whether the crowd likes it or not.

Today’s poetry assignment

Write a poem in the first person that makes a definitive statement. Stand behind something you believe or tell a bold lie. Either way, embrace what you have to say.

Liked it? Take a second to support John Hewitt on Patreon!
  • I like you too, dear John. 🙂 I do NOT like the poetry of Pope. I do very much like that of Bukowski, though a TV interview I once saw makes me think he was obnoxious in person. Just for the record, althoughI can be greatly moved by metrical poems and enjoy playing with form on occasion, I actually prefer free verse as both writer and reader.

  • Amen, brother. This post rules to the max. I totally agree with you, on all counts.

  • Leigh Spencer

    You’re SO Lucky!

    It pisses me off
    when people say

    “Oh, you’re SO lucky you have boys!
    You never have to worry
    pregnancy
    or drama
    or paying for weddings.”

    First,
    please tell me
    you’re fucking kidding me

    You can’t possibly really mean it.

    I mean,
    do you actually HEAR the words
    falling out of your face?

    As the mother of sons
    I never have to worry
    about unplanned pregnancies?

    Right.

    Because conception
    is some biblical
    mythological
    one-sided
    GIRL thing

    So if my kids have sex
    and an accident happens

    in your estimation

    I get to laugh
    point at the girls’ parents
    and say

    “Sure SUCKS to be you!”

    As if boys
    MY boys
    aren’t
    equally responsible
    equally going to be parents
    or
    equally dealing with the hardest decisions
    of their young, unprepared lives?

    I can’t see it that way

    Maybe it’s because
    I’m not blind
    or stupid
    or fucking PREHISTORIC
    in my knowledge
    of where babies come from

    My genetics and theirs
    make this very much
    my issue and theirs

    Regarding drama,

    Why don’t you tell my youngest
    no video games for the weekend
    then try to effectively convince him
    the whole
    entire
    world
    has not ended?

    Or remind my oldest
    that eyerolling
    is not an Olympic sport
    yet
    nor even a contender
    so he’s wasting time
    with his endless practice?

    Newsflash for you –
    girls don’t corner the market on feelings
    and everyone should be allowed to express them

    Paying for weddings?

    What a joy and an honor!
    I hope for one – the RIGHT one – for each

    More to protect their hearts
    than my wallet

    You’re right about one thing

    I am SO lucky to have boys

    MY boys

    Because the way I see the world
    gives me the chance to raise them
    to be good men

    As opposed to the
    stereotypical
    unaccountable
    archetypal
    asshole
    Neanderthals

    people like you
    seem to think
    I was blessed with

    • poewar

      love it

  • poewar

    Jack

    In this conversation I keep having with myself
    There is a better version of me
    And that better version doesn’t eat what he isn’t supposed to
    He is thinner and exercises more
    This better version doesn’t lose focus
    And he doesn’t insult people
    Or tune them out after the fourth uninterrupted sentence
    Or first if it about their dogs
    This better version of me doesn’t hold people to standards
    He does not keep himself
    He has more patience
    He doesn’t think other people’s music choices are stupid
    I like this guy
    I want to have lunch with him
    A sensible lunch that is low on carbs
    Probably not the hamburger I am waiting in line for
    I’ll call this better me Jack
    I always liked that name
    Jack can come any time I am in public
    Or I need to work out
    But alone
    I think I would prefer to be me