The Point of a Poem

I have spent a week
looking for a poem.

I could remember the story,
I could remember the point,
but both the title
and the name of the poet
had escaped from my memory.

But I was almost certain
I knew in which book
I had first read the poem,
so eventually, having tried
all the short cuts,
I re-read the book
(no bad thing for me to do)
and found the poem.

There was satisfaction in that
for there was someone
I needed to tell.

But did it matter,
for if I could remember
the story and the point
then surely the poem had worked.

A poem must have a point,
or what is it otherwise?
As my friend David Tait
has been known to say –
β€œThere is too much poetry written
nowadays about sod all.”

I have been guilty myself,
but that is only playing.
If the poem does not speak,
if it does not make a difference,
then is it a poem
or is it just words?


20 Responses to “The Point of a Poem”

  1. David this poem is wonderful. It speaks to something I feel really strongly about. I often feel the “poetry police” focus far too much on form at the cost of content.
    Love the final question.
    Well done David, well done.

  2. I love this!

    I remember the conversation,( I think!!! Ref. the text I sent you, lol!) and a poem emerged from it, a poem with a very good point!! πŸ™‚

    Love you loads



    • *Smile*

      The second half of the poem had been in my head for some time Christine.
      But it wasn’t until I got to looking for the poem that I found a way into it. πŸ™‚

      Love you loads


  3. T.L. Olivia Says:

    I thought of Williams’ red wheelbarrow after I read your poem. Also, I must say the question you’ve posed is one I’ve struggled with for quite some time and all I can nail down about it is the subjectivity of the reader/writer.

  4. Mmm…yes, I know where you’re coming from there. An itnriguring muse. I have posted many poems, etc since you last commented on my creations (:

  5. You’ve captured the essence of your point — this makes me think. Thanks! 😎

  6. Good question and I think you’ve answered it. πŸ˜‰

  7. If the poem does not speak,
    if it does not make a difference,
    then is it a poem
    or is it just words?

    Good question and a good thought provoking poem, David. I think a lot depends on who is reading the poem if the poem speaks or not. Taste difference , also in poetry. And of course there is a also a difference between good and bad writing, I agree. But after all it is still up to the reader to like it or not, me think.
    Ciao, Francina

    • Thank you Francina,

      I agree with you in that it is up to the reader to like or not like the poem.
      We, as writers, have no control over that.

      But I do believe we should be trying to say something rather than just writing pretty words.

      The same I think is probably true of painting πŸ™‚


  8. Hi David,

    I commented on fb, but can’t resist putting my five cents in here as well lol. This poem is good for reflecting a bit! I think a poem makes us see in different words, from a different angle, and in a way we wouldn’t see things normally. Poetry helps us explore each others minds, surprises us and excites us. To me, that is the point of a poem. πŸ™‚ And I still think the meaning of a poem is what the writer wants it to be, but the reader can add his own thoughts to the meaning of course. If a poem is just a lot of words to a reader, then to him it is no poem. For someone else it might be one, though. There is no universal standard to judge it, although I think an editor’s opinion has to be seen as such to shift if needed!

    Hope you are doing well,

    Arohanui πŸ™‚


    • Ah Ina,

      You and I are singing from the same hymn sheet really.
      We are both trying to write poetry which has meaning.

      The same is not true of a lot of contemporary English poetry, hence my rant. πŸ™‚

      Will message you on FB shortly


  9. I once wrote a sonnet, David, that tried to express what you express here:

    The Beauty of Ugliness,
    Or, Sonnet to Poets of the Modern School

    When Circe turned her sailors into hogs
    The lightning jagged across cloud ragged skies.
    A thousand geese began to croak like frogs,
    And turtles grew green wings and squawked to fly.

    Lithe Circe turned into a cackling hag.
    Her breasts sloped down like ancient, worn-out gourds.
    Her beauty faded like a fleeing stag
    And all her isle became a stye with hogs as lords.

    She hulked through days as glad as any witch
    And felt fire lick at her crumbling bones.
    She tossed through nights as black as tar and pitch
    And scattered through her isle her thousand groans.

    Then, in a rage, she turned the sailors back to men
    And died immortal death for her immortal sins.

    But the truth is that I like your poem better. It is more direct and has more meaning, I think. The question of poetry has engaged me my whole life. This poem was written in 1971, I believe, or perhaps 1970. What is our role as poets? Is meaning the whole fabric of what we are trying to accomplish? Or is there more to lines that vibrate through us onto the page? What causes us to try to find a poem that exists in our mind, but that we have sort of forgotten, that sends us on a search to discover its story again?
    These are important questions, David, and I am glad to see you asking them so plainly. I’m not sure I agree so much with my sonnet these days. I am still more of a traditionalist than I probably should be in my reading, writing, and thought, but the world is complex. Ethel looks at a scene and then comes out with a drawing so abstract its meaning is difficult to discern, but I know the meaning is there, so I look and look until it finally comes to me in the rhythms of what she has done. I have decided that there is a visual intelligence that contains its own meanings that is different from poetic or cognitive intelligence–a song that you have been exploring in your art.
    Thanks for the spark you engendered in an aging poet. The thinking is good–which, of course, is one of the tasks of good poetry.

    • I am always delighted Tom when I can provoke a thinking process in you.

      I think your sonnet is very powerful – it certainly leaves an impact.

      I think too that the message in visual art takes effort to discern. (As perhaps does the message in poetry)
      I once heard David Hockney say that if you look at a landscape hard enough and long enough you will find the colour in it. So I have been practising looking hard enough and long enough.

      My very best to both you and Ethel


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