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So What Exactly Do I Mean by 'Poem'?

I use the word poem for a lot of what I write these days, but the first thought that pops into folks’ minds when I say it is a ‘flowery-rhyming-near impossible to understand-Shakespearean’ verse.

That is not the case.

I’m not that kind of poet.

I use the words ‘poem’ and ‘poetry’ and ‘poet’ in a much different light than what you might think.

Charles Bukowski said it best when asked the same question:

“Poetry is what you get when you have nowhere left to put it.”

I’m paraphrasing him of course, but you get the idea. It’s a catch-all.

The thrust of the matter is that sometimes the words want to come out in the worst way, but there’s no easy slot for them to fill. There’s no easy-to-find file that will hold them.

I’m faced with writing them down or losing them forever (I have a terrible memory!)

A poem can hold those clusters of words.

When the words must come out and have no place to call home, a poem can hold them.

It’s a fun medium for a writer, too…I can play with the tempo and actually force the reader to follow the beat I set in it. If they try to ignore it, the words feel jumbled and make little sense.

But once they catch the rhythm behind them, it all comes together.

Like I said, poems are a fun medium for a writer.

While I still read Keats and Whitman and Longfellow, I don’t write like them. I’m nothing like them. I don’t possess even a fraction of the skill they had for what they wrote, but then again, I’m not trying to write the way they wrote. In their day, that brand of verse was the universal standard and made perfect sense, so they fit right in.

Here’s the interesting paradox…I’m nothing like them in the way I write down the words, but we are all very much alike in the spirit that forced the words out from each of us.

I can live with that distinction. And I rather enjoy it.

That being said, I detest literary snobbery. Here we are in the year 2023 and those that hold sway refuse to break free from the academic standards of the eighteenth century.

If it’s not flowery verse, if it has no accepted, proper meter then it cannot be considered poetry.

All writing is the collection of words to express thoughts and feelings and opinions.

Past being able to read what someone has written, there really shouldn’t be much more to the analysis than that.

If someone writes what they believe to be a great dialogue, but they don’t know the difference between the words, ‘woman’ and ‘women’, and when to use which, they fall flat.

If you’re going to write – in any language or dialect – you have to be able to be understood in that language or dialect. If you have only a rudimentary grasp of the English language and zero understanding of its grammar, just give it up now. You won’t be understood.

You don’t have to write with an angelic and sublime eloquence, you only have to be understood in what you write.

That’s the part that drives me nuts about the so-called literary authorities.

It seems almost as if they’re worried about anything new and fresh causing a ripple and work only to support their own self-applied pomposity. By the way…I’m writing sentences like that one for a very specific audience. Unlike those ‘authorities’ I did not write it to impress, rather I wrote it to be understood by that targeted audience.

Again, as long as you write to be understood, and you are understood, you’re doing it all right.


All of that aside, if the words are boiling inside and they’re percolating to the point of eruption, let them out and write them down and let them live and breathe on their own. Create a poem.


Never compromise your words for the sake of someone else’s arrogance and pomposity.

If it sounds right to you – AND – your audience understands what you wrote, then you did it right. You created a poem.

If some professor, hidden away and protected in some stuffy university proclaims you a farce with no skill or ability, who cares? If he mattered in any sense of the word, he would be doing as well as teaching, not just passing judgement from his throne, doing nothing himself.

How could that opinion of your work ever matter?

Why would that opinion of your work ever matter?

It should not.

It does not.

Poetry, for lack of a better word, is a collective of words and thoughts put into place by the one who hears them in his head. That’s all it is.

Poetry is not a stale, stagnant ancient form of written word.

It should not be confined and held as a security blanket for academia.

Poetry is life and death and sadness and joy and anger, all of it rolled into a handful of phrases that make perfect sense when they read back.

Poetry is a releasing and satisfying form of unlimited expression.

Let it loose. Let it breathe. Let it be found by other people to enjoy and read.

And that is what I mean by ‘POEM’.


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