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My Argument Against "Understanding" Poetry -- in Order to Appreciate It

Val enjoys turning his thoughts into a form of an article or a rhyme, while not necessarily keeping in mind reader's possible taste.


What is a poet? An unhappy person who conceals profound anguish in his heart but whose lips are so formed that as sighs and cries pass over them they sound like beautiful music.

-- Soren Kierkegaard

"Licentia Poetica": Anything Goes in Poetry

For starters, I find it relevant to mention how my position in any matter is never insisting to be the only one being rational.

With that behind us, I'd like to submit my position that whatever is a subject to tastes, doesn't need "understanding".

That Latin maxim instantly comes to mind:

"De gustibus non disputabant est" -- meaning: Tastes are not to be discussed.

Indeed, you may be freakishly passionate about fashion designing, so that a certain piece of garment, to you, looks like an "ultimate scream of artistic expression" -- whereas to me it may look like a Halloween costume.

So, I am submitting here that there is nothing universally, absolutely, axiomatically beautiful about poetry either. Therefore, there is nothing to be "understood" about it, or a "taste to be developed" for it.

And just as a fashion designer has a whole rich terminology which they can use in a whole hour of describing an exponent of that art, so can a poetry lover go into an incredible phraseology to make legitimate the value of it. And it certainly has been done in the so called "theory of poetry".

There is even something so obvious about exaggeration in all that, when we consider that so often -- in absence of rhymes -- it's nothing but an emotionally charged prose text being formed into a column of stanzas. No rhyme, just a text in such a form, to merely look like a poem.

And then, even with rhymes present, where are any standards of some value to be respected -- with another Latin expression like "Licentia poetica" -- meaning "poetic freedom", and further meaning "anything goes".

So, you are allowed to put into those stanzas some total nonsense, and very often, provided that you have established a certain popularity of a poet for yourself, you make it look like "poetry".

So, is there such a thing as "poetry"?

Yes, but there is nothing there to be "understood" first -- so that it could be appreciated.

According to your intellectual tastes, you may either like it or not, and at that very point, any "understanding" is totally unnecessary.

For, would you need to "understand" why a certain flower is beautiful to you, or why a certain bird is not?


The lunatic, the lover and the poet, are of imagination all compact.

-- William Shakespeare

Instant Poetry

Let me give you a brief example of a prosaic text instantly transformed into poetry.

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What is the point of loving, if it's but a short and unpredictable step away from regret and suffering? All that solemn promising and all sweet dreams turning into a sour and brutal reality of loneliness.


What's the point of loving

if it's but a short

and unpredictable step away

from regret and suffering?

All that solemn promising

and all sweet dreams

turning into a sour

and brutal reality

of loneliness.

Voila! Instant poetry!

Well, I am writing my own rhymes, and I call them "poems" almost out of a satirical attitude, making my point that "anything goes in poetry". Believe it or not, but I like them more than some of the pieces from well established "poets" on this Hub Pages.

Not because they are mine, and not because I would ever, EVER be competitive with my writing. By having twice closed my account, I must have proven that I didn't really care enough -- as I lost over hundred thousand views, many followers, accolades, over two hundred articles.

To a competitive person it's unfathomable that somebody is not trying to outdo them, since they are judging others by their own example. So anyway, I am not writing this to provide a "better" explanation of what poetry may, or may not be.

Instead, I am simply voicing my opinion, as I am doing in all my pieces -- many of which didn't beg for any popularity, and didn't get any either.

To me, writing those rhymes is a fun, even more so because I always try to squeeze into them some of my views, some positions about human nature and crazy trends of cultural paradigm. I love my satires, as they are trying to give some meaningful substance to those rhymes.

Besides, whether you would notice it or not, but I am having an extra fun forming the right side of my stanzas in a straight line, whether vertical of slanted. I am so used to doing it, that even in the above example -- not even attempting to do it -- I still happened to achieve a straight and slanted margin.

They mostly look like prose in rhymes, but viewed from a broader perspective, they could easily be called "poetry" as well.

Remember? -- "Licentia poetica" -- anything goes.


A poet is a nightingale, who sits in darkness and sings to cheer its own solitude with sweet sounds.

-- Percy Bysshe Shelley

When Reputation Sets the Value of Creation

My argument here, expressed in other words, would be, that just because we may be very passionate about poetry, that alone doesn't make poetry something very dignifying, or artistically valid. Its all value is in the eye of those who are passionate about it.

I could give you some dozens examples of people being very passionate about something, and also ready to say how "their passion needs some deep understanding".

No, it doesn't.

Again, it's only "deep" to those whose minds and hearts are calibrated to see it that way.

Outside of that, we are talking about a difference between a Picasso's scrambled piece of cubism and a Rembrandt's portrait -- both called "highest art" -- where nothing is there to be "understood", but either liked or not. And they are both called Master-artists, although there are no parameters that would establish any comparison between them two. There is nothing to "understand" there.

In another of my articles I mentioned the case of some graduates of academy of art, who were asked to tell which of the lined up (copies of) paintings were works of an amateur, and which were less known works of famous painters -- of course all signatures being hidden.

You guessed -- those "knowledgeable" graduates in art mostly picked amateurs' works as masterpieces.

Should we say more?

So, no matter how you prefer to look at it, poetry is just another literary work waiting to be either liked or disliked -- and no "finesse" and "understanding" will make it more "art" than something else which was also suggested to represent art.

If you have built yourself a reputation of a poet, you can afford to write some first class crap, and those who like "you", will automatically like "what you wrote".

This is so in politics as well, while a favorite political careerist can say the stupidest thing (as you probably know, that keeps happening these very days) and his followers will give him a standing ovation for it.

Picasso, himself, was cited as saying how he "never worried about possibility of his many paintings being stollen from his basement, because without his signature on them, they were worthless".

Well, I tried here to explain my own position about the "need to understand poetry, so that it could be appreciated".

I hope I have made my point, which, again, is not insisting to be the only rational one to be considered.


Whatever poet, orator or sage may say of it, old age is still old age.

-- Sinclair Lewis

An Addition

O.K., I pretty much said everything on the theme, but then I noticed how I was under my quota of 1250 words -- so here is this addition, remotely or closely touching the topic at hand.

Namely, let's talk a little more about my not falling for names which should then suggest a high quality of the creation itself -- after I already mentioned Picasso.

Take His Holiness Dalai Lama for instance. Please note I am addressing him properly, plus -- he does look like a cute old dude.

And may Buddha forgive me, but I am going to pick a little on His Holiness' need to wear those thick and tinted eyeglasses; and then also on some of his rather ordinary lines of "highest wisdom".

First, let me brag about eyeglasses. I used to use reading glasses approximately from age of 40 till I was about 65. Then I intensified my self-advancing practices -- meditations, qigong, self-hypnosis...that kind of crap, and I dropped my glasses, able to read, all into this age of 78, the finest print from my wife's vitamin bottles.

O.K., so, I am not a Dalai Lama, I am not a master of my thoughts, and my emotions, and my body (not completely yet) not having spent most of my days in peaceful meditation in pristine ambient of Tibet, beloved and respected worldwide -- so why is His Holiness wearing those thick, tinted glasses?

I know he must have read a lot, but so did I; and how did my mental practices improve my eyesight, and his didn't?

And then we come to some of his pearls of wisdom. Hey Buddha, I did ask for forgiveness, remember? Namely, so much of what I heard him say, was -- well, in the value of "you must must love every human must value your life"...and alike.

Geez, every priest who got his priesthood from internet is capable of saying something similar, and none of it would make him qualified to replace Holy Father Pope.

I don't know, maybe I should sneak into this story many of those popular poets at this Hub Pages of ours, who don't really deliver something that bombastically valuable, even when I try hard to put myself into shoes of a poetry lover.

Nevertheless, before I finish here, I have to say something in their defense.

They all obviously love their poems very much, and they also told others that they are good at it, so why rain on their parade. Let them enjoy it, let them also enjoy their popularity, like Dalai Lama is enjoying his own, and Pablo Picasso used to enjoy his own.

And then, why beat around the bush -- yes, I am also enjoying writing my own crap. If I didn't, do you really think that I would still be writing?

Oops! It's 1800 words, I can stop yapping now.

So, everybody take care, I am on my way to take my evening shower, my hands got dirty by writing all bad stuff about the beautiful art of poetry.

© 2022 Val Karas

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