Now, the arts critter could be accused of not doing a lot of critting. I generally use these pages to bemoan the state of arts politics or audiences, or anything it enters my curmudgeonly being to bemoan.
Critting, (IE criticism) isn’t really about bemoaning, so because of the aforementioned curmudgeonlyness, I haven’t spent a lot of time doing it.
Critting is about analysis: eg literary criticism, is about analysing literature. So let’s do some now.
In future issues I’ll partially justify my curmudgeonly ways by pointing back to this, and the fact that I did actually do some ‘critting’.
OK – a ‘basic skill’ in literary criticism: the ability to distinguish between literary forms.
Here are some poems (with an autumnal feel, how about that for topicality? And, to save space – all imagist).
The apparition of these faces in the crowd
petals on a wet, black, bough.
- Ezra Pound
In the early hours
these leaves are the path’s main business.
- Martin Reed
(after Ezra Pound)
The voice of reeds
Sounds like the autumn wind
From another mouth
Here’s the second verse of a song…
Wither’d leaves, wither’d leaves, that fly before the gale:
Withered leaves, withered leaves, ye tell a mournful tale,
Of love once true, and friends once kind,
And happy moments fled:
Dispersed by every breath of wind,
Forgotten, changed, or dead!
Autumn leaves, autumn leaves, lie strewn around me here!
Autumn leaves, autumn leaves, how sad, how cold, how drear!
- Charles Dickens
Notice, the above is not a poem – the fact that it rhymes and scans ‘properly’ means it could be a pre-modernist poem (like the excellent To Autumn by Keats) but isn’t, it’s a song.
Here’s some prose (the ending of James Joyce’s, The Dubliners):
‘It [the snow] lay thickly drifted on the crooked crosses and headstones, on the spears of the little gate, on the barren thorns. His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead.’
Joyce’s wintry sentences do not constitute a poem because, not complete, they relate to the rest of the work.
If they were self-sufficient, the quality of the language, imagery etc, would certainly qualify this as a poem.
Dickens’ verse has many features (‘telling’, not ‘showing’; the un-challenged, and un-challenging use of abstracts) which disqualify it as a poem, line five, however has some poetry to it.
So – a poem has to be a poem, a whole poem, and nothing but a poem, from beginning to end, an important first point in understanding this, most demanding, of literary forms.