The Message Communicated

Following up last week’s post on poetry, this week I have a second question that is raised in David Kirby’s NY Times piece.

Kirby writes about his interactions with teachers that use his poetry in the classroom. He states, “The teachers thought that my poem said one thing but meant another, and that it’s the reader’s job to figure out what the poet is really saying. No wonder poetry doesn’t have a bigger audience. All that code cracking. Who has the time?“

This reminds me of one of the questions I asked scrapbookers when doing my dissertation research. I asked them:
“On your scrapbook pages, how do you make sure the viewer gets the same message from the page that you intend? For example, if somebody were to look at your album in a hundred years, how do you arrange the page to make sure the viewer receives the message you want him or her to receive? What role does journaling and titles play?”

I followed this up by actually reviewing a selection of their layouts with one of their family members or friends. What I found is that most scrapbookers don’t care if anyone else really understands the story. What other viewers understand may or may not be the same story. Might poetry be like scrapbooking? Perhaps there really is no code to crack. You either get it or you don’t. What do you think? Do you care if other people understand the story you are sharing in your scrapbook? Do you care?

Feel free to share below in the comments section or join the conversation on twitter or facebook.


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  • Since I’m currently working on my dissertation surrounding the creation of poems that are inviting to readers, I thought I’d share my two cents. 🙂

    I think that are many poets who feel that poems are too important to be understood by everyone, so they intentionally write poems that aren’t easy to decipher. And some of those same poets complain that poetry is seen as a dying art, but still wonder why. If it is too hard to understand, why would the majority of people want to read it? My theory is that poets should have a variety of work from easy-to-understand to more complex. If you draw people in with poems that are accessible and friendly, you will capture a reader’s attention and then get them to stick around for the poems that are written in a less-welcoming manner and are harder to understand.

    I think that there are also many poets out there who want to tell stories with their poems and in that respect, are like scrapbookers. On the scrap side, I think that there are scrapbookers who want to tell stories, and those who want to create artsy pages… and then there are those who mix both. I guess there are times when I visit galleries, I am not sure what a layout might mean to someone, but am taken by the design, composition or colors. Other times the story is more obvious by the detailed journaling.

    Personally, when I scrap, I don’t necessarily care about the story, which is ironic since I am a writer and want my poems to tell stories. 😀

    I think that it is interesting to think about, and maybe I need to focus on that moving forward. Am I scrapping for future generations so they can understand who came before them, or am I just doing it for myself? Hmmmm.

  • Thanks for commenting! Good luck with the dissertation. Maybe you don’t care if your scrapbooks tells stories because you do that in your poetry? I go back and forth. I want my scrapbooks to tell stories, but sometimes I just want the basics recorded so that I can move on for whatever reason.

    I think the scrapbooking industry sometimes discourages potential scrapbookers, not so much because people can’t understand the stories on the layouts but because of all the products on the layouts (at least in commercial media). They can’t get to the story because of the product. Or the story doesn’t make any sense because of the product. I have a real hard time using some the embellishments in my stash because they just do not make sense to include on a layout beyond just looking pretty. I think the product makes scrapbooking more complex than it needs to be. At least poetry doesn’t have this problem (to my knowledge).

    Anyway, thanks for giving me and my readers a lot to think about. 🙂