Poetry and Cheese

“Poets have been mysteriously silent on the subject of cheese.”  I LOVE this quote from G. K. Chesterton.  He was a guy with some great one-liners.  Anyway.  It seems like a lot of people are talking about poetry these days.  Our Dear Leader and the First Lady just held a poetry event at the White House.  It caused some controversy because one of the invited “poets” was a rapper known for his celebration of cop-killing along with other violent lyrics.  Charming.  So rappers are poets?  I guess they do use rhyme, but does that make what they have to say poetry??

Junior just finished a poetry unit in his 9th grade English class.  (Oops.  It’s called “Language Arts” now.)  I got an education from his textbook about how poetry is defined.  The glossary defines poetry as a  “type of rhythmic, compressed language that uses figures of speech and imagery to appeal to the reader’s emotions and imagination.”  It then goes on to explain that “Poetry is difficult to describe.”  I guess so.  The textbook has a go at defining it as a “wedding” between feelings and observations, “revelations,” and “snapshots.”  Apparently you can call things that typically aren’t poetry, poetry, like prose or monologues or just lists of things.

So, I’m not a poetry lover.  I have always been irritated by the whole image of a poet as a tortured soul who sees and experiences things differently and to exponential degrees.  The same goes for artists.  Wordsworth described poetry as “the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings.”  Um…when I have powerful feelings that I don’t know what to do with, I usually cry or shout or something.  And I have never had an overflow of feelings about fog, tortillas, a balloonman, or any of the other mundane topics highlighted in Junior’s textbook.

Both kids have asked me repeatedly why the obvious majority of poems in their textbooks are of the “woe is me” variety.  These include the “I was beaten as a child,” “I’m an illegal alien,” “I am a minority living in a bad neighborhood,” and “My family was so poor” themes, to name just a few.  Nothing new here.  These themes dominate young adult “literature,” too.  It’s all part of the education establishment’s not-so-subtle attempt to win young minds over to the welfare-state, big-government agenda.  In other words, it’s all about politics.  Poetry is supposed to be inspiring and eye-opening, kids are taught.  So students are fed the “woe is me” poetry to analyze, and they are inspired to…vote Democrat, agitate for amnesty for illegals, demonstrate against education cuts.  Get the picture?

That brings us back to the White House and the rapper.  The President made a few remarks at the start of the poetry evening.  He said that “a great poem is one that resonates with us, that challenges us and teaches us something about ourselves and the world that we live in.”  Um…if you say so.  The rapper takes the microphone and proceeds to “challenge” the audience with his thoughts on presumably black youth “end(ing) up in a coffin because we haven’t taught them.”  Not sure what these youth haven’t been taught–this is why I suck at poetry.  Maybe he’s talking about God and how kids aren’t brought up with faith?  He did go on to mention God and Christ in the poem.  Somehow, I strongly doubt that this was his intent.  But he finished big, really BIG:

From one King’s dream he was able to Barack us

One King’s dream he was able to Barack us

One King’s dream he was able to Barack us.

What??!!  I have no words.  Perhaps if he had gone with cheese as his subject matter…

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Poetry and Cheese

  1. Elizabeth

    “The spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings” effectively describes poetry of Romanticism. Yet, many talented poets relate their feelings in a controlled way. The very nature of poetry allows for this control.

    But I think one thing that is a requirement for good poetry is that it relates some feeling or emotion. Just relating a point of view, using a form is not considering poetry. So yes, no one really can have an overflow of feelings for fog or tortillas. Those writers are just trying too hard.

  2. Annie

    I like cheese! I think I could have a spontaneous overflow of feelings about cheese.
    So many good cheeses to choose from:
    brie, cheddar, blue and swiss.
    Oh, wait, I don’t like swiss.

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