The robot bear roams way up there
Up in the north where there's no more air
Where the ozone hole has burnt the pole
And turned all the animals into coal
His primary mission is not salmon fishin'
But scanning for signs of life-force emission
Since all life is dead he'll just read code-red
Green gone to sleep in her fossil bed
So there he'll remain, searching in vain
Slowly rusting from the acid rain
I'm all about robots. And poetry! I blame the first on Freddie Mercury, and the second on James Hetfield. My dad had a Queen record, News of the World, and it had this scary-ass robot on the cover, reaching into some sort of greenish blood-orb to grab a bunch of puny humans, presumably to eat them. It was nightmarish. I was 4.
When I was 14 I discovered Metallica, and my life changed forever. James Hetfield's precisely indented lyrics, as printed on the inside cover of the greatest album of all time, ... And Justice For All, had a huge impact on me. Laugh if you want, but it seemed weighty, epic, majestic, even. Poetry.
Looking back, I see I should have started my own heavy metal band and become the greatest frontman in all of history. Instead I became a poet.
Now, I'm just a poet in my own heart. There are no literary journals, poetry collections, tattoos, or even subway ads that have my rhymes in them. I read somewhere that serious poetry concerns itself with such things as gender, race, class and sex. Not so much bears, robots and robot bears. Still, I like to think I am qualified to speak a bit on the subject, and specifially to address my site-colleague Alan's post on the same.
Alan- you are not wrong.
To paraphrase, and risk being a bit reductive, I think the gist of his argument is that poems should be stories. They should be about something. And many, many poems don't seem to be. I say "seem" because it can be hard to tell. There's a bunch of words and rhymes that look impressive but damned if anyone can tell what's being said.
If that kind of thing is your thing, then by all means, enjoy. Please do. Poetry is already marginalized enough in this world, I certainly won't make it worse. But here's my take.
I think poetry should be clear. It should be accessible. It should be about words, and wordplay, but it shouldn't be about showing off all the words you know. It should tell a story, even if it's not a traditional three-act story. Maybe it's just a slice of a story.
In that way, I think poetry is a lot like painting. I spend a lot of time on deviantArt, and I'm so envious of visual artists. They can just make a picture out of nothing, and it can be anything. Magic! Here's the thing, though. A painting doesn't need to have a three-act story attached to it either. A lot of times that would just get in the way. Why did that robot kill Freddie Mercury? Who cares! I think poetry allows story-tellers to tell stories that just wouldn't work in prose.
I wish i could paint. But I can't, so I poem.
- Nathan Waddell