Understanding Poetry

My wife is taking a poetry class this year, so I, being a writer, decided to take a crack at writing poetry myself.

Why didn’t someone stop me?

Thank goodness I’m better at prose. Thank goodness Emily is better at poetry, or she’d be scoring a big fat goose egg, which rhymes with … I don’t know, something.

My understanding has always been that poetry is writing that’s short and structured and rhymes, while prose just rambles on, the way I do. However, it turns out that poetry doesn’t always rhyme, and some poems have gone on to book lengths. There are, in fact, many dozens of types of poetry, from Haiku to Jintishi. I thought Jintishi was a condition related to too much drinking, but no.

I myself have written several: There’s my Summer Sonnet, which managed to rhyme “sunblock” with “wet sock” (you have to read the whole thing, it makes sense in context). That was the first part of a trilogy that ended with “Winter Depression Elegy”. Then there’s my most famous work of all, “Ode to Odious Odors”, a salute to sweat.

It was only after I realized poems didn’t have to rhyme that I completed my ultimate work: “Rhymes With Orange”. I expected to replace Arthur F. Mapes as Indiana’s poet laureate, but got into trouble when my application poem rhymed “laureate” with “lariat”. As I hadn’t bothered with something that actually made logical sense, my choice left the Indiana Arts Commission hanging.

By the way, the current Indiana State Poet Laureate is Imma Eaton Krapf; I used Mapes’ name because he lived here in Noble County. By the end of this century Noble County will be known as a writer’s paradise, home of Mapes, Stratton-Porter, Hunter, and Emily Stroud. (Don’t worry Emily; it’s not necessarily in that order).

As part of striving toward famous authorhood (You’ve heard of Authorhood; he stole books from the rich and gave them to the poor), and in an attempt to be a well-rounded writer, I thought I’d take another stab at writing poetry, despite the begging and pleading of both colleagues and fans.

As it happens, I’ve been discussing with writer friends the issue of which is better: e-books or good old fashioned paper books. Poetry should deal with the challenges of life, right? Well, you’re not going to see me at a poetry slam, screaming about drug abuse while sipping five dollar coffee, but I know the sick feeling of pulling a paperback out of the bathtub water. So here, from a writer’s standpoint, is my salute to modern technology:


I thought that I would never see

a book that didn’t kill a tree.

With pages scented paper sweet;

Appetizing termite meat.


No foliage falls for greater cause

then giving pleasure when we pause

to take it easy, and get lost

in stories great, at discount cost.


A too hot day in summertime

is good enough excuse to climb

into a room, all air conditioned,

assuming readership position.


And winter’s even better, yet

to put aside a day, all set

to ignore the crappy cold and snow

for Kipling, King, or maybe Poe.


But oh, the times will change, they say,

if you’ve the means with which to pay,

and wonders come, by hook or crook

electronically – such as e-book.


What a great way to read a story!

Romance, Sci-fi, or something gory.

The e-book holds a million tomes

that otherwise you’d leave at home.


Much less space used! The paper saved!

No more do printing presses slave

to murder trees and spray out ink:

To get a book, just hit a link


On a little screen, electronic

that can bring your reading tonic

and sooth the soul that needs that book

on Kindle, iPad, or the Nook.


It’s so much better, wouldn’t you say?

Your whole library’s there, all day.

No bending covers – doing that

would break an e-reader’s back.


No new book smell. No bookmark need.

No buying something new to read

from that little bookstore down the block;

they’re out of business. Closed and locked.


No comfort in those overflowing

shelves of print, the joy of knowing

no death of any circuitry

nor slowly dying battery


will keep you from enjoying it

in dull lines, or a bathroom visit.

E-books? They’ll come along, apace.

As new things will, they’ll have their place.


If people read, no matter how

it makes this planet great, somehow.

But print will stay, for fools like me,

who know it’s worth replanting trees.


“Later it might be a book, but right now it’s the bathroom.”
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11 thoughts on “Understanding Poetry”

  1. Are you aware that there is a cartoon named “Rhymes With Orange”, or was that part of the jest?

    1. Yes, but I remember reading long before I’d heard of the cartoon that no word rhymes with orange. I’ve been fascinated by the idea ever since.

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