Looking at Genes

There is debate on whether certain proclivities are the result of genetic disposition or environmental opportunity. Is the ability to see the world and translate that into poetry influenced by genes? It is hard to say. My mother was poetic. My great grandmother wrote poetry too. Yet neither of my sisters is so inclined and I alone am left to carry on the poetry genes. Son#1 can write poetry. He doesn’t but he could. I know this because he wrote in HS and his English teacher was very impressed (he was reading Ambrose Bierce) and was inspired. But I digress. Of my mother’s 6 grand children only one has ever actively written poetry beyond what was required in school.

During National Poetry Month, son#2 saw me struggling with one of the forms and asked what I was writing. I let him read what I had and pointed out what wasn’t working with the meter. He shook his head and retreated only to return and hand me a small slip of paper where he’d scribbled a few lines. His comment was, “Its only words. The meaning is up to the people reading them.” Sometimes he scares me. What follows is his poetic effort:

Bang! Bang!
My elbows strike the table
Spilling apple juice
Shattering the conversation
An orangutan enters
Stinks like feet
Nostrils flare
The quiet room waits
What?

I’m not sure what he wanted to express. It is however an apt description of him making an entrance. I’m undecided if I should encourage him because he really was interested or ignore him because he was poking fun at me… Any thoughts??

63 thoughts on “Looking at Genes

  1. It’s hard to know what to do. I’d carry on writing Muri and if he takes to it he takes to it and if he doesn’t he doesn’t. Kids are funny that way. My mum wrote poetry as did an older sister of mine but my father, 2 other sisters & brother didn’t. The genetics aspect is an interesting thought! 🤔👍

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    1. Hehe! That “kid” is 34 so I seriously doubt he is going to “take to it” but I think he will dabble. Just like he dabbles in so many other things… Fortunately his current hobbies have generated income!

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      1. I was 47 when I wrote my first poems. I wanted to take a non-fiction writing course at our local U, just for fun, and it wasn’t offered that semester. Poetry was the only writing course they had, unless I wanted to wait until fall. Long story short, I took it and fell head over heels. It happens.

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        1. He is currently involved in some LARPing thing, honing his D&D Dungeon Master skills, honing his piano talent, and playing around with an electric bass and a mandolin in addition to his violin and viola… And he’s attempting to buy a house. It might be a few years before he has time for a “fun” class at the local college.

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  2. Encourage him for sure! Words have the power to make people think; it doesn’t have to be overt, it just has to stir the mind.

    As for the nature versus nurture debate, well, being adopted there are parts of me that came from biology, no doubt about it. My love of sports (particularly baseball) is one. Neither of my parents (who raised me) was into sports or watched any of it. I picked it up on my own and learned the rules by watching. However, my compassion and empathy surely were cultivated more by the parents who raised me. My biological father (who I have never met) is
    person of some importance in San Diego and was driven off of Twitter by his racist tweets about Colin Kaepernick. One of my bio-Aunts just posted a long anti-Muslim screed on Facebook. I”ve never been so happy as to be adopted.

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  3. His comment is exactly right. I dislike being asked to interpret either my words or images. I put them out there and what you get from it belongs to you.

    That said, I love his poem. But I don’t know how you encourage your child in something if they are not asking you directly what you think. Neither of my children is much influenced by what I think about what they do. Which is as it should be. They are adults now (not that they were much influenced when they were children either) (k)

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    1. He may be right about the interpretation then again there is the desire that what the poet writes moves the reader in a specific direction… I’m not sure which is a stronger position as both have merit.

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      1. Do you have an idea of what others will see when you create something? I have no idea, and I’m often surprised. Sometimes they point out something I didn’t know was there at all. I myself am often clueless about my own work. I throw it out into the world and see what happens.

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        1. Most of my ceramic works are based on actual organisms so I am attempting to render them as accurately as possible – so I know what they are supposed to be. However most people don’t really know what things look like that are microscopic so they often see what they are familiar with… I guess most of my stuff is figurative. I have been dabbling in collage which is much more abstract and that interpretation is, well, interpretive from each individual’s point of view. I often say that people will see what they want to see – and that is in every area – art is not exempted.

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  4. I agree with you son … it’s only words that the reader interprets. I think of artists (painters) who would rather hear your expression/interpretation of their work over telling others what was on their mind. In his poem, I think the orangutan is a metaphor for the reaer

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    1. I have no idea how to interpret the poem but he does have what we called “flashes of brilliance”. He does dazzle me sometimes! I’m going to let him read the comments!

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  5. I disagree with your son’s comment — it’s not “up to them,” but they WILL see what they see. No way around that. To me good writing means you give your words a fighting chance at being understood by others as you meant them. That’s the point of language as a tool of communication. That said, I see no point in explaining what I’ve written. It speaks or it doesn’t. Old Man and the Sea said NOTHING to me in 9th grade and EVERYTHING to me when I was 29. We’re not always the same reader, either. ❤️

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    1. A good point. Clarity in writing is very important. I do think thought that some poetry is intentionally ambiguous to encourage the reader to use their own imagination!

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  6. Encourage your son, you may be surprised. Strange as it may sound, I actually bonded with my son through poetry. He chose poetry for his English exam, for the simple reason that nobody else chose it, so there would be no other pieces for his work to be compared with. Then he started writing and asked me for advice. Now, it doesn’t happen very often, that my nearly 16 year old son wants to hear my advice! Turns out: he has a poetic streak and a very unusual way of seeing the world. For a brief moment, I thought we’d have a common interest. Then he handed in his assignment and said: Done. And that was it. Still, those precious moments ‘talking poetry’ with him, I’ll have those forever!!!

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  7. less interested in the question genes and more in what your son has to say – firstly I marvel at your relationship; secondly as mother I’d like to say to him: you don’t give your mind enough credit, it is not only the reader who makes sense of words. Just keep going, both of you 🙂

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    1. Thanks Barbara. I’m well pleased with both my sons and we are a close family (core and extended) so they have had the benefits of that kind of environment where we have open communications and are supportive.

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  8. Personally, I don’t believe in poetry genes. I don’t even really believe in natural disposition. I believe more in the development of one’s skills through reading, writing, and most importantly, getting critical feedback and revising.

    I like the imagery, onomatopoeia, and humor in your son’s piece. I think you should encourage him, because it is generally advisable to encourage one’s children. Even if he is poking fun at you (I don’t think he is), it’s important that we don’t take ourselves too seriously all the time. Let him have fun with this.

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    1. Ha! He had lots of fun! I’ve sent him the comments and he is downright gleeful! He is a bit of an internet troll (the clever kind that just wants to poke fun – not the flame war instigator kind) at times and it does spill over into his interactions with family… I think his punning nature is inherited from his father. Though he could have just picked it up as a nurture by-product. As far as “poetry genes” I was just being funny. Come to think if it – he probably got double “old Nick” from both sides of the family tree!!

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  9. Not sure what your son’s poem means, but to me, it conveyed anger and the equivalent of an elephant in the room. We think poetry connects through its words but more often, it does so on a very visceral level. Some of the best poems I’ve written were found poems, other people’s words quilted together and ironed into a semi-cohesive piece.

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    1. This one is made up of lyrics from my young adult nephew’s playlist. He shared the list in his Christmas letter in 2020, after the pandemic had been going on for 9 months. He plays guitar and sings and had just started performing at open mics when everything shut down.

      SORTING IT ALL OUT

      It is longing that you feel,
      to be missed, or to be real.
      The world outside is so inconceivable,
      often, you barely can speak,
      a ten ton catastrophe
      on a 60–pound chain.
      The one-eyed undertaker,
      he blows a futile horn.
      At least there’s nothing more
      you could really lose, now is there?

      You wonder what it was…
      You wonder what it meant…
      You know we can’t cop to
      the frequency of your inner debate
      so you learn to take it as it comes.
      You fall together, fall apart
      with the grace of a corpse
      in a riptide.
      Make the best of death
      and love what’s left.

      Do you still believe stars
      are the headlights of angels
      driving from heaven
      to save us?

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        1. The playlist was his, the poem is mine. I listened to his ten favorite songs and wrote down one phrase from each, whatever struck or intrigued me. Then I put them “in order” and a poem was born. Sam loved it. He’ll be back on the stage soon (maybe he already is?)

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    2. The interpretation is yours – just as he mentioned. However I have no real sense of what he wanted to convey. As for writing poetry for myself – it is both a very private thing as well as being very public when I post it! I love a well composed Cento!

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  10. Val, dear dear Val, what a wonderful post! I had a smile throughout the entire length of this fresh, hearty love that you have poured here.
    Love it. More power to you and your son!

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    1. Hello stranger!! I’m so pleased you enjoyed this post! I will be seeing him tomorrow so I’ll be letting him read all the comments that I get today and tomorrow. I think the positive feedback might spur him to give poetry a more serious thought. At least a mother can hope…

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  11. I took a writing course and one of the classes was on poetry. That was the hardest section of the course. I don’t know how you, Zakiah and Carolyn can write them so well.

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    1. Matt, it is a matter of practice. You just have to keep writing. Most of mine are okay, some are horrible, and every now and then I manage brilliance! You just have to do it… kind of like learning to juggle!

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  12. I don’t know. I used to win awards for my poetry in school. I think they were trying to include me. For the heck of it, I looked back at my poems, and they only conveyed that I was dizzy after a run in the morning, many times. This was one they thought was good. I used to worship nature. I threw away my yearbooks.

    https://www.google.com/books/edition/Think/aThRxu8XnEQC?hl=en&gbpv=1 I’m on page 31, didn’t feel like writing it out. I had issues with insomnia.

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      1. We did the LAD fair, and the magazine I showed you is a high school magazine. In honors English, they forced us to try to get our poems published. I just self-published one in a vanity press to say I did it. I’ve had a few head injuries, medication, and mental illness. I totally forgot how much more mature my old work was. I’m not even the same person. I hope I can get back into running/jogging. Where do you get your inspiration from?

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        1. Everyone changes over time… As for inspiration I am inspired by nature, people I observe, family, church/faith, news and politics. I’m constantly looking at this world and trying to see the connections between myself and everything around me!

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  13. He seems like the Jackson Pollock, or the Wilton Felder (zany jazz musician), of poetry. What he writes may, or may not, make sense, even to him, but it’s what came out of his mind during the writing. Sometimes, my blogs end up like that-stream of unconsciousness.

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