News Ticker

I Just Don’t Get Poetry

Will someone please tell me what the deal is with poetry? I just don’t get it. It always seems like poets just take a long sentence, write the words on different lines and call it poetry. And the more vague the sentences are , the “better” the poem. At least rhyming poets make an effort.

Take, for example, this poem written by Kurt Vonnegut about Isaac Asimov, or any sf poetry for that matter. Vonnegut is a good author but a lousy poet.

About John DeNardo (13012 Articles)
John DeNardo is the Managing Editor at SF Signal and a columnist at Kirkus Reviews. He also likes bagels. So there.

26 Comments on I Just Don’t Get Poetry

  1. Yup, that’s lame. I enjoy some poetry, but I’ve always thought SF Poetry was kinda dumb.

  2. Oh my – where to start?

    Poetry can be emotionally powerful – more than entire novels. Take a look at a few great writings:

    Ozymandias – almost haunting in its message, this poem by Shelley tells the tale in a way 1000 words can not.

    Or the poem by A.A. Milne titled Disobedience which can’t help but resonate with parents on the instructions we give to our children and the way they sometimes, quite seriously, give them to us.

    How about Edgar Allan Poe and his many fantastic works such as The Raven.

    Or Fog by Carl Sandburg – a poem that fills us with the feeling of how it is to watch the weather.

    Maybe you prefer something a little more ribald? Perhaps the poem may i feel said he by e.e. cummings? Humor works there too!

    And finally – how about the great bard and Sonnet 18. Yes the language isn’t exactly how we’d speak today but you can feel the love in the poem anyway.

    OK Kurt’s poem on Asimov isn’t up to the quality of any of those poems, but so what. The sentiment is a bit odd no matter how it is written, but the poetry is subtle and not forced so doesn’t get in the way of the content. He expressed himself in verse – would it be easier to get if it were prose? Maybe…

  3. As someone who has been known to write poems on occasion (don’t worry, I am seeking professional help) and a lover of SF, I have to admit that the idea of SF poetry makes me cringe. The Vonnegut piece is a terrible poem. However, it might make a good introduction to a commencement address.

  4. A sci-fi haiku for you…

    Blast the evil planet

    Death to the alien race

    Watch them die


  5. That’s what we need! More SF haiku! SciKu! SciKu Action Grip! Woo!

    Excellent, thanks Trent!

    And John, I’m pretty sure poetry doesn’t ‘get’ you either. I don’t any of us do…

  6. Just sounds to me like you’re reading the wrong poets.

    Try Kipling (; or, if your tastes run to the classical, try Milton (

    The poets that write in unrhyming verse are theoretically supposed to be doing what Milton does, and he is copying Virgilian and Homeric models: namely, to place the proper number of stressed and unstressed syllables on the line to give it a music.

    Modern poets, of course, write trash, and gentlemen have nothing to do with them. Anyone who has not been dead at least one hundred years is highly suspect.

  7. I don’t get poetry. I don’t begin to get it. Poetry is music on my tone-deaf ears.

  8. My earlier haiku was pilfered from the clutches of googlewebthingy.

    I felt guilty for not coming up with an original haiku John so this ORIGINAL is for you in lieu of one of the new sci-fi shows on TV lately.

    It’s in the water

    just below the surface there

    the alien sleeps.


  9. Poetry loses all of its meaning when it is translated from the original Klingon.

  10. I just like the way the words sound in my head. Sometimes. Some “poetry”, like that thing by Vonnegut, really is crap.

  11. (oops, I must have clicked the wrong button; my comment disappeared)

    Get poetry? What’s to get? I just like the way the words sound in my head. (If, in fact, the words do sound like poetry.)

  12. Mmmm Klingon Poetry – thats the real stuff man. Poetry is one of those literary areas where I think some is very good and can be fun to read/hear, but then there is some stuff that will make you wonder why anybody writes poetry to begin with.

  13. Following Trent’s example:

    Whoa! Sci-Fi Poetry!

    Bloggers too profound for me…

    Head hurts, need more babes

    For Fred and Tim, I’m still working ont the Klingon version…

  14. bommey DaQtIqvo’

    matay’be’bej ‘ach maS rap wIbej

    porghlIj vIleghlaHbe’


    matay’be’ba’ ‘ach SuS rap wIHot

    ‘IwlIj vIlarghlaHbe’


    matay’be’law’ ‘ach qa’ rap wI’Ij

    ghoghlIj vIQoylaHbe’



    jIHvaD SoH Du’angmo’ ‘u’ jIQuch

    ‘ach not qaghajbe’mo’

    vaj jItlhuch

    jIQongtaHvIS maghom ‘e’ vInaj

    chIch macholchuqchoHchu’

    Hot DIrmaj

    DeSDu’wIj poSDaq bIDejDI’ SoH

    ‘IwwIj DameQchoHmoH.



    And there’s a lot more where that came from!

  15. Where did that come from? I couldn’t get the Java applet for Klingon Dictionary to work — damn free 20th century technology!!!

  16. I did a Google search (or is it just “google” now?) for “Klingon + poetry” and a whole bunch of interesting stuff came up. There even was a discussion board about it where a “Klingon expert” was criticizing various entries.

  17. Get poetry? What’s to get? I just like the way the words sound in my head. (If, in fact, the words do sound like poetry.)

    For me (very important, that), the way words sound in my head and the “story” (I use that term loosely) they ostensibly tell are not inherently related. For me, a story, or scene, or concept, should be accessible to my imagination without the means of communication (the medium) buzzing around to distract me. The more invisible the medium, the better (for me). To my way of thinking, poetry is for poets.

  18. John, here’s something that I found on the internet, maybe you’ll get this one since its topic is close to your scifi infested heart…

    The Signal, by (Unknown)

    There was a blog called the ‘Signal,

    Where fanboys come from afar to journal

    Some were compulsive; others, obsessive.

    Some were psychotic, but most were just, neurotic.

    Allow me to introduce you, to this group of friends

    Who will debate, dissect, and dissert the virtue of Sci-fi to no ends…

    There’s the blog creator, JP.

    and the rabid-book collector, Johnny D.

    Lifelong fans, they are,

    Too much time reading, they take,

    Star Wars sites, they troll

    Harriet Klausner, they hate!

    Then there are the SW Fanboys, Scott and Tim

    Who are the avid–nay! mad gamers..

    Now I can’t think of a rhyme that fits,

    Oh, I’m a lamer!

    Alas, one cannot speak of gaming

    Without ever naming,

    E’er a master, ne’er a poster,

    Who but the resident maven,

    For his name is Kevin

    Ah, what can I say

    as we come to, Pete

    never quite the fan

    but forever the geek

    of sci-fi, he knows nothin’

    that lack has yet to keep him,

    From postin topics that are unrelated,

    Oft, he wonders how he’s tolerated

    Forgive me if I have forgotten others,

    for there have been so many

    There’s Fred, and James, and Jeff, and Mr. JCW

    And of course, Stacy and Trent, think I would forget you?!?!

    As we come to the end of my rambling lore,

    John, for sure, this is no shakespeare, nor poe, nor even vonnegut

    but do give poetry another try, maybe this you’ll get

    of that you, i can only implore

  19. Well done, Pete. πŸ˜€ At least…I think so. I wouldn’t know good poetry if it came up and bit me on my Milton.

  20. Nice job Pete – you even managed to get John to mention his “Milton” which I believe is code for book collection, but I could be wrong. I think this should be added to the “about us” link since I think it is succinct and pretty well done πŸ™‚

  21. Hi, I’ve written a few books of poetry and took poetry writing in college. I’d like to share a few ideas with you that might help. My college professor, who was the state’s poet laureate, said poetry is the best way to express something using words. It is an art form like any other, only instead of painting a picture with oils and canvas, one paints a picture with words. In order for the picture to really get into the “viewer’s” head, it has to be painted with the best words possible. If rhyming helps, then rhyme, if meter helps, use meter; but in any case the poet must use the best words possible and if it sends the reader to the dictionary, then good. Nowdays many so-called poets think that their writing needs to be ambiguous, superfluous, startling, and even rambling, but, on the other hand, read the works of the U.S.’s Poet Laureate, Billy Collins and you’ll see that he takes poetry and makes it accessible again. He’ll throw in humor and gentle surprises. He uses form and only a few poetic devices, but his writing is intelligent while still being accessible.

    I think someone who is interested in learning to write good poetry should experiment with different forms, like haikus and sonnets, etc. But before you make any decisions about whether or not you like poetry, read some really good stuff. Sometimes reading poetry takes work to get out of it all that the poet put into it. For example, in our poetry writing class we dissected a short poem by e.e. cummings that at first reading might have made it seem cute or okay, but when we really dissected it, it turned out to be a really neat poem with lots of substance and meaning, written in an avante garde kind of way.

    If you want to try a really readable book, try “Word Play” available at or at

    I hope this helps a little.

  22. To express thoughts in a short way – that’s the core of it’s essens. And make thoughts sound beautiful.

  23. As far as I am concerned, there is only one real poem that actually captures the wonder and the strangeness of science fiction and fantasy. Here, as befits its title, is a fragment:

    A damsel with a dulcimer

    In a vision once I saw :

    It was an Abyssinian maid,

    And on her dulcimer she played,

    Singing of Mount Abora.

    Could I revive within me

    Her symphony and song,

    To such a deep delight ‘twould win me,

    That with music loud and long,

    I would build that dome in air,

    That sunny dome ! those caves of ice !

    And all who heard should see them there,

    And all should cry, Beware ! Beware !

    His flashing eyes, his floating hair !

    Weave a circle round him thrice,

    And close your eyes with holy dread,

    For he on honey-dew hath fed,

    And drunk the milk of Paradise.

  24. I’m with the first poster, I’ve never really gotten poetry, though I did follow some of the links of the poster a few posts down and did find substance in some of those. Modern day poetry (like the woman’s at the Obama inauguration) just snores me to tears. There is only one poem that I felt strongly enough about to actually memorize


    Two Roads diverged in a Yellow Wood ….


    Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

    And sorry I could not travel both

    And be one traveler, long I stood

    And looked down one as far as I could

    To where it bent in the undergrowth;


    Then took the other, as just as fair, 

    And having perhaps the better claim, 

    Because it was grassy and wanted wear; 

    Though as for that the passing there, 

    Had worn them really about the same


    And both that morning equally lay 

    In leaves no step had trodden black. 

    Oh, I kept the first for another day! 

    Yet knowing how way leads on to way, 

    I doubted if I should ever come back. 


    I shall be telling this with a sigh 

    Somewhere ages and ages hence: 

    Two roads diverged in a wood, and

    I took the one less traveled by, 

    And that has made all the difference !


    — Robert Frost (1874–1963)

  25. Poetry can be defined differently by different people. I’m sure William Blake and Wordsworth might not think of modern poetry as poetry. Some people view it as pretty words put in a pretty order. Some people view it as ambiguous line that carries layers of meaning. Some people view it as anything that rhymes and has a “da-dum” rhythm. I pefer a mix of modern and romantic poetry that carries a lot of wit. Hope my opinion is helpful

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: