The one time I was asked of why I think I qualify as a good reader and editor, I said my eye for language. It must have been what everyone expected to hear seeing that I got the editor jobafterwards. Later, when someone would ask what I thought about the screenshot of a poem I shared on my status, I would say, “pretentious”; a compliment I would give out without thinking. 

Thus began the debate of what makes poetry. 

A summary of what I said:

Perception is entirely subjective, and like a critic’s intuitive foresight, it lets you see every piece through the eyes of the impression it creates. Appreciation of words is born out of words and the recognition of a similarity to a particular creative strain and use of language. Like, how I flow with a poem because I detect a pulsing depth or because it speaks directly to me like something I could write. Maybe appreciation shares a common space with coveting shared experiences. 

Sometimes, sprinkled with a bit of elitism, good poetry can be about elevating language. Most times, perception within this scope feels like peer pressure.

Creativity is subjective, same with the way you feel about what it births. Ordinary poetry is not the direct opposite of elevated poetry, as ordinariness itself is also some type of way that is open to varying interpretations. And so at its core, it remains apattern still however informal. 

The newness of words seen in the light of empowering possibilities within language always has an enthralling feel like a decent fragrance. Good poetry has craft and is very distinguishable from substandard poetry. 

In summary, the pretension of every good poetry lies on how easy and efficient it transforms language within its reach. And this pretension is something good poetry should never be ashamed of.

A summary of what this friend said:

Art is art because it uses affectation, because all perception and understanding of art is subjective. We might not necessarily call it “affectation” seeing the damage grammar has done to our minds. But if it is what makes you feel something, if it’s how it innovates language or how it weaves experience, then there is no better term to use in the world than affectation. 

Using language in some type of way moves beyond the confines of genres to the policing of good and bad language, with good language being the child a good poem fosters.

However, there lies a bias in revealing that a poem resonates within you because it uses language in a way you can relate to. This bias then means that a poem can be elevated or dethroned based on the recognition of this shared experience. Not like it’s a bad thing though seeing that all art is elevation. 

In every form of art there is a judgement based on how language has been used. Even the idea of newness itself implies a tampering that often results to elevation. This newness is usuallynot in terms of experience but in language manipulation, how itdoes a new trick we have never seen before. So it is not wrong to affirm that language is both essential and vain within poetry. It is essential given its utility, and vain as a medium of art. 

In all, poetry should not be condemned for its pretentious nature, as even this cannot be helped. This fanciness goes deeperbeyond what language can do to how language happens. 

The biggest success story will be to write drab, unpretentious poetry in order to see what poetry can become without all that fanciness. 

Written for Arts Lounge by Jideofor Confidence.

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