Poetry Writing as Pretention

I don’t claim to write poetry. That would be far too pretentious.

Did I get your attention? Those aren’t my words, by the way. They were spoken two years ago, in a talk on prayer at the Inclusive Church, by Dr. Steven Shakespeare of Liverpool Hope University.

In the context of the speech, those are almost throw-away words. He just tosses them out there, and goes on to discuss the similarities of poetry and prayer. But I want to go back to those words.

I don’t claim to write poetry. That would be far too pretentious.

Pretentious? I believe that anyone can, and should, write poetry. Poetry is about turning words into art, into music, adding rhythm and rhyme to our ordinary words and watching them dance.

That seems a far cry from being pretentious as I would define it.

Merriam-Webster defines pretentious as:

1. characterized by pretension: as
a : making usually unjustified or excessive claims (as of value or standing)
b : expressive of affected, unwarranted, or exaggerated importance, worth, or stature
2 : making demands on one’s skill, ability, or means : ambitious

Now, I would ordinarily use definition 1 a or b if I were to use pretentious in a sentence. I suppose it possible that Dr. Shakespeare intended to use definition 2, meaning only that writing poetry is an ambitious undertaking, not one exaggerating one’s importance.

I will agree that writing poetry is ambitious, but I do not think it an act of exaggerated importance to write poetry. I think it a necessary act, a way of relating to the world and seeing the world that cannot be captured in any other way, not even through the writing of prose.

It is only in expecting that one is writing good poetry that one becomes pretentious.

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  1. Wow that was unusual. I just wrote an very long comment but after I clicked submit my comment didn’t show up. Grrrr… well I’m not writing all that over again. Anyhow, just wanted to say excellent blog!

    • Comment moderation is turned on for this blog. The blog admin must approve comments by first-time commenters for this blog. Thanks.

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