What is poetry? And does it pay?
September 11, 2007 4:14 PM   Subscribe

 
She wrote it in the future, so she's not only a poet, she's a time traveler.

But doesn't this question belong in AskMe?
posted by The World Famous at 4:16 PM on September 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


there ain't no money in poetry
that's what makes the poet free
but I've had all the freedom I can stand...
posted by dismas at 4:18 PM on September 11, 2007


No.
posted by nasreddin at 4:28 PM on September 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


"Bad Kale is Good"

Little leaf all green and ruffled,
garnishing my plate;
You made my meal look nice and pretty,
Even (dare I?) great.

You sat atop the peas and carrots
(Or, under you, they hid).
I hope I never try to eat you...
Oh my gosh-- I did!
posted by dersins at 4:31 PM on September 11, 2007


No, but W.S. Merwin didn't shag himself 3/4's of the way through CSNY.
posted by Kinbote at 4:32 PM on September 11, 2007


I think I prefer "Both Sides Now."
posted by Iridic at 4:37 PM on September 11, 2007


Stripped of musical accompaniment, most successful lyrics become, at best, doggerel. The skills needed for being a good lyricist are not the same as those needed for being a good poet (although there's some crossover, obviously). I mean, as a poem, this really, really sucks. As song lyrics - I guess they might work.
posted by RokkitNite at 4:48 PM on September 11, 2007


Joni Mitchell commands, I believe, a certain amount of respect for writing a good number of very lovely songs over the years. For taking unexpected artistic chances throughout her career that, even when they didn't necessarily work so well, were always brave and forward-looking.

But she also was one of the key, original perpetrators of a certain type of navel gazing me-me-me-and-my-feelings-feelings-feelings sort of songwriting that was only made tolerable due to the high level of musical expression and craftsmanship she possessed, and of course her crystalline voice, which, before tobacco had taken its slow and steady toll, had an amazing range and clarity.

But in recent years she's become one cranky old lady indeed. Seems like every interview of hers is full of bitter musings and contemptuous remarks on today's crop of singers and whatnot. I guess unsurprisingly, for someone who wrote that many self-referential songs about their love and their love and their needs and their love, ad nauseum, she comes off as egotistical in the extreme and more than a little judgemental of others.

And this latest poem linked here, jeebus, it reads like something a high school student would've written, doesn't it? Embarrassing. I prefer to remember her here, with The Band, doing Coyote.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:49 PM on September 11, 2007 [2 favorites]


No it doesn't pay. Yes Joni Mitchell is a poet. Also a better guitarist than most. And singer. Hence the more lyrical nature of her poetry (assuming you are not one that wishes to reduce poetry to some skeletal dry as dust thing that moves nothing and no-one and ends up being successfully parodied by an accidental drunken typo). I'm trying to figure out what that crack about CSNY has to do with the price of eggs and it's hard to come up with anything that makes sense.
posted by motty at 4:54 PM on September 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


Let's compare it to real poetry:

Blue Jean.
I just met me a girl named Blue Jean.
Blue Jean.
She got a camouflaged face and no money.
Remember: They always let you down when you need 'em.
Oh, Blue Jean.
Is heaven any sweeter than Blue Jean?
She got a police bike.
She got a turned up nose.
posted by The World Famous at 4:57 PM on September 11, 2007


The cell-phone zombies babble
Through the shopping malls
While condors fall from Indian skies
Whales beach and die in sand


Please, please, please tell me this is some kind of meta-parody of what unbelievably trite poetry looks like. Oh, how I wish I had never clicked that link. It's like finding out that the goatse guy is actually Elvis Costello.
posted by Banky_Edwards at 5:06 PM on September 11, 2007 [2 favorites]


I never thought I'd live to see this day, bad poetry in The New Yorker.
posted by Kattullus at 5:19 PM on September 11, 2007



No, she isn't a poet here. The poem lacks compression, is curiously far from rhythm. Goes to show you how poor the general conception of poetry is when a brilliant lyricist and musician cannot conceive of poetics as anything but soft prose with a hint of rhyme. Poetry should never be far from music. Meter and form provide the container that pressurizes and shapes the liquid thought. Here the words spill out and evaporate in the sun. Well, nice try anyway. I still like her.
posted by bukharin at 5:23 PM on September 11, 2007 [1 favorite]



I never thought I'd live to see this day, bad poetry in The New Yorker.

Where have you been?
posted by bukharin at 5:23 PM on September 11, 2007


Bukharin - I suspect Kattullus has been attending Sarcasm 101. There may still be time to enroll, get on down!
posted by Banky_Edwards at 5:30 PM on September 11, 2007


Please read the The Ode Less Travelled by Stephen Fry if you are interested in what makes a poem a poem but also want to stay awake and be entertained.
posted by Grod at 5:31 PM on September 11, 2007


dismas:

Guy Clark. I'm impressed - you must be the other person who listens to him.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 5:33 PM on September 11, 2007



I see, Banky. Sounds grrrreaaat....
posted by bukharin at 5:34 PM on September 11, 2007


I thought it semi badass in Yeats ian way until the Mighty Mouse part. and I didnt notice it was Joni. Oh Well.
posted by celerystick at 5:36 PM on September 11, 2007


They are better, cheaper and safer than bad trips.
posted by caddis at 5:47 PM on September 11, 2007


Someone needs to put them in my hand ripe and ready, sun-warmed, to be Laurie Anderson's boyfriend.

No googling involved - subscription to the erect toothbrush, like an egg of fire against the cliff behind the whale at speeds of up to this fat old bald guy.

My friends in 1830 would have a saying, certain shades of red or gold will always throw things at a laundromat

Thanks for having a "phantom" third arm

Come up, Kinch! Come up, you fearful jesuit!
posted by vronsky at 5:48 PM on September 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


omg, I know they'll never give us William Shawn back but have they dredged up Tina Brown and made her editor again? Joni, when you're good you're very very good; and when you're bad you're horrid. Sigh. Ang here my other fave female popular writer, namely Ursula Le Guin, also broke into the New Yorker and turned in the cleverest NYer-style coming-to-understand story of them all. (Called "Two Stops on the Northern Line" in the magazine, and republished as "Two Delays..." in the collection called The Compass Rose--which just shows she got a good New Yorker editor. Luckier, evidently than Joni.
posted by jfuller at 5:49 PM on September 11, 2007


vronsky, you little scamp, have you been into the mushroom jar again?
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:52 PM on September 11, 2007


re your first “Nantucket sleighride” – your whaleboat is dragged behind the whale at speeds of up to 100 words and ideas, often expressed in a bowl of lather on which a mirror and then covered the bowl aloft and intoned: --INTROIBO AD ALTARE DEI.
posted by vronsky at 5:55 PM on September 11, 2007


Are bad dreams good?

The answer to this question lies, in a large part, in how bad is defined. If bad here is being used as it is in phrases like "that's one bad motherfucker," then it is clear that bad actually means "good." If bad means "good," then bad dreams must -- by their very definition -- be good. Therefore, using this definition, bad dreams are clearly good.

But what if that is not the definition oldleada intended in phrasing this perplexing riddle? What if bad is actually meant to mean "bad." Well, as bad is the opposite of good, then it would seem obvious that bad dreams cannot possibly be good. It would be a contradiction.

So now we are looking at two conclusions, and they are the exact opposite of each other. If bad means "good," then bad dreams must be good. If bad means "bad," then bad dreams cannot be good.

Or can they? Therein lies the ultimate conundrum presented to us by oldleada. Cannot some things which are bad actually result in something overall being good? If we were to say, "The detonator in the bomb at the orphanage was bad," then wouldn't we really be saying that is a good thing? Very few people think that it is a good thing to blow up an orphanage. As such, a bad detonator turns out to be a very good thing.

Can this third ingeniously simple and deceptive use of bad be applied to dreams? Let us see. What makes a dream bad? Usually, we would say that a dream that involves the death of hundreds of people would be a "bad" dream. But what if that dream was really a vision and the dreamer was able to recognize it as such and then prevent the death of hundreds of people? Would that "bad" dream then be considered to be good?

oldleada has clearly played us all for fools here. What seemed at first glance to be a pun-like throwaway question may, in fact, be the sort of unsolvable riddle that will lead the greatest of minds to seek solitude in the depths of mind-altering substances. Which will, in turn, cause them to have bad dreams of their own.
posted by flarbuse at 5:58 PM on September 11, 2007


(For my money, Joni's best lyrics - I'm thinking of "Hejira", "A Strange Boy", and "Refuge of the Road" in particular - are as good as they get, and who cares what you call it? It certainly says something to me about things, in an artistic and rhythmic way. I also think that it is ingeniously coupled with the music. If that qualifies as poetry, then so be it. I actually think it's cooler than poetry. Multi-dimensional.)
posted by fingers_of_fire at 6:14 PM on September 11, 2007


have you been into the mushroom jar again?

Nope - he's been in the Markov jar.

I suppose I was going to need
a little explication. Take a poem
(preferably a good poem; they have
more uses than simple defense—
foraging, cooling, courtship, etc).

It could be programmed for the U.S. to hit.

posted by Iridic at 6:32 PM on September 11, 2007


Benny andajetz - nope, there's any number of us here. Guy rules.
posted by notsnot at 7:25 PM on September 11, 2007


It's like finding out that the goatse guy is actually Elvis Costello.

Please tell me you mean "It would be like finding out that goatse guy is actually Elvis Costello" -- or at least that it was taken "Spike" era.
posted by kingfisher, his musclebound cat at 8:13 PM on September 11, 2007


i'm pretty certain these are song lyrics

i'm also pretty certain that none of you have gotten published in the new yorker
posted by pyramid termite at 8:25 PM on September 11, 2007 [2 favorites]


i'm pretty certain these are song lyrics

I think you're probably right. But whether it's a song or a poem, it strikes me as pretty awful, either way around.

i'm also pretty certain that none of you have gotten published in the new yorker

I'm betting this wouldn't have been published in The New Yorker, either, had the author been unknown. I've got songs that are better than this. That's right, even though she's a hugely famous, successful songwriter, I'm going to come right out and say it: a lot better than this. But I wouldn't imagine they'd get published in the New Yorker if I faxed 10 of 'em a day to their offices for the next 10 years. Just saying.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:35 PM on September 11, 2007


I'm betting this wouldn't have been published in The New Yorker, either, had the author been unknown.

just how many unknown authors get into the new yorker? oh, it happens, i'm sure, but not often

I've got songs that are better than this.

well - we haven't heard the music - i was going to be a smart ass but from what i've heard of your music, i'll admit that you may well have songs that are better

she's been very inconsistent since herija and even when she's decent - well, it's not as good as she used to be

neither is poetry these days
posted by pyramid termite at 9:05 PM on September 11, 2007


Is ketchup a vegetable?
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 9:29 PM on September 11, 2007


no, it's a fruit
posted by pyramid termite at 9:43 PM on September 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


vintage Joni
posted by hortense at 10:15 PM on September 11, 2007


And this latest poem linked here, jeebus, it reads like something a high school student would've written, doesn't it? Embarrassing. I prefer to remember her here, with The Band, doing Coyote.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:49 PM on September 11


Is nothing sacred in this blue hole of hellishness? You sir are the Martin Amis of music criticism!
posted by mecran01 at 10:40 PM on September 11, 2007


re your first “Nantucket sleighride” – your whaleboat is dragged behind the whale at speeds of up to 100 words and ideas, often expressed in a bowl of lather on which a mirror and then covered the bowl aloft and intoned: --INTROIBO AD ALTARE DEI.

LOLSCROTUMTIGHTENING
posted by Kinbote at 11:22 PM on September 11, 2007


Anybody here know of any poets anywhere who can write a melody as good as Joni Mitchell's worst song?

Joni's problem is that, by the time you realize Hejira is as good as it is, she's already moved on to something else, and you are bummed because it isn't Hejira.

So folks get snarky because 'whales beach and die in sand' isn't the coolest, hippest most poetically trendy thing to say.

The new album is out in a couple weeks.
posted by tommyD at 3:12 AM on September 12, 2007


yeah...
I'm a big fan of her recordings--some of them, at any rate--but this poem? lyric? napkin scrawl? just blows.
and not in a well-that's-just-your-view kind of way either.
it blows in quantifiable, empirically-verifiable ways.
why she or The New Yorker wouldn't/couldn't have seen that this just doesn't read well at all, I can't say. It's one thing to want to flog your new album for your target demo, it's quite another to humiliate yourself out of vanity or misplaced pride.
ugh.
posted by the sobsister at 8:08 AM on September 12, 2007


Are bad girls good?
posted by spock at 8:31 AM on September 12, 2007


Washed up old hippies
Bet they're going to vote for
Hillary Clinton
posted by Reggie Digest at 9:06 AM on September 12, 2007


Anyway. Yeah, it's not the best poem in the world, but if she put it to music it might not be half as bad.

Her descent into poetical inadequacy isn't nearly as unfortunate as, say, Neil Young's.
posted by Reggie Digest at 9:10 AM on September 12, 2007


except that neil, to my knowledge, hasn't claimed he's writing poetry
posted by pyramid termite at 9:28 AM on September 12, 2007


She's curmudgeonly, she's self-important, she's not released a hgood album in close to 30 years, and I'd love to know what William Shawn would have thought of the New Yorker publishing free verse from the Proud Poetess of Fort Macleod.

But I'd still take bad poetry from Joni Mitchell over most of the other content of the New Yorker -- and most other stuff that passes these days for poetry and/or lyrics -- any day of the week. She's right: the cell-phone zombies do babble through the shopping malls.
posted by blucevalo at 12:35 PM on September 12, 2007


For reference, here's the other poem in this week's New Yorker:

FAME

We were at dinner in SoHo
and the couple at the next table
rose to go. The woman paused to say
to me, I just wanted you to know
I have got all your cookbooks
and I swear by them!


I managed
to answer her, Ma'am,
they've done you nothing but good!

which was perhaps immodest
of whoever I am.

--Les Murray


Now that's what I call poetry!
posted by rikschell at 1:22 PM on September 12, 2007


that's not poetry - it's prose with funny line breaks
posted by pyramid termite at 10:29 PM on September 12, 2007



that's not poetry - it's prose with funny line breaks

thank you, pyramid. you're exactly right.
posted by bukharin at 8:55 AM on September 13, 2007


Anybody here know of any poets anywhere who can write a melody as good as Joni Mitchell's worst song?

Bob Dylan can. Gord Downie, too.
posted by The World Famous at 10:14 AM on September 13, 2007


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