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A CONTROVERSIAL RANT – by chris on fire

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Here is the proviso….. I am a man of a certain age, midlife, blowing in the wind, not sure yet if I have succeeded, or by what yardstick success is measured.

I am curmudgeonly, the quintessential grumpy old man and I absolutely assert my right to be offended by the modern world.






And here’s the rub….. When I was a young man setting out on my writing journey I had to walk or bus the four miles to my nearest library to get access to real poets. I read Yeats, Pound, Brookes and Bishop among others and I took inspiration from them and foolishly fashioned my earlier writing in the style of others. A mistake? Yes. But at least I was trying to fashion myself in the image of Gods.


When the internet became available to my small community in the mid 1990s it was a boon that saved legs, the walk to the library was no longer necessary and the number of poets available to me increased exponentially. I read e.e cummings, Gertrude Stein, William Carlos Williams, by the cartload, I could read poetry day and night and still there was more, an unending stream of inspiration. Hallelujah and praise be to Robert. E, Khan and Vint Cerf for bringing me this cornucopia of poetry.


The internet was a friend of the poet, an endless stream of new writing, a place to find inspiration. For about ten years, what was to me the golden age of the internet flourished. And then in 2004 a small site went on line that would be a major game player….





And all of its attending ills and woes. I took to Facebook about ten years ago and used it as a way to link with the modern Irish diaspora, those people I had grown up with, school friends and one time work colleagues who had moved abroad and settled in various corners of the world (We Irish have always export or best and most talented)


I also stayed in contact with family both at home and overseas. Facebook was a positive thing, a go to place to catch up with the rapidly changing lives of nephews and nieces living too far away for me to see them regularly. A place to share photographs and news about my own family. All good and all positive and I managed to avoid the very worst excesses of social media, I was a daily surfer on the FB wave but it did not become the time thief for me that it had become for others. Yes it was all good.


I discovered Poetry groups on Facebook a few years back and I joined some of them, was invited to others and recruited forcibly into some more. My first reaction was joy, a new source of work by new poets and some of it was exceptional and a lot of it was good enough. I made a number of friends who I still interact with to this day. So still all good…right.


Facebook groups redefined poetry for many, made it an open access, all welcome art form.

That is a good thing, No? Well yes, it is a good thing and encouraging people to tap into their muse is positive. But, and it is a massive BUT….




Facebook with all of its 2.01 Billion users did not redefine poetry for me. I am old school, I still believe that to write good poetry, you must read good poetry. I still believe that rules exist within the art form and anyone wishing to be taken seriously needs to learn those rules. I am a firm believer in the ‘Show, don’t tell’ rules that make the reading of poetry a very personal interaction between poet and reader.

In the recent past, prior to open access social media, poetry was confined to an arena in which it was subject to the rigours of editing. If a writer’s poetry didn’t pass muster then it seldom saw the light of day. With the introduction of Facebook and its twittering peers came a new sort of poetry. Work that was unedited, work that hit intranet space without even its composer reading it before pushing the little blue post button.


So what? Well as I have already said, much of the (Poetry) content found on Facebook is ok and some of it is exceptional but quite a lot of it is awful, eye-bleeding, cringeworthy dross.



Here is what I suggest to improve it.



STOP……all of the following


  • Posting every little thought that comes into your head. The world doesn’t care


  • Posting work without polishing it. Take a few minutes out of your day to edit the ‘Poetry’ you produce. Who knows you might actually discover a diamond beneath all the dross.


  • Posting, irrelevant pictures to illustrate your work, poetry is an aural, NOT a visual art form and the pictures detract from your work and make you look needy.


  • Posting pictures overwritten with your poetry, again the images detract from the words.


  • Posting your newly written masterpieces on multiple groups, it clogs up my feed and bores me. (And yes I am allowed say that because this is a RANT.)


  • Telling me about your broken heart, if you can’t show me your pain and make it mine then it is of no interest to me.


  • Stop with the Goddamn cliché. If you cannot be inventive, if you cannot bend language, then you are not a poet. Go learn to the piano to satisfy your creative urge.



DO……all of the following



  • Go read a book of poetry, one that was subjected to the scrutiny of an acerbic editor and that was written by a recognised poet, when you are finished read a second one and a third. Never stop reading good poetry.


  • Buy a red pen and use it while RE-READING your work…. (Yes that is actually a thing)


  • Leave your poems on your desktop or in your notebook for a week then read them again, if they sound trite to your own ear after this time then they probably are. Either delete them or edit them but PLEASE do not post them.


  • Learn to take critique, use it to your advantage. And remember…LIKES on Facebook mean squat but when someone rips your poem apart it means they have actually read it so take time to thank them.



I could continue, I could lambast the pornography that passes for poetry on the net, I could rant about forced rhyme, misspelling, bad grammar, made-up words. Yes there is much to say about the ills of bad poetry but I will leave you with this thought……


Today I read about twenty poems in various groups on Facebook. I no longer comment on the bad ones because I have found that serial FB poets do not want their poems critiqued honestly. In the end I found one wonderful piece, a truly well written poem and I took the time to thank the poet for their work. I logged out feeling that my hour was not wasted and that the trawl had been in the end worthwhile.


So yes, I will keep reading poetry on Facebook but for now I am away to the library. RANT OVER…..




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