View Full Version : Abstract poetry: How does it make you feel?

12-09-2005, 01:35 AM
Here's the thing: I hate abstract poetry. But it's deeper than that-- I (temporarily) hate the poet.

I came to this conclusion a while back. Whenever reading poetry that seems to be deliberately obtuse, I get frustrated. If I can't figure out the general meaning on second reading, I start to feel alienated. Like I'm standing among a group of girls who are all giggling at me because of some secret gossip they've just spread about me. Like I've just tried to sit down at a cafeteria table and they've all spread out so I can't sit there.

In other words, I feel like the poet is purposefully excluding me. Trying to show off his or her cleverness, trying to make me feel stupid because I can't understand the "genius" of the poem.

Then I get even more frustrated when other people begin dissecting the poem and talking about its themes and how brilliant it is. Part of me thinks they're full of BS and just saying things to make it sound like they "get it" (so they're in the "in-crowd" of clever people), and the other part of me thinks, "Well, they all get it... I must be an idiot. I hate that poet."

It may be argued that I read too much into things like this. ;) But I still much prefer poetry that's straightforward in its meaning.

12-09-2005, 01:52 AM
Jenna, I know exactly what you mean. I had a friend in college who wrote poetry in this manner, deliberately trying to be "clever" and pretentious. It's one thing to write something that might have a lightly-veiled deeper meaning, and another thing to write something pretentious, and so this person's poetry was full of big words that sounded, well, pretentious. Notice a pattern here? ;)

12-09-2005, 01:58 AM
Hi Jenna,

I'm a closet poet that came out, for good or for bad. I've decided to be honest with my desire to write the stuff, whatever it is that I write. I have no clue and I'm sure it shows most of the time. So, I apologize to everyone who gets harmed by my writing, however, I have to write and I appreciate this site and all the other writers that make this place so ultra cool.

I can really identify with what you are saying. I feel alienated from almost everything because I usually don't exactly get what every one else seems to get. I have flopped big time in the music area. I like music, but I have no coolness when it comes to music. So, I suffer everyone eles's coolness. I'm glad their cool but I suffer because, I am not. It's that way with alot of things for me. I am so not cool about so many things. It's sad. But, I enjoy others being cool about stuff even though we have no common ground to share that coolness. So, I just admire them for being cool at whatever they are cool at. I'm okay with not being cool. I accept that for myself, and then I feel cool at my not-being -coolness, then I can vicariously enjoy cool by being cooly uncool.

I just wanted to 1) apologize for whatever I write should it do the reader any harm 2) let you know that I emphathize with feelings of alienation because of what others are experiencing, when I am not experiencing whatever it is that they are experiencing 3) and say how grateful I am that I found this site at this point in my life because right now, I needed this site to feel connected in some way to others that have the malady that I suffer with : I-gotta-write.

Thank you to one and all for being here and being who you are doing what you are doing.


12-09-2005, 02:13 AM
It's like abstract art. Art is supposed to represent something. If the artist has to tell us what it represents, then the art is obviously not doing its job, right?!

12-09-2005, 02:32 AM
Donít be abstractive
abstracting the abstracted
itís an abstraction

I'd be curious to see an example of what the abstracters of abstract poetry, define as an abstract poem :Shrug:

12-09-2005, 02:36 AM
In a room
Were some flowers
They were dea...

12-09-2005, 02:45 AM
Sometimes my poetry is abstract. I am trying to find someone who thinks in the same weird way that I do. It is only another form of fitting in. It's all about expressing yourself. About being cool or whatever, that comes and goes and some days I get up and the world is grey and I think I'll never get it, never be this, never be that.
I am an abstract painter and I paint that way because that is what I see. I remember when I started messing with digital photgraphy, making colors brighter or distorted, I thought "Oh, my God, this is how I see the world!" Maybe I need my eyes checked, but I do enjoy it. ( No, I don't take drugs.)

To quote our mod and he may hunt me down and beat me with a verbal noodle:
"Absraction is not always the enemy of structure."
William Haskins

12-09-2005, 02:47 AM
I spent a long time getting over severe OCD. Even yet I only comfortable with form and metre. Maybe that's not OCD, it's probably just my own personal taste. To me, if it doesn't have metre and form, it's prose.

12-09-2005, 02:48 AM
In a room
Were some flowers
They were dea...

I think that is an example of minimalism.

For me, an abstract poem makes little or no attempt at pictorial representation...

Here's one example by Dame Edith Sirwell:

Nobody came to give him his rum but the
Rim of the sky hippopotamus-glum

12-09-2005, 02:50 AM
If I write in the abstract -

It doesn't matter what it meant to me -
It matters what it means to you -

It's like being in a field of wildflowers. Which one should I pick? Today it's bluebells, tomorrow, Queen Anne's lace. Watch out for hidden thorns. They're in there, too. :)

12-09-2005, 02:50 AM
i often write abstract poetry, and by that i mean i write in metaphor,

meaning i dont write something like

over yonder!
perhaps a peacock.

(that pneumono thing is the longest word in the dictionary)

i dont say right out what i feel, i put it in metaphor and simile,
i wouldnt write something like:

today i felt bad,
i was lonely,
people didnt talk to me.
how depressing, huh?
arent you glad your not me?
huh, arent ya?

if you know what i mean?
i like writing vague.

both dylan and cohen did it to a great extent
(check out my sig for cohen)
but they're still... fantastic.

William Haskins
12-09-2005, 05:52 AM
let's not go lynching all abstract poets just yet.

12-09-2005, 06:03 AM
Hmm. i think there is a differenc ebetween abstract, simply opaque and audience-specific (would make sense to some types of peopel but not others).

12-09-2005, 06:09 AM
I have read some abstract poetry that did annoy me for the reasons many of the writers have already stated, but I have also read some abstract poetry that has touched me and made me feel something - has dazzled me with language... just like an abstract painting. As poets, why can't we sometimes use words like paint? A poem doesn't have to make "sense" to affect us. It would be nice to see a few examples to discuss. Oh, Williammmmmmm

12-09-2005, 06:10 AM
let's not go lynching all abstract poets just yet.Why not? Is there some information you're not sharing with us?

Speak now or forever hold your piece...

William Haskins
12-09-2005, 07:42 AM
well, we should probably decide on a working definition of abstract for purposes of discussion.

there are differing opinions on whether abstract poetry is abstract in the way that abstract painting is, or abstract in the linguistic sense. or maybe even abstract in terms of the poet being deliberately recondite.

i have differing views on each of these as they relate to poetry, so i'll take them in turn:

if we're talking "abstract" in the same way we refer to abstract painting, which is to say poems that are examples of nothing more than form and structure, say for some aural effect (as in lewis carroll's "jabberwocky") or visual sensation, totally divorced from any meaning or message, i would say that they're of very little value to me. they can be funny or perplexing, but they offer no potential for analysis (outside of form), and i can easily see how someone could become frustrated if, at first glance, they didn't recognize it as a deliberate dead end.

in the linguistic sense, we speak about internal abstractions; abstract phrases, even abstract words (especially abstract nouns). here, abstraction can also be frustrating and a lot of novice poets get caught in this trap.

thematically, this can involve thoughts, concepts or emotions not tied to specific instances. for example, if i write about "love" or "justice" in the theoretical sense, as concepts, there is a greater sense of vagueness; even with metaphorical attachment, they don't have a signifier, an object, that materially exists. but if i talk about love for a specific woman, or justice for a particular victim, what was an abstract concept sharpens in focus to a concrete emotion or ideal.

furthermore, even with a materially existent object on which i can focus my subject matter, i can still fall prey to abstract composition if i rely on literal proclamations of "love" or "justice" (in my use of language) instead of more concrete experiences or manifestations that convey those concepts.

i have mixed feelings on this, as i like to write about broad themes. i think this can be accomplished to the satisfaction of the reader if the poet uses vibrant metaphors that can tie these abstract themes to individual experience. but i agree that it's not often well-done.

now, as for being deliberately abstruse. i think there are degrees of complexity. in the worst cases, poets show off or attempt to sway the reader into finding value in such a narrow personal experience that the sense of alienation mentioned above occurs.

however, i also firmly believe that i am a better person for having taken the hand of many poets and allowing myself to be taken on journey that i didn't immediately fully comprehend. i've never minded connecting the dots, unpeeling the layers. sometimes, and not always, i have been able to reach new levels of understanding by solving thse rubik's cubes.

12-09-2005, 01:32 PM
Thanks for the comments, Hask. I greatly enjoy your informed takes on poetry and they help me understand it better.

I don't think I've been exposed to enough poetry though, to know just what is abstract and what is not (besides the obvious gibberish ones.)

I only know poems I've enjoyed and ones I haven't - but the majority of the poems i've read have been on this forum and in the Writer's Almanac I recieve in my mailbox everyday (which has an excellent poem every day written by famous poets.)

I'm assuming that we're talking about internationally recognized Poets who write or have written abstract poems and not, for instance, the claptrap I've posted.

I'm curious and wonder if people could post some poetry that they believe is abstract.

I think it would help discussion more if they actually post the poem as opposed to providing a link so that people can see it right then and there and comment. I just think it's easier to comment on a piece that's right before you and not on another page plus I believe it helps contribute to a more free-flowing exchange of ideas as opposed to when everybody has to keep referring to another page.

12-09-2005, 03:54 PM
Maybe you put your eyeballs in upside down this morning?

12-09-2005, 03:58 PM
I bet your paintings are a load of old Pollocks.

12-09-2005, 04:10 PM
You may be interested in the patterns formed by drunken vomitus on the pavements outside Dundee's pubs this weekend at closing time. :ROFL:

12-09-2005, 04:27 PM
To get this back on topic...Everyone, I think KTC should write a poem about 'chicken splatter'. Two words I never thought I would see together.

12-09-2005, 05:24 PM
Thanks for the comments, Hask. I greatly enjoy your informed takes on poetry and they help me understand it better.

I don't think I've been exposed to enough poetry though, to know just what is abstract and what is not (besides the obvious gibberish ones.)
I must apologize for my generalized post earlier in the thread. The particular poet-friend I mentioned was a wannabe-abstract poet, mostly writing gibberish. I do have an appreciation for abstract poetry, lest it be gibberish or obviously pretentious. :)

12-09-2005, 08:32 PM
The metaphor I am about to employ is not intended to harm, please forgive me for any offense it might incur:

As the dialogue continues I can only best liken it to some information I gleaned off the television. The subject was colon health. The doctor participating in the program was instructing the audience as to what characteristics were typical for a healthy bowel movement. These are some interesting facts that can actually help a person determine if they might or might not have a colon problem. Here are the ones that I particularly took notice of:

1) during a bowel movement, the ideal scenario is that it should all be one continuous piece.
2) the bowel movement should make a "whish" noise when releasing
3) it should be released in an "S" form

A beautiful picuture of form and function coming together. A picture of health, seriously.

And that's where my metaphor comes in:

There has to be regular, healthy bowel movements to maintain life. They're essential. However, my imperfection of bowel movements, which are frequent, do not keep me or hinder me from having bowel movements, or I would die. However, it does concern me when upon investigation and evaluation, I feel I have executed a seriously imperfect bowel movement. My concern sometimes sends me into intense introspection, the soul search-quest for perfection. "Should I change my diet?", as "I am what I eat". What horrid infiltration of bacteria/virus/parasite has my colon come under the influence of? Too much indulgence of my sin (chocolate)? The mystery drives my fears. Then, upon the flush (release of what must come out), momentary relief and the casual acceptance that some expulsions aspire to that template of perfection, and some are just a bunch of crap. And it's just another exercise that my body/mind/soul must maintain so that I, for this moment, will not die.

12-09-2005, 08:36 PM
I must add:

It is not intended that my metaphor is representative of this most wonderful dialogue. Rather, the metaphor is representative of my necessity to write, and on rare occasion, to believe that some of my writing might actually achieve something healthy and productive.


12-09-2005, 09:33 PM
Years ago I coined a term, "Profoundisms". It's meaning is the same as baffling with BS, but it is more than that, because the intention is to sound "profound".

A person uses profoundisms give seeks to give the illusion of faux depth, trying to sound above another. It's a tact used by pseudo philosophers and was big in the sixties. Everyone would come to the guru who would say something so cosmic no one would get it. There were con artists who used this technique, and people would pay to hear them, because in the sixties people were seeking "truth".

In my mind, the greatest wisdom can take the most profound truths and make them understandable to a child.

"Truth is like the stem of a wild lotus that blossums in the dead of winter, amidst the red squirrels of the tiresome Universe."

12-10-2005, 05:05 AM
This may be one of the hardest threads I've ever tried to follow.

Re: Jenna's original query, I think "abstract" is too broad an adjective to answer that question. As some other folks suggested, I think I would need an example of what specific kind of abstraction was meant. Will covered the subject of how varied these things can be. Isn't each poet's subjective linguistic filter an abstraction of speech, thought, and, to some extent, narrative?

12-10-2005, 05:07 AM
From MW:
Main Entry: 1ab∑stract
Pronunciation: ab-'strakt, 'ab-"
Function: adjective
Etymology: Medieval Latin abstractus, from Latin, past participle of abstrahere to drag away, from abs-, ab- + trahere to pull, draw
1 a : disassociated from any specific instance <abstract entity> b : difficult to understand : ABSTRUSE <abstract problems> c : insufficiently factual : FORMAL <possessed only an abstract right>

2 : expressing a quality apart from an object <the word poem is concrete, poetry is abstract>

I think Jenna's asking about definition #1. But when I hear the word, I'm thinking #2.