I recently borrowed a book of so-called “poetry”, The Best Australian Poems 2013, but there was nothing “best” about it, unless it was the best at being the worst, so to speak.

Here I should acknowledge my bias: As far as I’m concerned, only rhyming poetry is proper poetry.

The most popular style of poetry amongst the latte-sipping trendies is that of “free verse”, where a poem is just a bunch of lines without necessarily including any semblance of rhyming; I usually call it “rubbish poetry”, although it probably should be called something else – “stilted prose”, perhaps?

“No, no!” they’ll cry, “You’re just ignorant”, or “You just don’t understand the nuances of poetry”.
Or perhaps I do understand, when I refer to “free verse” as “rubbish poetry”; perhaps I realise that the emperor isn’t wearing any clothes.

As far as art is concerned, you can make a “sculpture” out of horse manure if you want to, but I’m still going to call it a pile of manure. The same principle applies to poetry (which is an art in itself).

In the entire book of “best Australian poems”, with over 120 items of Australian “poetry”, there was only one poem which actually rhymed – and that was translated from Russian (p. 206), so it wasn’t truly Australian anyway (although one could presume that the Australian translator added his own ideas, albeit in conjunction with the original author, in order to make it rhyme).

However, there were maybe half-a-dozen additional entries which included some sort of rhyme (e.g. 2 lines out of 38, pp. 193-194), although it might just be that some of those rhymes may have occurred by accident.

There were even a couple of “poems” which just consisted of a long paragraph (see pp. 129, 207).

There were some “street poets” who included some swearing in their concoctions; maybe they thought that they were being “edgy” or “real”, or maybe they were just shaking their fists at conventional society. Who knows? More to the point, who cares about their “street cred”? (Hey, at least I cared enough to point out their shortcomings.)

Sorry to disappoint you guys, but using the F-word (e.g. p. 139) or the C-word (p. 155) doesn’t make you look “real”, give you street credibility, or turn you into a “people’s poet”, it just paints you as someone who lacks class (we’re not talking about economic class here, but the ability to maintain some decent social standards).

It reminds me of The Young Ones (the BBC TV series), in which the character Rick (played by Rik Mayall) thought of himself as “the people’s poet”; but, to use a turn of phrase from the same show, he was “utter, utter, utter rubbish”.

Perhaps the best “poem” in the whole collection was “In the Desert” by R. D. Wood (p. 81), which just consisted of 28 lines of brackets, presumably mimicking waves of desert sand; if its purpose was to point out the inane stupidity of “free verse”, then it was an outstanding success.

As an example of the idiocy of regarding “free verse” as poetry, I’m going to convert the first few paragraphs of this article into “free verse”. Enjoy.

Free Verse is just Stilted Prose

I recently borrowed a book
of so-called “poetry”,
The Best Australian Poems 2013,
but there was nothing “best” about it,
unless it was the best at being the worst,
so to speak.

Here I should acknowledge my bias:
As far as I’m concerned,
only rhyming poetry is proper poetry.

The most popular style of poetry
amongst the latte-sipping trendies
is that of “free verse”,
where a poem is just a bunch of lines
without necessarily including
any semblance of rhyming;
I usually call it “rubbish poetry”,
although it probably should be called something else –
“stilted prose”, perhaps?

“No, no!” they’ll cry, “You’re just ignorant”,
or “You just don’t understand the nuances of poetry”.
Or perhaps I do understand,
when I refer to “free verse” as “rubbish poetry”;
perhaps I realise
that the emperor isn’t wearing any clothes.

Thank you, thank you!
I’m glad you enjoyed that example of “free verse”.
The author takes a bow.



See:
Lisa Gorton (editor), The Best Australian Poems 2013, Collingwood (Vic.): Black Inc./Schwartz Media, 2013

Notes:
Poems with some rhyming: pp. 90-92, 116-117, 168-171, 172 (maybe), 192, 193-194, 205, 208 (maybe).
Swearing: pp. 6, 139, 155, 193.

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