When is poetry not poetry? When it has no rhythm or rhyme. We here at Simplicated are acknowledged Old Farts – and Grumpy Old Farts at that. And one of the things we grump at is poetry – or what seems to pass for poetry these days. We declare that the use of prose laid out as short lines, however good that prose is, cannot be poetry.
To write poetry today, the process is as follows.
1. Write some prose.
2. Put in some random line breaks.
3. Call it a Poem.
Take for example the opening paragraph of The Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens, and write it thus:
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,
it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness,
it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity
It was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness,
it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair,
we had everything before us, we had nothing before us,
we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way.
See what I mean? Poetry used to mean words which when spoken had rhythm, rhyme, and sounded almost musical. None of these apply any more (except ironically in song lyrics). Now any modern poetry read aloud just sounds like a book reading. Take a look at the Poetry Society‘s competition entries, or those on the Wergle Flomp pages, and imagine them rearranged as prose. They make fine prose; they make poor poetry.
When a poll was conducted to find the nation’s favourite poem, the winner was Rudyard Kipling’s If. Amongst the other leading favourites were works by the likes of William Wordsworth, William Shakespeare, Walter De La Mare, John Betjeman, Dylan Thomas, John Masefield, Alfred Lord Tennyson, Wilfred Owen, Sylvia Plath – all of whom delivered satisfying works with meter and rhyme that sounded good when spoken.
So in an attempt to redress the balance, we will present here some examples of modern poetry written using traditional principles. If you have written a poem on a similar basis, please feel free to submit it to us here. We will put it on our website for all to see.