Poetry is everywhere; it just needs editing. – James Tate
Poetry: put down some words, structure them in verse and top them all up with rhyme. Voilà! You’ve got it. As well explained by Tate’s words, there exists the mistaken belief that whoever can write, can do poetry. This very inaccurate idea very often derives from the belief that poetry is just made up of a typical format. In fact, it requires a good deal of discipline and know-how of the world of literature that only a very few manage to grasp fully.
Poetry is like a bird, it ignores all frontiers. – Yevgeny Yevtushenko
Good poetry very often delves into the world of very serious existential issues, mainly by ignoring all limits and focusing wholly on, literally, everything. However, some manage to ignore the very basic rules that come with the art of poetry and end up plunging into what is considered to be bizarre and ludicrous. Way back in 2009, Star Magazine, for instance, had the honour of publishing a love poem that Jennifer Aniston wrote to her boyfriend at the time, John Mayer. We do not know whether the truck that hit Aniston was a Large Goods Vehicle one or not, but we sincerely hope that the blow wasn’t as horrendous as her metaphor, because that would have hurt, a lot!
All poets, all writers are political. They either maintain the status quo, or they say, ‘Something’s wrong, let’s change it for the better.’ – Sonia Sanchez
Given the fact that writers delve into all imaginable issues, they could easily be designated as political. However, being a political writer does not necessarily entail being a politician. And the same goes for politicians. Although many of them can write, they cannot really write poetry! Take Sarah Palin, author of Going Rouge: An American life, who sold 2M copies in memoirs. This does not automatically make her a good poet. It is in fact well proven by her 20 minute speech, in verse, in order to endorse Donald Trump as next President of the US. The simile used at the very end is so lousy and gloomy that it just makes us want to wrap it all in a vest and give it to the dogs!
Poetry is frosted fire. – J. Patrick Lewis
Pleasant poetry could be either as fierce as fire or as acute as frost, but only the excellent ones could be both simultaneously. Pamela Anderson managed to do precisely that in 2011, with her Musings from the Bed of Pamela. Issued in Playboy, Musings left little to be desired, especially with such a title. The subject matter is so deep that we bet Anderson must have had a good long time pondering on ashes, adults and artists!
If you can’t be a poet, be the poem. – David Carradine
Some poets become so akin to their writing that they eventually become it. James McIntyre for instance is well renowned as the Cheese Poet, owing this label to his Ode on the Mammoth Cheese. Considered as comical relief, his pieces grasped current and light issues, such as this one, with a passionate dedication towards the cheese produced in Ingersoll and consigned to Toronto for exhibitions. We humbly believe that personifying the cheese as if it were a young lady ernestly waiting for the boys to marvel at her in Toronto, is a tiny bit elementary and quite cheesy huh?
The poet doesn’t invent. He listens. – Jean Cocteau
Poets are said to lend a voice to everything and everyone that cannot get the message across. However, some take this assignment so seriously that they end up describing the most bizarre of moments. Juann Mamo, the shameless controversial 20th century literary figure, devoted four lines of Iz-Zija u l-Fatat (Aunty and the Ghost) to describe the movement and sound involved in farting. The ghost is depicted as crouching, emitting sounds (ħsejjes) compared to those of thunder (sajjetti) and corneta (kurunetti). Aren’t they solid similes?
The poet is the priest of the invisible. — Wallace Stevens
Stevens succeeds in embodying the reality of some poets who feel so spiritual that they end up detecting the sacred in everything they encounter. True to this statement is John Sciberras’ Rajt il-Madonna Xxejjer (I saw the Holy Mary waving), whereby he insists that whilst sailing from Singapore, he caught a glimpse of a young Indian Holy Mary. At this point we may be thinking that Mary has some explaining to do. According to him she was bearing dark eyes (għajnejk suwed) and clad in a white dress (f’libsa bajdana).
The true poem rests between the words. ― Vanna Bonta
In popular belief poetry derives from the heart and because of that it is generally agreed upon that there is no real need to understand it thoroughly. Poets sometimes just write for themselves, for the sake of letting out their feelings, and it is acceptable if you do not get the hang of a verse or two. Yet, we are still troubled by whatever Mary Meilak must have had in mind when writing Xita (Rain), or any other poem for that matter. The intense focus on the ‘x’ (sh) sound, resembling that of falling rain, made her come up with some genial new words and an assortment of words that sounds more like a tongue twisting challenge to perform between friends rather than a poem about rain.
Poetry is language at its most distilled and most powerful. – Rita Dove
Economy is a poet’s best trait. One word in verse could imply so many hidden messages that when executed correctly they could remain unexplored for years on end. On the other hand, poems could hint something that even the writer himself didn’t think of in the first place. One of Malta’s most illustrious contemporary poets, Victor Fenech, has got a haiku that at first glance could leave the reader elated. He seems to be conversing with a lover (maħbuba), whose valleys (widien) and hills (għoljiet), are the finest, no pun intended. In actual fact this poem is a patriotic one, and Fenech addresses Malta. But we still like the lashing undertones it might denote.