I know some people who shun aesthetics and emotion. They’re utilitarian, and nothing moves them. Play them a post-rock song on a rainy day, and they’ll probably laugh. Meaning, love and solace mean nothing to them. They’re like pebbles in the rain: Oblivious to the ambiance and the petrichor. They’re fine irrespective of what climate you place them in: Humid, dry or cold. They avoid anything mystical or anything that deals with metaphysics. They don’t read books, and the greatest works of art are just pictures on a wall to them. Show them a black and white photograph that’s fiercely evocative, and they’ll stare for a second before moving on. Life, for them, is all about their achievements. Some artists fit this category too. An example is a musician who plays for the fame or the money. He was never in it for the art.

We live in a bizarre world. These days you find books to help you become a ‘published writer.’ You have people who self-publish something and say, “We’re published!” Everything is a bloody business. And if you’re not making money, at least you’re getting the likes on your blog. I’m going to go off tangent for a bit and talk about what gets people likes, comments and follows. A lot of it saddens me. Now, there’s this new Dadaist movement that’s bound to put semioticians in nuthouses. It involves stringing together big words and making poetry (or prose) sound vaguely morose. The sentences aren’t structured properly. The grammar is poor. There is no underlying meaning or theme or idea. There is no use of a poetic meter. It’s awful.

“My penumbras of lust cacophony within me
My skin is obnubilation
Your dewdrops are arcane.”

The above is a fictitious example of such poetry which is a collage of synonyms from a Thesaurus. I cannot get my head around it! I’ve tried, but all my efforts are futile. I’ve found these poets quoting Sylvia Plath. Now, Sylvia Plath was not a Dadaist poet. She was a confessional one. And she knew the ins and outs of poetry and everything she wrote made sense. She even wrote sonnets and villanelles. Please read April Aubade and Mad Girl’s Love song if you don’t believe me. They’re both written using beautiful meter and rhyme. But the greatest achievement of these poets is crude alliteration. Rough, terrifying first sound repetition that the old alliterative tongue twister, “She sells seashells by the seashore,” will beat any day. I’d rather read, “I lament loving and losing you,” than, “The cacophonous carcass of chaos and custody.” The latter sounds like a line out of a death metal song!

Moving on, I’ve decided to name these Dadaists, ‘The Meshuggah poets.’ Meshuggah is a band known for its complex polyrhythms and harsh vocals. Their music often drones. Like them, these poets also produce a grating form of poesy that’s loud, extremely difficult to interpret and unpleasant. I’m sorry, but someone must tell you the truth! You can use a Thesaurus all you want, but if you lack the command of the English Language, work on it, instead of producing something that’s a poetic train wreck.

Next, I want to talk about the arrogance of some of these Dadaists. You’ll find their comments section riddled with the rudest replies. If you want one, all you need to do is to tell them the truth. Say, “I don’t understand what this means. Could you please explain it to me?” and they will blame you for not ‘getting them.’ What’s there to get when the whole piece is too recherché, and obstinate in its incoherence? Now, before some sycophant of theirs pounces on me, please note that I’m not targeting one writer. I’m critiquing a movement in the blogosphere and hopefully not in the artistic mainstream.

Today, with the evolution of the ‘New Weird Movement,’ we have a lot of published surreal art. Authors like Jeff VanderMeer and China Miéville have authored many books that take your mind to all sorts of places. But the difference between them and the Dadaist bloggers is that they have a way of gripping you because of their style of prose, which is fluent, efficient and makes good use of language. You know the rules before bending them. These writers do just that. And even though they use surrealism heavily, their stories do have plots. Annihilation by VanderMeer, for example, is a book about how human reason is limited when faced with the inexplicable or the supernatural. So, the surrealism used only augments VanderMeer’s idea and makes it more harrowing and potent.

The Meshuggah poets, on the other hand, use surrealism like a weapon to kill off their poems. Each, “There is a humungous skin in my echo/I salivate with extraordinary fetish,” is a gunshot to the poem’s body. Then bleeding and in its death throes, the poem begs for mercy but finds none. “Fatal soothsayers and their nectars bleed,” is the fatal blow.

There is also a group of great surrealist poets on blogging sites. I’ve found some who are inspired by Dali or Picasso and create brilliant works of art. They have this uncanny ability to take a work of art and create a story around it using imagery. An image is something that should help the poem sail along and not hold the poem back. It’s only a portion of the poem. It isn’t the poem itself. Experienced surrealists know this, and hence create bold works of art.

I’m going to end this by going back to people with no aesthetic. Without an ability to feel beauty and let serenity envelop, a poet can never grow. If writing is about showing off, forget it. We, as artists, should strive for quality. And suffering, patience, emotion and treating our art like our children is the only way we’ll get there.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)

Image by Stefan Keller from Pixabay

21 Replies to “Poets these days!”

  1. Very thought-provoking article and, though I only dabble in free verse, I agree with your sentiments. Some poetry is simply inscrutable, the language used a Frankenstein collection of meaningless words. No form, no meaning, no coherence. I get nothing from it. It’s just a collection of words.

    1. There’s no harm writing poetry in free verse as long as it is good. And yours is very good. But once it becomes something extremely obscure and riddled with bad grammar, it’s a cause for concern. A friend of mine called it word salad. She had a funny way of describing things.

  2. I have experienced the same sort of wonder when I read things like this. Ive witnessed it a lot online but at university as well. have a fairly good vocabulary and when someone is using unusual words and combination of words that I know has no real meaning lol I move past it and leave it be. But wonder why someone is doing it. Reading your example of their rudeness shows me it’s an ego thing.
    Because another thing I’ve noticed is there are people praising their use of the English language 😳 lol and their intellect. 🤔
    But anyhow, I just tend to leave them be. It’s nice to read another persons take on the unusual phenomena 😛

    1. I’m beginning to wonder if calling them out was a mistake. I like you have also noticed that they get a lot of comments where people say things like: “Wonderful imagery,” and “Spectacular use of words,” and I can’t help but wonder why. Maybe it’s some cult of personality. A lot of good writing goes unread on WordPress while a lot of the bad stuff is praised. I hate to say this but maybe it’s because mediocrity prefers mediocrity. And yes, it’s definitely an ego thing. But I’m leaving things that puzzle me be in the future lol. I’ve invited enough controversy on this platform! Thanks EC😊

  3. I’ve written about this before, which is why I’m going to comment here, completely confident that you’re not lumping me in with the pretentious pishmeister poets. Well, I hope not, anyway. I often wondered how they did it – getting all those likes – but realised that that’s NOT what’s important to me, so stopped wondering. The quantity of my commenters may be small, but the quality of the people who follow my personal pretentious pish are stellar writers – far, far better than me and so I’m honoured, humbled and smug as fuck!

    Thought I’d try my hand
    at making up a
    synonym laden poem
    full of big words I don’t understand and as much as I splashed that urine about
    I discovered I
    could not
    (in all conscience)

    Plath is one of the reasons I write, was my first inspiration. I read Morning Song and could not wait to devour more. I found Mad Girl’s Love Song quite by chance (it is not always included in bodies of her work…which IS madness) and still quote it randomly “inside my head”.
    Coincidentally, I Googled M.G.L.S. a few weeks ago, just to read it and hit on an obscure site/poetry search engine of sorts, who incredulously, didn’t even name it. at. all! I took a screenshot because I was so angry (haha) but I’m on my phone and can’t post pics on comments.
    Apologies for the long comment.

    1. I would never lump you in with them. Your work is real. I struggle sometimes writing something that’s very raw and resort to storytelling, but I’m amazed at how you consistently do it. I too am amazed at the number of likes they get. Each weird post gets 100-200 likes and 100 comments too. It’s a very bizarre phenomenon. I’m content with the people who regularly comment here. They actually read what I have to say.

      Haha. You talking faux-poetically about your failure at not being able to write a ‘surreal’ poem is the funniest thing I’ve read all day. You have a wicked sense of humour!

      When I first started writing, Plath was one of the few writers whose work I’d read. She inspired me to dig deep and write poetry that can be unsettling. Another writer (though not a confessional poet) who inspired me a lot is Sharon Olds. A lot of people criticise her for being a little verbose, but I don’t mind her. She has this ability to write about the most unsettling things (miscarriages and executions included) and has an extraordinary gift for images. Then there are poets like Allen Ginsberg and Bukowski who have also served as inspirations in my life.

      I can’t believe some obscure site didn’t name the poem. I’d be angry too. MGLS should be included in her body of work because it’s a great villanelle and probably the only published one she wrote. They recently released a previously unpublished short story of hers. I haven’t read it yet. Maybe you have.

      Thank you so much for taking the time to comment. It means a lot.

      1. I stumble across people, writers, poets etc. I’m relatively uneducated, but was lucky to have had a number of great English teachers who introduced me to some of the greats. I am open to being educated still. Haven’t heard of Sharon Olds, but love verbose (am a huge Radiohead fan) so will look her up. Me and my cousin, who is HIGHLY educated – an educator, in fact – were chatting about Plath once, as I’d found an encyclopedia of a book on her in my cousin’s extensive library – but NO sign of MGLS again. I was incensed that it hadn’t appeared there, but then the shocker, my cousin HADN’T HEARD OF IT EITHER! WTF? Isn’t that bizarre?

        As bizarre as the phenomenon of the 100 commenters, in fact. I have found myself reading the comments, trying to figure out what it is they see that I don’t. I can’t see what it is though. I have no time for that. I only have time for the real shit (and you’re one of them, i.m.o.). Thank you for not being a pretentious pish writer and for the compliments, Nitin.

      2. Radiohead aren’t verbose haha. They’re morose. I’ll look up S.O. immediately.

      3. Omg thank you! I don’t think she’s too verbose either. I read First Thanksgiving and she had written a story in my life, but much more eloquently.

      4. I’m so glad you could relate to her work. Read her book Stag’s Leap if you can get your hands on it. It won her the Pulitzer. It’s brilliant.

      5. Haha. Radiohead and Porcupine Tree used to be my favourite bands. Nowadays I stick to post-rock when I want my dose of gloom!

      6. Yeah that particular poem of hers is a rare gem. I’m pretty sure she wrote much more that is now lost. It’s tragic, but at least we have the ones that met publication. Have you listened to her interviews? She was extremely well spoken and articulate, and had a very polished accent.

        I’ve read some of the comments too, and I can’t figure them out like you. And thank you for your kind words!

        Another poet I forgot to mention is Ocean Vuong. He very recently released his first novel. His poetry is sometimes very violent though. Read Aubade with Burning City by him.

        His prose is fluent, poignant, personal and deals with themes like abuse, sexuality and being an immigrant.

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