Why Write Poetry?

Thursday, April 28th, 2011

This semester in “school” has been all about language. I’ve been tinkering with a poem about Kansas, for example. The first part goes like this:

They say Kansas is flattest
But that just means
people see farther

The problem I’ve been treating is the word “there” and where it should be put. It’s an indicator of place. You know, as in: over there. But not really. There, in this sense, is meant as a synonym. There = Kansas. You know, that place.

But it’s not a place. It’s a word. And the problem is where it should it go.

One way of treating the problem is to use the pre tag in html to make sure that the thing goes where I want it to.

It may be true that in places with less stuff in the way, like mountains or tall trees, people can indeed see “farther.” But what does that mean? And what would people who can see farther than people in New England, who can only see tree trunks or cars, think about differently than people who interpret distances differently?

That’s a rhetorical question.

Does seeing farther imply more wisdom? Et cetera.

In New Media the students are still struggling with the difference between reality things and digital things. In the Ruby programming language we define an object class this way:

class Poem

and inside the class Poem we can manipulate or definine its elements

class Poem
def line

But nothing here has anything to do with a poem, at least as far as the computer is concerned. The computer just thinks that the class Object is expecting to extend to an object called Poem. But Poem needs something like @line to make it work. Kind of like the indefinite “there” as Kansas. In Inform, moreover, stairs give students all kinds of problems.

How do I program stairs?

John and I laugh at these kinds of questions. But we shouldn’t. The student might as well ask: how do I create a tiger in photoshop?

This is actually never done. A tiger has never been in Photoshop, just as Orcs are not really in Tolkien.

In Tinderbox, we write notes. At least we fool ourselves into thinking this, as the numerous notes we might write in Tinderbox are not really notes at all but digital representations of phenomenon we call up as notes. Let’s say we peal a yellow piece of paper off a stack and say, here’s a note.

Well, this isn’t a note either.

So, so what if

Kansas is flattest

No, here’s what I have thus far:

A Poem about Kansas (though I’ve only driven through it)

They say Kansas is flattest
But that just means
people see farther

Say in Libya
If I’m stomped on by a tank
will I feel my tibias crack
before the crushing of my skull

It’s just a question I have no answer for
It’s more a question about the pain of fossils
And empty tar field air
As I sink through, touching for the bottom
with my fingers

of words like Lybia
and Saudi Arabia
and Casuistry

and blood
wishing that flattest
might mean I could be flatter
than the width of red and blue
between stars

I want to be bigger
than the tip of a rhino’s horn

2 responses to “Why Write Poetry?”

  1. stormysu says:

    Love it, but even with:
    what if
    kansas is flattest
    repeating over and over, I undertand THAT poetry exists, but not yet, why I should write poetry.

  2. Steve says:

    I think the answer’s in the last two lines.