Vile poetry virtuous poetry for which my mind aches and soul groans lol
February 22, 2011 9:52 AM   Subscribe

Poetry that's not emotion based?

I don't know if this is possible, but after sampling a few groan-tastic poetry books, I'm wondering if there is some poetry out there written for the likes of me?

Stuff a little more authoritative, fact based, cerebral, insightful.

Sure, there is plenty of 'insightful' poetry out there, but it seems to revolve around just seeing things through the drug or depression induced perspective of some whiny piner. Ok, I'm being glib, but I think you know what I mean.

Also not interested in a bunch of random words. Sure, associating disparate concepts can be interesting, but pretty routine for anyone with an imagination.
posted by parallax7d to Media & Arts (33 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
Ode to Spot
Felis catus is your taxonomic nomenclature,
An endothermic quadruped, carnivorous by nature;
Your visual, olfactory, and auditory senses
Contribute to your hunting skills and natural defenses.

I find myself intrigued by your subvocal oscillations,
A singular development of cat communications
That obviates your basic hedonistic predilection
For a rhythmic stroking of your fur to demonstrate affection.

A tail is quite essential for your acrobatic talents;
You would not be so agile if you lacked its counterbalance.
And when not being utilized to aid in locomotion,
It often serves to illustrate the state of your emotion.

O Spot, the complex levels of behavior you display
Connote a fairly well-developed cognitive array.
And though you are not sentient, Spot, and do not comprehend,
I nonetheless consider you a true and valued friend.

- Data, Star Trek: The Next Generation

Not insightful, but fact based and cerebral, in my opinion.
posted by royalsong at 9:56 AM on February 22, 2011 [8 favorites]

The Sciences Sing a Lullabye
by Albert Goldbarth

Physics says: go to sleep. Of course
you're tired. Every atom in you
has been dancing the shimmy in silver shoes
nonstop from mitosis to now.
Quit tapping your feet. They'll dance
inside themselves without you. Go to sleep.

Geology says: it will be all right. Slow inch
by inch America is giving itself
to the ocean. Go to sleep. Let darkness
lap at your sides. Give darkness an inch.
You aren't alone. All of the continents used to be
one body. You aren't alone. Go to sleep.

Astronomy says: the sun will rise tomorrow,
Zoology says: on rainbow-fish and lithe gazelle,
Psychology says: but first it has to be night, so
Biology says: the body-clocks are stopped all over town
History says: here are the blankets, layer on layer, down and down.
posted by rabbitsnake at 9:59 AM on February 22, 2011 [11 favorites]

It would possibly help if we knew what counted as "groantastic."

And are you looking for different styles? Different topics? Is it that all love poems are bad because you don't want to read about feelings, or that you've been reading crap love poems?

T.S. Eliot is pretty cerebral. There are poetic movements that are about describing factual THINGS. But usually one of the points of poetry is to evoke an emotion.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:01 AM on February 22, 2011

The Old Astronomer to His Pupil is pretty facty, but it's still evoking emotion.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:02 AM on February 22, 2011

First, check out Wallace Stevens. He is about the most cerebral poet I can think of, and he does amazing things with logic and rhetoric in his poems, though they're not EASY poems, so you'll want to devote some time and energy to reading them.

Don't know what you're reading now (Jewel?) but if you look at some of the work of early 20th-century poets, you might find that rewarding. If you want to look at later work, from this century, New Formalists will probably be more up your alley, I think.

Elizabeth Bishop
Robert Lowell
Robert Frost
W. C. Williams
W. B. Yeats
Emily Dickinson
Gerard Manley Hopkins
Ezra Pound
posted by Spinneret at 10:03 AM on February 22, 2011

Traditional Japanese haiku concern themselves mostly with the natural world, although this is not a requirement.
posted by tommasz at 10:04 AM on February 22, 2011

Sure, there is plenty of 'insightful' poetry out there, but it seems to revolve around just seeing things through the drug or depression induced perspective of some whiny piner. Ok, I'm being glib, but I think you know what I mean.

Honestly, I don't. Sure, there's that type of poetry, but there's plenty of other very good stuff. What groantastic poetry books have you tried? Knowing that would help people narrow down some better selections for you.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:05 AM on February 22, 2011 [2 favorites]

Dante is about as cerebral as it gets where poetry is concerned. Read Dante if you want brilliant poetry that is about socio-political commentary, criticism against religious and political leaders, and attempts to elevate the masses politically and culturally through the use of common language.

Shakespeare is also quite good. I highly recommend reading his stuff.
posted by The World Famous at 10:09 AM on February 22, 2011

Do you want a cerebral approach to poetry, or cerebral content*? If you're interested in the former, try the Objectivists (such as George Oppen) and/or the Language Poets (such as Lyn Hejinian and Michael Palmer). If you prefer the latter, people have made some good suggestions upthread.

*Yes, I know that the two can't be so easily separated, and no, I'm not implying that Eliot, Stevens, etc. were any less cerebral than the people I'm suggesting. Just throwing out some more ideas is all.
posted by chicainthecity at 10:14 AM on February 22, 2011

Robert Browning is worth a shot.
posted by steambadger at 10:19 AM on February 22, 2011

Mary Oliver's poetry revolves around the natural world, and The Summer Day has always been one of my favorites, if you want to try her out.

You also might just try exploring at someplace like The Poetry Foundation, where you should be able to find lots of poetry to suit every taste.
posted by ldthomps at 10:20 AM on February 22, 2011

If gravity were like weather,
fickle, girdling the planet
in waves and pockets, there would
be days on which we could not move.
We would lie helpless, strapped
to the slowly turning earth.
For hours at a time we would consider
the nature of such an existence,
its underpinnings, its weights.

Bruce Boston
posted by cashman at 10:27 AM on February 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

Jack Spicer.
posted by Joe Beese at 10:28 AM on February 22, 2011

Ok, I'm being glib, but I think you know what I mean.

No, seriously, I don't. All poetry, or at least all poetry that rises above the level of the worst forms of art-as-therapy, is a product of the intellect. This is even true of the Romantics, one of whose formula for poetry was "emotion recollected in tranqullity" — even here the definition centers on the act of recollection, the contemplative attempt to reactivate the emotional experience, rather than some false sense that poetry is just a bunch of emotions transparently vomited out onto the page. You asked for "authoritative, fact based, cerebral, insightful" poetry, but all poetry is cerebral, and I can't tell what the rest of those words mean to you. They don't communicate any objective set of aesthetic criteria, anyhow. Can you try to clarify what you actually want here?

In the absence of clarification, anyhow, here are some suggestions: you should read some Philip Levine and some Alan Dugan (because everyone should). Based on your weird remark about "random words" I am guessing the Language poets and their ilk are not going to be your cup of tea, though they'd otherwise be the first stop on any list of poets who view poetry as a pure product of the intellect; but maybe Charles Olson would be worth a look anyhow?
posted by RogerB at 10:29 AM on February 22, 2011 [6 favorites]

You might make friends with Alexander Pope.
posted by Orinda at 11:07 AM on February 22, 2011

Raymond DiZazzo:

On the Speed of Sight


that being human
we are much too fast
for the sight of plants

that flowers see
at the speed of blooming

grass in movements
of an inch per week

and snails are--
even to the fastest roses--
scarcely visible shots of light.

Sequoia then and oak
see the slowest watching
as the granite slopes

grow like teeth
and the constellations

lose their form
posted by cashman at 11:14 AM on February 22, 2011 [5 favorites]

Maybe Marianne Moore?
posted by bibliophibianj at 11:37 AM on February 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

Maybe Marianne Moore?

From the start of Poetry:
I, too, dislike it: there are things that are important beyond
     all this fiddle.
  Reading it, however, with a perfect contempt for it, one
     discovers in
   it after all, a place for the genuine. ...
posted by en forme de poire at 11:54 AM on February 22, 2011

posted by en forme de poire at 11:55 AM on February 22, 2011

Come, let us hasten to a higher plane,
Where dyads tread the fairy fields of Venn,
Their indices bedecked from one to n,
Commingled in an endless Markov chain!
Come, every frustum longs to be a cone,
And every vector dreams of matrices.
Hark to the gentle gradient of the breeze:
It whispers of a more ergodic zone.

In Riemann, Hilbert or in Banach space
Let superscripts and subscripts go their ways.
Our asymptotes no longer out of phase,
We shall encounter, counting, face to face.

I'll grant thee random access to my heart,
Thou'lt tell me all the constants of thy love;
And so we two shall all love's lemmas prove,
And in our bound partition never part.

For what did Cauchy know, or Christoffel,
Or Fourier, or any Boole or Euler,
Wielding their compasses, their pens and rulers,
Of thy supernal sinusoidal spell?

Cancel me not -- for what then shall remain?
Abscissas, some mantissas, modules, modes,
A root or two, a torus and a node:
The inverse of my verse, a null domain.

Ellipse of bliss, converse, O lips divine!
The product of our scalars is defined!
Cyberiad draws nigh, and the skew mind
cuts capers like a happy haversine.

I see the eigenvalue in thine eye,
I hear the tender tensor in thy sigh.
Bernoulli would have been content to die,
Had he but known such a squared cosine 2 phi!

--from Stanislaw Lem's The Cyberiad, translated by Michael Kandel
posted by IjonTichy at 12:38 PM on February 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

Man oh man, do I love the poetry of David Berman.

The Charm of 5:30.
Classic Water.
posted by mykescipark at 12:43 PM on February 22, 2011

John Ashbery's Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror.
posted by dosterm at 1:24 PM on February 22, 2011

Yusef Komunyakaa's Dien Cai Dau.
posted by dosterm at 1:40 PM on February 22, 2011

Nine out of ten of the poems you've ever seen in your life are probably lyric -- in broad terms, that means touchy-feely, very concerned with how the author is feeling or thinking or sensing things. And of those, a majority were probably confessional lyric, which it sounds like you definitely don't like. Confessional lyric is the dominant poetic mode of the 20th century, but it is by no means the only kind of poetry! Try steering away from lyric and discover some of the other poetic modes -- for instance, epic, satirical, and narrative poetry might all be more up your alley.

Here's a (scattershot) starting place, a broad mix of non-lyric suggestions that I personally like:

Ovid, Metamorphoses
Alexander Pope, Rape of the Lock
William Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell
Ezra Pound, Cantos
Muriel Rukeyser, The Book of the Dead (you can find it in this Collected Poems volume). It's one of my favorites, an"...experimental fusion of poetry with nonliterary languages drawn from journalism, Congressional hearings, biography, and personal interviews," which documented the struggle of miners struggling against Union Carbide at the Gauley Junction tunnel. In other words, it's documentary poetry -- factual, insightful and very powerful.

Try those and see if you have additional preferences that you can follow further. Do you prefer satire? Do you have an allergy to poems written in a certain time period? See what you like and keep going.

If you do want to keep throwing yourself at lyric poetry, try poets who are more formal, intellectual, or emotionally restrained. I'm thinking W.S. Auden and John Donne, or Emily Dickenson, for instance.

YMMV, but I hope you have fun looking!
posted by ourobouros at 2:51 PM on February 22, 2011

As others have said, it's not exactly clear what you mean by cerebral, but I suspect that no matter how you're defining it, the works of the Oulipian poets would have to qualify, though you might not think they make much sense.

Try Jacques Roubaud (though not so much Something Black as Exchanges in Light) or Georges Perec.

Or, while I'm throwing the French at you, Francis Ponge.

I do find myself wondering (and here I'm genuinely not trying to be snide though I don't know how to ask this without seeming that way) what you want to get out of reading poetry. Why are you trying to read poetry in the first place? Is there poetry that you like? What led you to this experiment in poetry-reading?

If you can figure out the answers to those questions, you might be able to frame a request for recommendations in a way that would be more productive, because it would allow people who know more about poetry to have a better sense of what you do want, rather than just a sense of what's not going to work. Nobody's going to read your question and think "Oh! Anne Sexton would be perfect for parallax7d!" but you've probably noticed that the answers you're getting are incredibly broad-ranging. As RogerB so wisely noted, what your question lacks is exactly the same thing it desperately needs: aesthetic criteria. Do you like things that rhyme? Do you like narratives? When you say you like things that are "fact-based," do you mean historical fact or scientific fact or what? How do you want that "fact" to fit into the structure of the poem?
posted by dizziest at 3:33 PM on February 22, 2011

Pretty much anything by Ogden Nash is not.

But I was inspired to answer because of a very nerdish case. Back when the DVD CSS algorithm got cracked, the industry tried to use the recently-passed DMCA to prevent all dissemination of information about the algorithm.

In response, some nerds looked for ways to spread the algorithm around, ways which they thought a court would consider protected by the First Amendment. Things like selling T-shirts with the algorithm printed on them (it wasn't very complicated). Someone figured out a prime number which, if converted to hexadecimal and entered into a file, could then be renamed as a .zip and it would unpack into a decryption utility. There were a bunch of things like that.

One of the cooler ones was a poem which explained the algorithm in verse. It's actually a long sequence of haikus. It begins with a description of the law and the political situation, and then proceeds to the algorithm itself.

The upshot of all of this was that the algorithm probably spread farther and faster because of the attempts to suppress it than would have happened if the industry had ignored the whole thing. An early example of the Streisand Effect.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 5:30 PM on February 22, 2011

On the Matter of Thermal Packing, by J.H. Prynne. That's from 1969. He's gotten more abstract, more musical (to me anyway), as he's gotten older.

Hot White Andy, by Keston Sutherland. This is just the first part, but you can find the rest pretty easily. It always blows me away when I listen to it--it's even better if you have the text and follow along.

authoritative, fact based, cerebral,...yes
insightful...that's always the question, isn't it?
posted by hototogisu at 6:18 PM on February 22, 2011

Full of life now, compact, visible,
I, forty years old the eighty-third year of the States,
To one a century hence or any number of centuries hence,
To you yet unborn these, seeking you.

When you read these I that was visible am become invisible,
Now it is you, compact, visible, realizing my poems,
seeking me,
Fancying how happy you were if I could be with you and
become your comrade;
Be it as if I were with you. (Be not too certain but I am now
with you.)

-Walt Whitman
posted by unknowncommand at 9:04 PM on February 22, 2011

At the California Institute of Technology by Richard Brautigan, written while he was CalTech's poet-in-residence.
posted by you're a kitty! at 9:32 PM on February 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

Go to a bookstore with a poetry section and browse.

Try to get a recommendation for a bookstore with a nice poetry section, else you might just end up browsing sucky books. Maybe some Portland (?) mefites can help.
posted by bleary at 9:33 PM on February 23, 2011

Head transplants and Szymborska’s Experiment, a mindhacks blog post on a poem by Wisłava Szymborska.

also try View with a grain of sand and see if you would like more.
posted by bleary at 9:45 PM on February 23, 2011

Mark Strand writes in a somewhat aloof style. Blizzard of One is a very good, short book of his poems (and a Pulitzer prize-winner to boot).
posted by missix at 10:46 AM on February 24, 2011

You may want to try the Craig Dworkin and Kenneth Goldsmith edited anthology, Against Expression What I really like about it is that the two opening introductions contextualize the poetry in the volume while the anthology has nice, succinct descriptions of the poetry as well. An excellent introduction to cereberal poetry. Along with that, if you can't wait for the book, try the conceptual writing pages over at ubu web HERE or the contemporary section HERE
posted by Dauus at 5:59 PM on May 3, 2011

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