I’m sure that in college English classes, you have come across artistically formatted poems: the ones that contain only one sentence, that are broken up into strange lines and seem to convey no real meaning. You may have asked yourself what the point of these poems or artistic writings was.
As an English Literature major, I have seen my share of poems like this. They don’t come up very often, but when they do, they often spark disagreement over whether they belong among other more academic, technical texts. I believe such poems do have a place in the curriculum. Artistic writing should be appreciated for the unique form of complexity it demonstrates.
When I was in high school, I was debating what major I wanted to pursue in college. I knew I wanted to be an English major and pursue publishing, but I wasn’t sure what specific emphasis I wanted to pursue, until I took an AP Literature course.
I remember we looked at various artistic texts, ranging from Virginia Woolf’s stream of consciousness writings to a multitude of poems. One class period, we spent a large part of the class period analyzing and understanding William Carlos Williams’ poem “The Red Wheelbarrow:”
“so much depends
a red wheel
glazed with rain
beside the white
At the end of the class, I knew I wanted to be an English Literature major and discover the deeper meanings behind texts for the rest of my life.
As some of my peers have pointed out, artistic writing seems to take far too long to say far too little. However, if I wanted conciseness and clarity, I would have opted for a technical definition of an object rather than a poem.
Poems and artistic writing are not meant to be factual, textbook definitions of their subjects. Part of being a student of English literature is learning to appreciate a broad variety of works. No matter your major, there are plenty of different types of poetry that you can enjoy.
Even if you don’t personally enjoy it, you can still benefit from poetry. Like most art, it conveys a deeper meaning, and studying it can help you understand the greater significance behind some of the most ordinary things. There is a lot of work that goes into each poem. For example, poems written in heroic couplets have an AA, BB, CC etc. rhyming scheme with five stressed and five unstressed syllables per line. Time and energy go into choosing words that both fit that pattern and get across the point the writer is trying to make.
I believe the point of poetry and artistic writing is to make the mundane seem remarkable. A leaf falling to the ground may be an everyday occurrence in the fall, but it can be made special within poetry. A wheelbarrow may seem like one of the most ordinary subjects to write a poem about, but there is so much more to it than meets the eye.
In a world filled with ordinary things, choose to see the extraordinary.
Photo from writingcooperative.com.