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The use of poetry to explain complex ideas

 
jdrnd
 
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jdrnd
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10 December 2017 07:03
 

Many people are aware that I appear to have a disdain for poetry.
I do,
but not in the way that most people think.

Nhoj has suggested that it doesn’t seem to him that poetry is accessible to me.
That’s not true.
For example, I like the poetry in the lyrics of songs.
In fact I sometimes enjoy reading poetry.

What I have a disdain for is the use of poetry, instead of prose, to explain a complex point of view.

In a writing course that I took in March 2016, the instructors emphasized that writers shouldn’t tell the story, but rather they should “show” the story. As you would imagine, poetry attempts to “show” what is going on; but in doing so, it is not exact, it leaves “the point it is trying to make” to the subjective imagination of the reader.

The use of poetry obscures the clarity, the exactness, of what the poster is trying to say.
It often takes a simple idea that requires no further thought, and inappropriately transforms it into some inscrutable idea that people feel they should spend hours pondering to find some secret meaning. A secret meaning that doesn’t exist.
If you have an idea, SAY IT, don’t poeticize it.


As what happened in my infamous “Proposal to Ban Foul Language” thread of 2009, where posters, most notably Gad,
posted a flurry of foul language,
I expect a flurry of poetry in rebuttal to this opening post.
I don’t want a flurry of poems, but I expect it.

 
EN
 
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EN
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10 December 2017 07:18
 

Description of snowy woods:

Poetic:  the woods are lovely, dark and deep,but I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep, and miles to go before I sleep.

Objective:  the woods appeared inviting to me, and I considered stopping to observe them, but I had a long way to go and people were waiting for me, so I went on my way.


Which description draws you more into the subjective experience of the writer?

 
jdrnd
 
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jdrnd
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10 December 2017 07:36
 
EN - 10 December 2017 07:18 AM

Description of snowy woods:

Poetic:  the woods are lovely, dark and deep,but I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep, and miles to go before I sleep.

Objective:  the woods appeared inviting to me, and I considered stopping to observe them, but I had a long way to go and people were waiting for me, so I went on my way.


Which description draws you more into the subjective experience of the writer?

But the point of his poetry was not to explain the complexities of philosophical thought.
Rather it was to paint a picture in words.

Also, different people will draw different ideas from his words.
Some might comment on a paranoia abut who owned the woods he was traveling through (Who’s woods are these, I think I know…)
Some might comment that he was sleep deprived.
Some might have thought that the phrase “promises to keep” had to do with writing a poem for his publisher (and not that people were waiting for him to arrive)

I agree that his words paint a picture, but it is open to interpretation.

In forum discussions, I want to know what YOU mean.  Even with prose we often misinterpret what the other is saying, but when one uses poetry there is more of a subjective component contributed by the reader than there is when one uses prose.

 
EN
 
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EN
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10 December 2017 08:25
 

The complex thought in the poem is the phenomenon of human decision-making.  Decisions are not just made on objective criteria, but involve value judgments, subjective experience, and emotion.  You can explain the process in prose, but to really convey it the writer has to draw the reader into his experience as much as possible. That’s what all the arts do - they speak on the subjective level.  Yes, clinical prose conveys information,  but the arts convey experience.  They need to be used side by side to get the whole story.

The fact that people will come up with different interpretations is just part of the human reality.  That can happen with prose, as well.
Do two doctors or lawyers look at the same facts and arrive at different conclusions?  Every day.  Poetry adds a dimension to the descriptive
process that enriches it for the reader.

 
burt
 
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burt
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10 December 2017 08:25
 
jdrnd - 10 December 2017 07:36 AM
EN - 10 December 2017 07:18 AM

Description of snowy woods:

Poetic:  the woods are lovely, dark and deep,but I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep, and miles to go before I sleep.

Objective:  the woods appeared inviting to me, and I considered stopping to observe them, but I had a long way to go and people were waiting for me, so I went on my way.


Which description draws you more into the subjective experience of the writer?

But the point of his poetry was not to explain the complexities of philosophical thought.
Rather it was to paint a picture in words.

Also, different people will draw different ideas from his words.
Some might comment on a paranoia abut who owned the woods he was traveling through (Who’s woods are these, I think I know…)
Some might comment that he was sleep deprived.
Some might have thought that the phrase “promises to keep” had to do with writing a poem for his publisher (and not that people were waiting for him to arrive)

I agree that his words paint a picture, but it is open to interpretation.

In forum discussions, I want to know what YOU mean.  Even with prose we often misinterpret what the other is saying, but when one uses poetry there is more of a subjective component contributed by the reader than there is when one uses prose.

With poetry one can layer multiple meanings into a line. “The woods are lovely, dark, and deep….” has multiple interpretations, including perhaps his thoughts of how nice it would be to wander into them, get lost and die, but no, he has commitments in the world that deny him that release. So it evokes not only an image but a variety of states of mind that a reader can identify with. It serves as a Rorschach test and, in providing multiple interpretations, all of which can be true, poetry is serving a function of exercising the intellect in ways that a clear analytical statement does not, and cannot. It educates people to look for multiple possibilities in events and things and so can lead to understandings that would not otherwise be communicable.

 
jdrnd
 
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jdrnd
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10 December 2017 09:23
 
EN - 10 December 2017 08:25 AM

The fact that people will come up with different interpretations is just part of the human reality.  That can happen with prose, as well.

I agree with you, but in arguing a point in law, medicine, science, and perhaps even religion, prose is less likely to be open to the readers subjective interpretation.
Facts are facts regardless of the readers opinion.  Applying the information from facts to arrive at a course of action, a conclusion, a consensus, etc, can be subjective.
In our discussions, arguments, banter, it helps if each of us is as clear as possible about what the other person is saying.

 
jdrnd
 
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10 December 2017 09:30
 
burt - 10 December 2017 08:25 AM

With poetry one can layer multiple meanings into a line. “The woods are lovely, dark, and deep….” has multiple interpretations, including perhaps his thoughts of how nice it would be to wander into them, get lost and die, but no, he has commitments in the world that deny him that release. So it evokes not only an image but a variety of states of mind that a reader can identify with. It serves as a Rorschach test and, in providing multiple interpretations, all of which can be true, poetry is serving a function of exercising the intellect in ways that a clear analytical statement does not, and cannot. It educates people to look for multiple possibilities in events and things and so can lead to understandings that would not otherwise be communicable.

I agree with all that you say, but I don’t agree that it is helpful during a debate, discussion, technical team meeting, or strategy session.
Do you think Richard Feynman recited poetry during the team meetings when they were trying to find out why the space shuttle exploded?

 

 
Jan_CAN
 
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10 December 2017 09:35
 
jdrnd - 10 December 2017 07:03 AM

...
The use of poetry obscures the clarity, the exactness, of what the poster is trying to say.
It often takes a simple idea that requires no further thought, and inappropriately transforms it into some inscrutable idea that people feel they should spend hours pondering to find some secret meaning. A secret meaning that doesn’t exist.
If you have an idea, SAY IT, don’t poeticize it.
...

I agree with all that EN and Burt have said above.
Poetry and prose to convey facts are quite different things.  A comparing of apples and oranges.

 
 
jdrnd
 
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jdrnd
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10 December 2017 10:33
 
Jan_CAN - 10 December 2017 09:35 AM
jdrnd - 10 December 2017 07:03 AM

...
The use of poetry obscures the clarity, the exactness, of what the poster is trying to say.
It often takes a simple idea that requires no further thought, and inappropriately transforms it into some inscrutable idea that people feel they should spend hours pondering to find some secret meaning. A secret meaning that doesn’t exist.
If you have an idea, SAY IT, don’t poeticize it.
...

I agree with all that EN and Burt have said above.
Poetry and prose to convey facts are quite different things.  A comparing of apples and oranges.

As I commented on En and Burts post there is nothing you said that I disagree with.
Poetry is at a disadvantage during discussions where one wants to know exactly what someone means.

 

 
Jan_CAN
 
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10 December 2017 10:52
 
jdrnd - 10 December 2017 10:33 AM
Jan_CAN - 10 December 2017 09:35 AM
jdrnd - 10 December 2017 07:03 AM

...
The use of poetry obscures the clarity, the exactness, of what the poster is trying to say.
It often takes a simple idea that requires no further thought, and inappropriately transforms it into some inscrutable idea that people feel they should spend hours pondering to find some secret meaning. A secret meaning that doesn’t exist.
If you have an idea, SAY IT, don’t poeticize it.
...

I agree with all that EN and Burt have said above.
Poetry and prose to convey facts are quite different things.  A comparing of apples and oranges.

As I commented on En and Burts post there is nothing you said that I disagree with.
Poetry is at a disadvantage during discussions where one wants to know exactly what someone means.

It is an advantage when one wants to convey more than just facts (see above posts).

 
 
burt
 
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10 December 2017 10:59
 

Connected to this is a difference between Asian and European languages. European languages, English in particular, are designed to convey accurate information between people who may not know each other. Asian languages are more allusive and work more with nudge nudge wink wink to convey information between intimates. Relatively speaking, of course.

[ Edited: 10 December 2017 11:03 by burt]
 
burt
 
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10 December 2017 11:00
 
jdrnd - 10 December 2017 09:30 AM
burt - 10 December 2017 08:25 AM

With poetry one can layer multiple meanings into a line. “The woods are lovely, dark, and deep….” has multiple interpretations, including perhaps his thoughts of how nice it would be to wander into them, get lost and die, but no, he has commitments in the world that deny him that release. So it evokes not only an image but a variety of states of mind that a reader can identify with. It serves as a Rorschach test and, in providing multiple interpretations, all of which can be true, poetry is serving a function of exercising the intellect in ways that a clear analytical statement does not, and cannot. It educates people to look for multiple possibilities in events and things and so can lead to understandings that would not otherwise be communicable.

I agree with all that you say, but I don’t agree that it is helpful during a debate, discussion, technical team meeting, or strategy session.
Do you think Richard Feynman recited poetry during the team meetings when they were trying to find out why the space shuttle exploded?

No, why would he. On the other hand, do you think that Shakespeare would be improved if the poetical language was replaced by an analytic discussion of, for example, the way that the miners worked under the walls of the city in Henry V? Or Hamlet would be improved by a technical discussion of Danish economics and politics? On the other hand, a poetic, or joking, or other interjection can shake things up when they get bogged down. And images like John Weeler’s famous “black holes have no hair” are quite useful.

 
jdrnd
 
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jdrnd
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10 December 2017 11:07
 

En, Burt, Jan Can,
We are talking past each other.
I am not saying that poetry has no value,
I am saying that because it’s meaning is open to interpretation it is at a disadvantage to prose when one wants to know precisely what someone means when they say something.

 
jdrnd
 
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jdrnd
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10 December 2017 11:08
 
Jan_CAN - 10 December 2017 10:52 AM
jdrnd - 10 December 2017 10:33 AM
Jan_CAN - 10 December 2017 09:35 AM
jdrnd - 10 December 2017 07:03 AM

...
The use of poetry obscures the clarity, the exactness, of what the poster is trying to say.
It often takes a simple idea that requires no further thought, and inappropriately transforms it into some inscrutable idea that people feel they should spend hours pondering to find some secret meaning. A secret meaning that doesn’t exist.
If you have an idea, SAY IT, don’t poeticize it.
...

I agree with all that EN and Burt have said above.
Poetry and prose to convey facts are quite different things.  A comparing of apples and oranges.

As I commented on En and Burts post there is nothing you said that I disagree with.
Poetry is at a disadvantage during discussions where one wants to know exactly what someone means.

It is an advantage when one wants to convey more than just facts (see above posts).

I agree.

 
Nhoj Morley
 
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Nhoj Morley
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10 December 2017 11:36
 

I could conjur a verse or two that evokes the irony of breaking from toiling over lyrics to address your case. A coldly numbered list is more appropo.

Ten Reasons for Poetry-

1- It is an aid to learning for those with minimal education or reading skills by shepherding information in a form that caters to our natural perceptual habits.

2- It makes information transferable from one person to another without necessitating understanding as only the rhythmic structure and rhyming need to be learned.

3- It can be used to express and communicate elite thoughts beyond the reach of the unwashed yokels.

4- It allows parts of your brain to be in on composing and provide for expressions and emotional reveals that would not be conjured deliberately.

5- It can express something one is not prepared to say or face directly.

6- It avoids the impulsive emotional reactions of blunt expressions by slowing down a quick summation process and allowing separate expressions to mitigate each other and form a collective perception.

7- The lead singer needs some attractive gibberish to articulate whilst demostrating his worthiness to females.

8- It is a FUN and challenging craft like building a ship in a bottle. The craftiness of others can enjoyed with just a minimum of understanding of the craft.

9- Like meditating, it can be a refreshing change of brain operation. It requires letting go of and yielding our shepherding perception (post-cinematic) to an external author. Those who are trained to constantly self-possess their shepherding perception become confined to single measures and short, plain expressions (except in a few dogmatic categories of information).

10- It is an efin’ thrill. I would liken Cumberbatch’s performance of Shakespeare in PBS’s The Hollow Crown to zooming from zero to sixty in five seconds or falling wth a roller-coaster or winning the Big Game.

 
 
Giulio
 
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10 December 2017 11:45
 

Where is language forged? One place is in the hands or tongues of poets (that may take many guises). Not just from the pens or keyboards of lawyers and scientists.

What about music? I assume you don’t object to that. So what if you viewed poetry as music but played through the instrument of language?

What about art? A picture may be worth a thousand words, but the image conveyed by a poet may not be renderable by any number of pixels.

It comes down to resonance.

Consider the following (from a friend of mine):

When the old gods scattered
The prism of void
Fell into the shallow water,
Where fish carve mirrors
Whose light is their own eyes.

You are not looking for an explanandum here - you are seeking a resonance. Maybe this piece doesn’t resonate for you, but hopefully you can find something that will.

 

 

 
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