At the moment I am reading a Dutch book containing essays about what is poetry, and what certainly is not. It is written by the provocative Ilja Leonard Pfeijffer, who uses his own poetry to illustrate his statements. For some reason, most things he says I agree with, especially when he shows the reader ‘prosaic poetry’, poems written by people who usually write stories, and how boring these kind of poems can be. According to Pfeijffer, poems have to be daring, contain suprising, unexpected turns and should not be quite easy to interpret.
Well, as a person who writes both poems and stories, I recognise the problems Pfeijffer discusses. I neither like poems that are simple, without any deep meaning or hidden message, but, on the other hand, I contend poems can also be a way to construct thoughts in a certain rhyme, and therefore a poem does not need to be complicated, or incomprehensible at first sight. Second, making a poem ambiguous requires a big vocabulary. For me personally becomes writing English poems rather a job of constructing thoughts than creating interesting, deep poems. Moreover, a good poem does not equal a poem that no one understands, neither does a prosaic poem equal a bad poem; the poet succeeded in writing a poem when there are people who appreciate his poem, read it all over again to hear the sound of the syllables, link the words with images, or recognise theirselves in the situations and characters.
In the same way a poem can be too much like a story, a story could also be too much like a poem. The problem is, a story written like a poem (with beautiful words, deep thoughts and weird sentences) reads like a story without any clue. A writer could use (or have) a certain unique style while writing his stories, but no matter how sophisticated his language may be, a story has to tell, (or ‘has to be told’ perhaps is a better expression), while a poem has to describe: you could choose to read it, remember it or tell other people about it. In a way I could say a story that only describes things the way they are or supposed to be, is a very long poem without any rhyme.
And I do not claim a story that only describes is a bad story, and a poem that tells you the truth is a bad poem: this is not an issue of right or wrong; it is all about definiton. High definition.