Jan 052018

Kirby Congdon [Photo by Richard Watherwax]

by Kirby Congdon……..

Webster’s Dictionary defines a poem as “a style more imaginative than ordinary speech.” This could be anything from street talk dialect to a royal decree or a definition in contracts, politics, news or in the dialogue of conversation. Almost any use of language can be enhanced for here is where the root of poetry takes hold. Its form may take on a graceful and intelligent tone when the speaker is familiar with his medium. A writer may indeed be imaginative with a bright vocabulary and new ideas but what counts is being persuasive and using the language accurately. We are distracted if anyone were to say, “I’ve took a job” instead of simply having taken one. We often hear “We had went” or even more frequently, “Him and I were friends.” Or “We was in trouble.” Then we only get patois.

A difficulty in learning English is the variety of pronouns, the changes in spelling that a verb may take along with the pronouns, as well as the plural and singular forms of words. The categories of the tenses themselves are very rarely explained in school. We have the brief reference to “the past” or to “the future” but this writer never even heard the term, “perfect, the “pluperfect” or the “future perfect.” He didn’t see examples of these until he had glanced (speaking of the pluperfect) at the very last pages of his textbook when he had already graduated high school and was about to go to college.

It is when grammar is used well that we get clarity in our native tongue. It is this clarity that begins to move us into the realm of poetry. If we can trust the poet’s handling of his words we can begin to hear what his poem is trying to say. However, it is a common idea that in poetry we can skip the rules because we are being imaginative when, instead, we are spewing confusion because the writer is cheating by taking the easy way out. The reader’s attention expects an educated voice but he is, instead, only distracted not by imagination or originality but by the bad poetry, or careless prose, we have been given instead.

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Kirby Congdon
Kirby Congdon found his calling in the time of the Beat Movement, his poems being published by the New York Times, The New York Herald Tribune and the Christian Science Monitor as well as countless small-press outlets. While influenced by the assertive stance of a new generation in literature, he preferred to set aside the spontaneous approach of his friends and use his work as an exploratory tool in establishing the new identity of his times as well as that of his own maturation. This search was incorporated in 300 works which were compiled in a bibliography by a Dean of the English Department at Long Island University in his retirement and made available in hard-back with an extensive addenda by the literary activists of Presa Press through their skills achieved from the University of Michigan and their own experience which commands a movement in itself of contemporary literary action.

Congdon’s work in poetry covers innumerable treatments of countless subjects in single poems, long treatments on a subject, and many collections of both serious thought and imagination through not only the poetry but through essays, plays and ruminations. Named the first poet laureate of Key West, he received a standing ovation for his reading honoring this position and was the featured poet in a festival celebrating Frank O’Hara in the New York region. He was also asked to read his work as well as give a talk on the country’s national poet laureate, Richard Wilbur, at a seminar honoring that man. Currently, Congdon is working on an autobiography and a collection of complete poems.
 January 5, 2018  Posted by at 12:04 am ~ Column ~, Art, Issue #250, Kirby Congdon  Add comments

  One Response to “Bad Poems and How They Get That Way”

  1. Below is a very popular poetry piece from 1955 which, by the way, is still popular today. Have some “fun” and give some thought and reflection to “Runaway,” some popular poetry that kids enjoy in today’s world. Caution, it’s not something to be recited at the dinner table.

    “Love Is A Many Splendored Thing”
    Performed by The Four Aces
    Words by Paul Frances Webster
    Music by Sammy Fain

    Love is a many splendored thing
    It’s the April rose that only grows in the early spring
    Love is nature’s way of giving a reason to be living
    The golden crown that makes a man, a king

    Once on a high and windy hill
    In the morning mist, two lovers kissed and the world stood still
    Then your fingers touched my silent heart and taught it how to sing
    Yes, true love’s a many splendored thing

    Once on a high and windy hill
    In the morning mist, two lovers kissed and the world stood still
    Then your fingers touched my silent heart and taught it how to sing
    Yes, true love’s a many splendored thing