POETRY – enjoyed by few

The following is a further personal exploration into the nature of poetry. I think we would all agree that compared to say, literature, painting and music, the art that is poetry is not really a popular subject. It is a very niche market in that it only appeals to a few. The question is why?
My own view is, and you may have heard this before, that out of all the arts, poetry requires the greatest ‘application’ of intellect. Notice I’ve stressed ‘application’. It is important to understand that I do not wish to imply that poetry is only enjoyed by clever folk, though my experience suggests that there seems to be a larger than normal number of people in our circle who possess a high degree of what is now termed emotional intelligence ( think empathy, consideration/awareness of others ) .In fact I can not tolerate, like most people, elitism in any form, but I reserve particular disdain for academic elitism in the arts. Surely art is subjective, there is only something you like or don’t like. So why do I think poetry requires more intellect to be applied?
Consider this painting by French artist Claude Monet.
Or the haunting sound of Bulgarian folk music
Now compare.
Russian Poetry
Русская поэзия
We read pictures, images in a very direct way, we can describe what we saw vocally or by using writing but we don’t have to. Writing is not necessary to read the painting. In a similar way music is accessible in a very direct way. You could argue that we hear not read music when we listen to it, but understand we are using the term ‘read’ in the sense of ‘getting’ what it’s about. In both examples the vast majority of people can access these two art forms on an emotional and intellectual level very easily.
Now look at the writing. It’s code. Unless you speak English and/or Russian you can’t ‘get it’. You cannot access it . This is my point. With a painting there is no code, the image is universal, there for all. But in poetry, the words have to be first understood, and after being read, literally, they have then to be converted into images/thought that can hopefully stimulate imagination/intellect. Notice in the above examples it is immaterial that Monet spoke and wrote French or the singers Bulgarian.
This is possibly why poetry only appeals to certain people .

21 thoughts on “POETRY – enjoyed by few

  1. Wonderful, thought-provoking post, Nigel. I love how you have so cleverly ‘applied’ the analogy of poetry and painting, for one, to distinguish between certain ‘codes’ that make poetry different from other visual arts. I do agree poetry appeals to only a certain segment and I personally feel emotional intelligence has a lot to do here. I thoroughly enjoyed this.

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      1. Truth be told, I also thought one reason why poetry is less popular than prose, let’s say, is poetry needs a heightened sense of perception and the depth of understanding for nuances etc. Word play for instance, or literary devices, allusions, metaphors and so on can be understood only if you possess either the skill to create or the appreciation for such creative art. People in general like to be spoon fed and a novel does that, a story in full whereas a poem, even a one liner can compress the entire story. Yeah?
        Now, as far as my being a polyglot goes, gimme some time. I’ll talk it about in connection with this subject in a little while. Household chores beckon. Lol.

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  2. Such a lot to think about in your thought-provoking post, Nigel. You are right in saying that poetry’s appeal is limited by language, but also by the interpretation of that same language. Poetry so often requires delving deeply into the words, struggling to get at the meaning and emotions behind them. Then we make a judgement, rightly or wrongly, about its worth and its value to us as individuals. So much more to consider in the points you make. I’ll attempt to give them my deeper consideration.

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  3. Nigel, you have a very thought provoking post here and I should really wait for the morning to answer.:). You are right that poetry is not as commonly read as literature but it is growing.
    In a way it is up to all of us to make the poems more accessible without losing one iota of emotional intelligence. Rather should we be the tools to awaken this intelligence in others.

    I love your comparison to other art forms. Music, yes, it is immediate and cross all language barriers. That is a wonder. It also hits us emotionally and intellectually but first and foremost emotionally. Paintings get many words written about them but basically I agree with you, we should just look and let our own self feel what it does and says to us.

    Reading poetry I do feel images as I read….unless they are too deliberately complex. 🙂

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  4. “Poetry – enjoyed by few”…there’s much to ponder in this wonderful post, but that title alone sums it up quite nicely for me. Outside of this poetry circle, I’ve had more than one person say to me, “I don’t understand poetry.” I realize that’s fine because everyone’s different but I think it does kill me a little bit inside. These are the same people who love to tell you that they “don’t have time/like to read” or simply don’t read. As an avid reader, this also baffles the mind. I agree with your take on the connection between poetry and emotional intelligence. I also think all art forms take a different mental effort. Writing, for me, comes from a very different place than say painting. Great post, Nige.

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  5. Great post Nigel and some very interesting points. I sometimes wonder whether the intellectual aspect has something to do with poetry being hijacked by academia and publishing houses who only publish poets who can access and write their code. I get quarterlies from the Poetry Society and sometimes I haven’t a clue as to the meaning of the poetry but the flow and rhythm of the words makes it a thing of beauty. Poetry for me can also be a mood thing. Some days I just want to read a poem that gives me everything on a plate, other days I want to sit with the poem for a week and crack the code. So much to think about here Nigel and it will have thoughts rolling for most of the week. Thank you.

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      1. Thank you Nigel. Joys of WordPress. No sooner had I hit the send button for part 1 then part 2 appeared in my reader. Part 2 has created many thoughts around personality and poetry (profiling was one of my specialisms in the Met) and I shall be re-visiting later when they start to be a bit more coherent.

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      2. They trained me in Behavioural and Emotional Intelligence profiling Nigel. It was a very interesting area. It was used mainly to select staff for certain roles within different departments but it was starting to be used in interview techniques when I retired.

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      3. I think it is a bit like coaching Nigel. It has been around for centuries. Our grandparents were experts in it but now you have to pay large sums of money to learn or experience it.

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  6. Hi Nigel, very interesting ideas here. I agree that poetry requires extra thought and hence doesn’t appeal to a lot of people, and even more so in our current society of instant gratification. One looks at a picture and immediately feels emotion. But one can’t look at a poem and feel that emotion. One has to take time to read it, to ponder it’s meaning, to liken it to one’s own emotions, etc. This takes effort and time.

    I also think that once poetry starts diving into the more abstract world, it gets even harder to comprehend. Even long-time poets sometimes have a hard time deciphering meaning in some modern works, it might as well be Greek for regular folks.

    Thanks for your sharing your thoughts!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your input Viktoria, it is greatly appreciated. I recently came across a somewhat lengthy quote, the details of which escape me at the moment, but the gist of it was that whether poetry or painting or other forms, for it to be art the subject has first to pass through the mind of the artist. I guess by the time a subject has been through a poets mind, ‘coded’ into written form we should not be surprised only few can be motivated to unravel its wonders. By the way, I just read your intro on ‘bleedingprose’, fascinating, I enjoyed it very much so thank you for sharing.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Aw, thanks for taking the time to read about my beginnings! And really love the concept of poetry being coded as it goes through the poets mind. Makes a lot of sense. I look forward to reading your future posts!

        Liked by 1 person

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