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I never understood why people bother writing, or enjoy reading, poems that don't have strong rhythm and rhyme.

If you did the actual work of solving the constraint satisfaction problem of making syllable counts, stress, and rhyming words line up, in a way that simultaneously tells an engaging story -- well, that's a lot of work, and anyone can appreciate the achievement. And it tickles readers' neurons in a unique way. It's a respectable and unique form of literature.

If you don't want to bother with that, it seems like you can slap down any old vague, mystic-sounding words. And because you call it a poem, miraculously any nonsense becomes some inscrutable profundity.

I don't "get" it. And I have a sneaking suspicion that maybe nobody "gets" it. But a lot of people pretend to, because they don't want to seem like some anti-artistic philistine.






I think the premise of art as a constraint satisfaction problem is probably incompatible with "getting it", at least in as much as there's anything to get that can't be got by import scipy.optimize

In any field where people achieve mastery, technical excellence eventually stops being the point. I'm sure rhyming must have seemed like a real achievement back when the first proto-poets crawled out of the word ooze. The thing is, it's not actually that hard. Are you telling me that if you worked as a professional word rhymer for a year, ten years, fifty years, we wouldn't eventually start to hear the fatigue in your rendition of "there once was a man from Nantucket", even as you nail every last amphibrach with laserlike precision? When rhyming gets boring, you look for something more advanced. What does that look like?

If you draw the vector from writing to rhyming, it points in the direction of "creating meaning with form". You can say "I have social anxiety" – that's meaning in content. You can also say "They hate me they hate me they hate me they hate me they hate me they hate me they hate me they hate me they hate me" – that's meaning in form. Much like the rhythm and structure of a song can convey meaning not present in its lyrics, so too can the rhythm and structure of words. As you follow that vector upwards, the structure starts to become pretty obscure, but that's just what it looks like when the masters get bored.

If it helps, people make the same complaints about free jazz, abstract art, and tool-assisted speedrunning. I don't think it makes you a philistine, but I do suspect that you took "I don't enjoy this because I don't understand it" as a cue for judgement rather than curiosity, which seems like a bit of a missed opportunity.

I quite like this article, about a juggler who got too good: https://grantland.com/features/anthony-gatto-juggling-cirque... – I think it gives some insight on why technical excellence isn't enough to create meaning

And if you want some abstract art that's a little closer to home, I found this a while back and I think it's beautiful: http://code-poetry.com/ – it takes some analysis to "get" how the output, the code and the words all relate to the meaning of each piece, but I think the effort is worth it. chernobyl and clock_in_clock out in particular really hit me.


I try not to think of it like a work is something you can only “get” or “not get”. The ability for a work to stay with you and become a vehicle for the growth of your own ideas is the important part, even if it’s via an interpretation the creator never intended.



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