Does Poetry Need Meaning?

Photo provided by daniel flohr & stock.xchng

Photo provided by daniel flohr & stock.xchng

Do you write poetry? If so, why?

I’d never given much thought to this question until recently. I think I write poems as a form of expression. Poems are emotion whereas fiction uses emotion. Meaning in poetry, mine or that of others, is subjective. We all glean something different from the words of others.

Luke Bloomfield said, “If I suspect meaning is creeping into one of my poems, I’ll do whatever I can to squash it.” This disturbed me. I’d never considered writing without meaning. I’ve read a great deal of poetry, but my favorite poets are those that give meaning to themes.

As I’ve mentioned before, Edna St. Vincent Millay is among my favorite poets. Her poem, Theme and Variations, II is probably my all-time favorite poem. Her conversation with her heart makes the blood whoosh through my veins each time I read it.

What am I to do with a poem without meaning? For that matter, what am I to do with a poem with a meaning that I cannot grasp? If I push these works aside does that make me a snob? Does my lack of understanding reflect a shortcoming of education or intelligence?

Bloomfield teaches writing at UMass Amherst and Smith College. I’d love to sit in on his classes and absorb what he has to offer about poetry. Alas, Arkansas is a long way from Massachusetts. I guess I’ll continue to write poetry with meaning and hope I can convey that meaning through subtlety rather than bonking folks over the head.

What about you? Do you eschew meaning in poetry?

Bloomfield, Luke. “Poet to Poet: Spill it” The Writer Aug. 2013: 13-14.
  • Yeah, unless he intended something different than my interpretations, I’m going to have to disagree with Bloomfield! I think all art should hold meaning. And I adore that Edna St. Vincent Millay poem as well!

  • Yeah, unless he intended something different than my interpretations, I’m going to have to disagree with Bloomfield! I think all art should hold meaning. And I adore that Edna St. Vincent Millay poem as well!

  • mooderino

    I guess he means you shouldn’t try to force meaning into it, that the meaning will find its own way into what you write. Or something. Can’t say I’m a big fan of the more obtuse types of poetry (and there are some real humdingers out there).

    mood
    Moody Writing

    • You might be right. And I’m not a fan of those obtuse poems either. I’m also a little perplexed by stories that are passed off as poetry. I’ve read some poetry recently that seemed more like flash fiction. *shrugging shoulders* I’m not expert.

  • mooderino

    I guess he means you shouldn’t try to force meaning into it, that the meaning will find its own way into what you write. Or something. Can’t say I’m a big fan of the more obtuse types of poetry (and there are some real humdingers out there).

    mood
    Moody Writing

    • You might be right. And I’m not a fan of those obtuse poems either. I’m also a little perplexed by stories that are passed off as poetry. I’ve read some poetry recently that seemed more like flash fiction. *shrugging shoulders* I’m not expert.