The Instigator
hamletswords
Pro (for)
Losing
15 Points
The Contender
renegade_rightie
Con (against)
Winning
48 Points

Poetry is nothing except underdeveloped fiction.

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 12/22/2007 Category: Arts
Updated: 9 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 5,674 times Debate No: 807
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (11)
Votes (21)

 

hamletswords

Pro

Good fiction (short stories, novels, any kind of story-telling, really) conveys philosophical, personal, emotional, historical and educational concepts. It also provides these within a framework of a story, which immerses the reader in the concepts in a way that would otherwise be impossible.

Poetry, especially modern poetry, conveys some of the same concepts but it does so in a much shorter and often formless way. Often, it conveys nothing at all.

I submit that people who write and read poetry instead of fiction are lazy.

The poetry writers throw out some phrases or words which do not even have to rhyme or follow any structure at all, and the readers thank them because this means they can "fill in the blanks" with their own concepts.

It's easy for both, safe for the world-views of both, and it accomplishes nothing. Nothing was actually communicated, because the interpretation is from the reader himself. The reader could get the same kind of inspiration from looking at a rock. Probably more inspiration, honestly.

Poetry can be fun if you just want to throw something out there really quick and fun to read if you're not looking to learn anything or be challenged (other than the occasional artless "poetic shock attempt"- i.e. "I want to kiss George W. Bush" or something along those lines).

But it stands that poetry is still just underdeveloped (and vastly underdeveloped, at that) fiction. Any poem could be turned into a story with some talent and effort, and it would gain meaning for it.

Ernest Hemingway did one better. He used all the advantages of the story to truly convey meaning, but he left just enough ambiguity so the reader could make the stories a little more personal (by "filling in the blanks").

That's a tricky feat to pull off, and I've seen anyone else able to do it. If you can't do that, surely it's better to go with "straight" fiction. After all, if you have no specific meaning you want to impart, what is the point of writing anything at all?
renegade_rightie

Con

While I'm not a huge fan of poetry, I think many of your claims are a little over the top. To say that poetry is incapable of conveying things like philosophy or emotion is a little out there. I can think of plenty of poems that are deeply philosophical (Robert Frost's "Mending Wall" is a personal favorite) and convey philosophical concepts much more effectively through succinct length and structure than many 500 pg. novels can. You can't possibly make the case that poetry is incapable of emotion. Poetry is largely emotional by nature. It conveys emotion much differently than literature, but that doesn't make it less valid.

In some cases, a poem is better able to convey philosophical, educational, emotional, spiritual, etc. concepts because it is shorter, and its structure is carefully tailored to promote such understanding. Through careful word choice and arrangement of lines, it draws attention to particular emotive words which one would normally just gloss over if it was in a long and involved story. Individual have much more efficacy when part of a 10-line poem than they do in a 500 page novel.

I would probably have to agree with you that it is easier to write a poem than a longer piece of literature, but this doesn't make poetry any less valid. In fact, I think it speaks to the power of poetry that it is capable of conveying some emotional/philosophical concepts in a more compact, accessible manner. Not to mention, a poem can stick with you much longer than a novel, simply because of the way it's set up; you can memorize a 20-line poem and have it stick with you for life, or you can read a long piece of literature and only remember broad concepts or a few individual sentences out of hundreds of thousands. If you can get the same understanding from a short poem as you can from a long novel, it speaks to the power of poetry.

The odd thing is, I always despised poetry when studying it in high school. Now that I'm in college though, I think I can bring myself to defend it more easily once I've come to understand it better.
Debate Round No. 1
hamletswords

Pro

///To say that poetry is incapable of conveying things like philosophy or emotion is a little out there.///

I never said it was incapable of conveying the concepts.

///You can't possibly make the case that poetry is incapable of emotion.///

I didn't.

///Robert Frost's "Mending Wall" is a personal favorite///

That's an interesting choice because I would call Mending Wall a story rather than a poem. An allegorical story, but story-telling nonetheless. There are characters and interaction and scene. These elements convey the meaning well, don't they?

///Poetry is largely emotional by nature.///

I'd say that poetry is largely personal by nature. The problem is that the personal meaning intended by the author and the personal meaning received by the reader are often different.

///In some cases, a poem is better able to convey philosophical, educational, emotional, spiritual, etc. concepts because it is shorter, and its structure is carefully tailored to promote such understanding.///

I don't understand how a piece of writing could better convey concepts because it is shorter. I would think that the longer one is exposed to a concept, the more completely it would be conveyed.

///Through careful word choice and arrangement of lines, it draws attention to particular emotive words which one would normally just gloss over if it was in a long and involved story. Individual have much more efficacy when part of a 10-line poem than they do in a 500 page novel.///

What I find is it tends to artificially infuse meaning into words simply because there are less of them. That doesn't mean the words actually have any more meaning. They're the same words if they're in a poem or a novel.

///In fact, I think it speaks to the power of poetry that it is capable of conveying some emotional/philosophical concepts in a more compact, accessible manner.///

If it was able to communicate the same concepts as well, that would indeed speak to the power of poetry.

However, I don't believe poetry can. If you do, you should provide some reason other than your assertion that it does.

My assertion that story-telling conveys the concepts better is based on the reason that there is no substitute for the total immersion quality of a novel. By becoming involved in the narrative, the concepts naturally impact you more.

///Not to mention, a poem can stick with you much longer than a novel, simply because of the way it's set up; you can memorize a 20-line poem and have it stick with you for life, or you can read a long piece of literature and only remember broad concepts or a few individual sentences out of hundreds of thousands.///

Quotes are even easier to memorize and "stick with you". I guess quotes are better than poetry, if this is the criteria to judge value.

I'm thinking maybe you just haven't read many good novels, because I have about 50 that stick with me in ways that a million poems couldn't touch.
renegade_rightie

Con

Your argument is largely an attempt to discredit poetry as an art form altogether. You argue that poetry is inferior to literature, that anyone who reads it must be lazy, and that it has no merit to the English language. However, you've given little evidence to suggest that the difference between poetry and literature is anything more than personal preference.

Poetry and literature are almost too dissimilar to be compared in such a manner. Each has its merits and disadvantages, and each accomplishes things that the other cannot. Poetry and literature occupy separate spheres, and thus it is inaccurate to say that poetry is a lesser-developed form of fiction.

I'd be curious to hear your arguments regarding epic poetry. The Iliad, for example, is elevated far above much of the fiction published today. It must contain some merit, or else it wouldn't have survived 2,500 years of changing human culture. It's longer than many works of fiction you could find, the language is highly challenging, and it conveys all the things which you claim fiction alone can convey--philosophy, emotion, education. It is one of the most influential works ever written. I guarantee that of all those authors who wrote all those classic novels which you hold in highest regards, 9 out of 10 would claim to have studied Homer, Vergil, Ovid or any of the epic poets of antiquity. But works like the Iliad and the Aeneid which influenced countless thousands of fiction writers since their publication were POEMS.

If poetry is so inferior as you claim, how can poems like these have had such a lasting influence on Western literature and culture?
Debate Round No. 2
hamletswords

Pro

The Iliad is yet another narrative poem. It's a story. It, like literature, includes the effective elements of story, character and scene.

My initial argument specifically mentioned "modern poetry" conveying concepts in "short" and "often formless" ways, and you're countering with narrative classic poems.

///Your argument is largely an attempt to discredit poetry as an art form altogether. You argue that poetry is inferior to literature, that anyone who reads it must be lazy, and that it has no merit to the English language.///

I never once said poetry was useless and certainly not "without merit to the English language." If the word "underdeveloped" strikes you as so incredibly negative, I suggest that's a personal issue uninvolved with the debate topic (zing!).

But seriously, if everyone wrote stuff like Frost, Homer or Shakespeare, I would say that straight literature is underdeveloped poetic literature. As it stands, the majority of poetry, especially poetry written, say, within the last 50 years, is far too abstract in general to convey concepts as well as a narrative form.

Even my favorite poem, the Desiderata, could've been enhanced if placed within a story structure. If that had happened, both would have merit. But the narrative Desiderata would be more developed, and would be capable of conveying the message in many more ways through immersion into the narrative.

///Poetry and literature are almost too dissimilar to be compared in such a manner. Each has its merits and disadvantages, and each accomplishes things that the other cannot. Poetry and literature occupy separate spheres, and thus it is inaccurate to say that poetry is a lesser-developed form of fiction.///

They're not too dissimilar. They're both creative writing intended to convey concepts. If we had more than 3 rounds, I would challenge you to present me with an abstract poem and I guarantee I could turn it into a superior short story.

***

Bottom line:

Narrative structure is a time-worn method and proven to be an extremely effective structure to convey concepts. Anything you can say in a poem, you can fit into the structure and it would be enhanced.

Just ask Homer.
renegade_rightie

Con

"Even my favorite poem, the Desiderata, could've been enhanced if placed within a story structure. If that had happened, both would have merit. But the narrative Desiderata would be more developed, and would be capable of conveying the message in many more ways through immersion into the narrative."

Please do. Desiderata, or anything else. Take a poem and put it into narrative structure. Voters can decide which one is more effective.
Debate Round No. 3
11 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by mehnazs 3 years ago
mehnazs
Fiction is nothing but over-developed poetry.
Posted by pricillaann 9 years ago
pricillaann
*insinuated is the first word instead of "insulted".
Posted by pricillaann 9 years ago
pricillaann
You keep contradicting yourself. Maybe you didn't right out say, "I don't like poetry," but you insulted it many times.

"I submit that people who write and read poetry instead of fiction are lazy. / ...The reader could get the same kind of inspiration from looking at a rock. Probably more inspiration, honestly."

I fail to see how that isn't negatively looking at poetry. I suppose I shouldn't have jumped to the completely off assumption that you prefer fiction over poetry. You know, despite that fact that almost everything you said insinuates that.

And if underdeveloped doesn't mean worse, then what does this mean: "Anything you can say in a poem, you can fit into the structure and it would be enhanced." You insinuate throughout the entire debate that poetry put in a narrative form would be BETTER. Enhanced. That certainly seems then that it means worse, or something close to it.

The thing is, you mixed up what the debate was even about. The subject is simply that poetry is underdeveloped fiction. You say that's not even controversial, and maybe it is not. But, in your opening statement you speak negatively of poetry and say, "Any poem could be turned into a story with some talent and effort, and it would gain meaning for it." This is what was being argued, this is what I disagree with. In your last comment you're acting as if you never said those things and appearing as if the one-sentence topic is the only thing you were arguing at all. If you were really only arguing that, and you say it's not controversial, why start this debate?
Posted by hamletswords 9 years ago
hamletswords
///Again, you as a person prefer fiction over poetry.///

Why do you keep telling me I said that when I haven't said it once?

Obviously, you've got some bone up your butt for poetry if you read everything I said and summarize it by saying "You like fiction more than poetry."

I'm not talking about personal preference. If anything, you seem to be projecting your personal preference by saying that I'm talking about personal preference.

For the record, underdeveloped doesn't necessarily mean "worse" to me. I like punk music. I like all kinds of bare-bones art-forms.

As for your artsy friends, I really doubt they don't like any movies or TV shows or stories, and I think you may be surprised at how many abstract things I personally appreciate.

The narrative form is hardwired into people's brains. It's a fundamental way we communicate.

By the way, abstract art is nothing but underdeveloped classical art, and I love Dali and Duchamp.

The fact of the matter is, my argument is not controversial. The only way you can make it contestable is by saying "Oh, well you just don't like poetry," which I've never said once in this debate, and has nothing to do with the debate.

Poetry is by definition less developed because it lacks the requirement to conform to a narrative structure.

Now, the less developed a work of art is, the more room there is for viewer/reader interpretation. This could be desirable, but often, I feel, it's used as an excuse for the artist to let the viewer/reader do the work.

As for the aesthetic value of playing with words, I rarely find it having any kind of profound effect. Usually when reading poems like that, I say, "Ah, that was clever." It's like a joke or something- not exactly venerable art.
Posted by pricillaann 9 years ago
pricillaann
Again, you as a person prefer fiction over poetry. You didn't even answer to when I discussed the aesthetic (purely) aspect of poetry over the desire to communicate a direct idea or story. If something is protrayed completely or mostly through the aesthetic aspect, meaning playing with the words, then transferring it into narrative would make it less effective because it'd be using a different vehicle, one the author didn't intend.

Also, not everyone watches TV and movies instead of art. That doesn't make any sense. You're talking about the general population. I know many a people that would rather drool over abstract art, or go to a museum than sit down and watch even the most upheld TV show. You're speaking for yourself mainly, other people as well, but you can't possibly speak for everyone. Therefore there is nothing to debate. You're merely proving what you think, which you don't really have to. We'll believe you if you just say it.
Posted by hamletswords 9 years ago
hamletswords
I don't understand how I lost this debate considering my points were never contested.

I did lose the debate that "poetry sucks", but I wasn't participating in that one.

I can see how everyone missed my main point considering I only stated it like 3 times a few different ways as plainly as possible:

Fiction has a definite structure. The structure serves to engage the reader. A poem doesn't have to have a structure.

I argue that if you stick the ideas of a poem into the structure of a narrative, it will improve by the nature of the structure itself.

There's a reason we watch stories on TV and in movies instead of abstract pictures and words- it works. It works with the way our brains are set up.

There's a reason we often communicate by telling stories of what we did in the past.

Walking a mile in someone's shoes has a profound effect.

"Walk a mile
Turn the dial
The livingroom blues." - this doesn't have a profound effect.

As for turning the Desiderata into a short story, that turned out to be very difficult.

I did write a poem, though:

It goes:

Washing your brain
Flossing your brain
Rinsing out your brainpan every once in awhile
Posted by pricillaann 9 years ago
pricillaann
Oh, I just thought of this concept that someone (for the life of me I can't remember who) introduced. It was the idea that the form of something changes its intent. A geometry classroom is intended to teach. A photograph of the classroom would be for something entirely different.

I do believe the intent of poetry and fiction is different for the most part, or at least mainstream fiction definitely. I certainly like this from Wikipedia: "Poetry is a form of art in which language is used for its aesthetic and evocative qualities in addition to, or in lieu of, its ostensible meaning."

It provides a good point: that poetry doesn't always have a meaning, it's the beauty of the words and language.

Now, obviously there are so many different style in writing that fiction and prose against verse can melt into each other. I might argue that Lolita is like one long prose poem because of the language. However, some cummings poems are so flirty in their language that it could never read like a story (it's playing too much with the words) and if did read as a story, would lose its aesthetic purpose. Most fiction reads much simpler, less attempts and playing with words and more of making it clear for a story. But again, this isn't always true. However, I couldn't imagine some of my favorite poems being turned into short fiction and being more powerful. It seems like they'd be watered down.

Especially now considering Hemingway's Iceberg theory. What if the author of a poem is writing up the barest of information in accordance to that thought? Any more would ruin the story or the reader's view? Then, cutting it into verse for aesthetic effect. A poem, right? Completely valid in its form.
Posted by pricillaann 9 years ago
pricillaann
Is any poem then that tells a story, however short, not a "poem" in your sense of the word in this debate?

Honestly, I think you're merely stating an opinion, that you don't like poetry. Or I suppose that you don't benefit from it, but how do you know that everyone else doesn't?

Do you honestly thing people such as Sylvia Plath, ee cummings, Allen Ginsberg, etc. were not artists in any sense? Do you think they were not talented?

Through most of this debate, I'm getting confused as to what you're actually arguing. You say poetry is capable of conveying concepts and emotions (in response, round two) and isn't that all that's really necessary for a poem to be valid? I think there are many poems that, given to separate people, would get a similar response. Do you really think a poem spread amongst people would illicit many different responses? Even if it did, the poem itself still influenced that feeling, and if the reader likes the feeling (or at least felt it strongly), isn't, again, the poem valid?
Posted by Miserlou 9 years ago
Miserlou
Speaking as someone who writes prose but occasionally poetry, poems may in general be easier to write than a novel, but good poetry is just as hard. A good poet will convey their message artfully without being too ambiguous or hard to read. Novelists are able to be more literal and blunt.

Telling a story is easiest with prose, but poems are perfect for conveying emotions that don't necessarily have an astounding plot attached to them. And I think to say that poets and poetry fans are lazy is silly- just because a novel takes longer to read and write doesn't make it better.
Posted by hamletswords 9 years ago
hamletswords
///"Even my favorite poem, the Desiderata, could've been enhanced if placed within a story structure. If that had happened, both would have merit. But the narrative Desiderata would be more developed, and would be capable of conveying the message in many more ways through immersion into the narrative."//

/Please do. Desiderata, or anything else. Take a poem and put it into narrative structure. Voters can decide which one is more effective.///

OK, challenge accepted, because:

A. I believe in the principle

B. I have too much time on my hands and need a project anyway.

Give me a few days, and I'll make a new debate citing the original poem and the short story, arguing that the short story conveys the concepts of the poem better.
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