Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Profanity in Poetry

This is another post from my cache of Helium articles. I love poetry! I find it so disturbing when vulgarities appear in literature and poetry, it just reinforces bad behavior in society, and let's face it, we don't need to go and encourage this sort of language. To view this article on Helium, click here.

The use of profanity in poetry indicates a lack of creativity and a level of immaturity on the part of the writer. Everyone is capable of writing and using obscene words, but that doesn't make everyone a poet. Poetry is an art form, beauty in the written word. The use of expletives is exactly the opposite, it is crass and bane.

A poet searches for the precise words to use to get his message across to the reader. In the creation of a poem, many words are rejected, they don't feel right. The sound isn't sensuous or the rhythm is wrong. Sometimes the locution and cadence work, but the word choice is off and the poet goes on the hunt. Settling for swearing is like selling out. Why use such low language in a literary art form? A poet is called upon to do better, and if he cannot rise above the riffraff, he is neither creative, nor a poet.

Finding alternatives to foul language is not always easy. Anyone who has tried to break bad speaking habits can attest to the difficulty of the task. But the poet is called upon to be a master of language, a professional in phrasing. The poet has time to think, rework, and rewrite. It is part of the passion, and poets are indeed, very passionate people.

Some will mistake profanity for passion, thinking the only way to express deep rooted, intense emotion is through the use of inappropriate language. Occasionally the poet is attempting to write for shock value through profanity. This exhibits a level of immaturity in thought and expression and ought to be avoided.

It may be necessary to cause a reader discomfort through poetry. It may even be desirable to manipulate morphemes to bring your audience along the emotional journey you would like. Finding synonyms, working with metaphor and simile, using alliteration and punctuation, these are all far more effective than assaulting and offending through the use of blasphemy or other four letter words.

There are many tools in the belt of a poet who is masterful at his craft. Many like to call themselves poets. Few achieve greatness in the field. Time spent studying the tricks of the trade is time well spent. The satisfaction of expressing your ideas and conveying your message in an unusual and thought provoking manner cannot be matched. The elation of a completed poem, the perfection, brings peace and joy to your soul.

Even a disturbing poem, well written, provides some serenity for the poet, because some emotion or event has been worked out through the process, and the poet can release it. Profanity exercises neither intellect nor imagination. The ugliness can never bring peace to your soul. Profanity has no place in poetry.


Anna S said...

I love poetry too, but seeing indecent words immediately averts me from reading it!

Heather said...

I totally agree, Lily! This is why I tend to avoid more "modern" poetry and keep to the poets of old (Yeats and Wilde...SIGH!). I've found, being the aspiring poet that I am (not that I've done a good job of it, but anyway....LOL!) that subtlety is far more appealing than profanity. It gives the reader far more to think about when meaning is veiled in such a way. I don't find it repulsive to allude to topics that may be more "objectionable", but I do object when those topics are dealt with vulgarly.

Lily said...

That is true, Heather, well said. I do not object to the topics so much as the handling of them. The Victorians were pros at subtlety. Perhaps that is why I love their literature and their poetry so very much.

M. Alexander said...

I agree so completely! Well said and well done! It is my goal that none of my children will grow up thinking that profanity or even coarseness is acceptable.

Lily said...

Thanks, Mary. I'm glad you stopped by.

"It is my goal that none of my children will grow up thinking that profanity or even coarseness is acceptable."

They will, you are a good mom! Your family is one with generations of good Catholics, what a blessing that is!

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