View Full Version : Poetry in fantasy
June 25th, 2002, 12:36 PM
How many readers read the poems that often appear in fantasy? I love to write poetry, and I include a number of poems in each book. For me, the poems are important to the story, as they are usually prophetic or they have keys imbedded in them that are crucial to the upcoming quest or adventures. But, I wonder if most readers pass over them or not. Those I have questioned about this subject have given me mixed replies. Some love them, but honestly, most said that they only skim the poems and don't read them closely.
June 25th, 2002, 02:38 PM
I read the poems all the time. Tolkien (as he did in all things fantasy) seemed to set the tone of fantasies to come with his frequent use of poems. Donaldson and even Brooks continued with this in the 70's, but it seems to have dropped out of favor in more recent fantasies.
I enjoy it, though.
June 25th, 2002, 02:58 PM
I skim it at best. It's not that I don't like reading poetry, but often it just feels wrong... It will break the pace of the story. With Tolkien I just got sick of it, and resorted to skiping most of the poems...
Like so many things, it is too easy to just get it wrong. Personaly in my writing attempts I have considered adding poems and songs, but I always leave it out. It just never seems to fit.
The best use of poetry I can think of is when the author puts a little 4 or 8 line thingy at the begining of the chapters. This I enjoy and have found to realy, truely add to the story.
June 25th, 2002, 03:02 PM
I hope more people respond the same way you did, Radone, not that I don't understand how other people feel. To me, fantasy seems so suited to poetic reveries. Prophecy and prognostication can play so vital a part in a magical world. Often, so much more can be said in a short poem (like a song) than in a chapter of descriptive prose. They can also be dramatic elements, in addition to their free standing beauty.
As you can tell, I love poetry myself, so I am really happy to hear that others do as well. I certainly don't plan when to insert a poem in any of my books. Sometimes, it just fits. I would not enjoy too much of it though, and I too skimmed much of it in Tolkien's books I am ashamed to say.
June 25th, 2002, 03:23 PM
I always read the poetry and songs. I think that, they add flavor to the story and the world in which it is set, a taste of the culture and history. This is, of course, in addition to providing elements that may be important to the story, like legends or prophecies.
June 25th, 2002, 03:29 PM
"One ring to rule them all,
One ring to find them.
One ring to bring them all,
And in the darkness bind them."
Four simple lines of poetry (granted part of a larger piece) that tell the whole story of LOTR better than an entire chapter of prose.
June 25th, 2002, 03:29 PM
Rare is the fantasy or sci/fi story that uses poetry/songs without turning me off to the entire scene. I have a lot of respect for Tolkien and Donaldson, but, to me, most of the poetry and songs embedded in their fiction reads like my own bad poetry. And one isn't enough. Just about every meeting in the pub or gathering in the lordly chambers of whomever requires at least one character to bust out in a lyrical expose detailing the trials of the legendary [Kevindriel] atop the fog-ensconced [Peak of Nowhere] whilst he battles the leather-thonged barbarian women of [Blood Bog Downs] who were summoned by the devil-like halfbreed, [Dark Lord Klatu], born to the [Ogre-Elf] princess and rapacious warlord, [Fussbucket the Naughty], and ultimately sacrifices himself for the sake of all that is good and pure in the land.
Yeah, I know, my example isn't in the requisite iambic pentameter. But, it's a pet peeve and I want to shake furiously every song/poem/lyric/rhyme from the book.
But, I agree with Radone that short theme-orientated poems can and do help a lot. Another example was the Asimov book, The Stars Like Dust, which had a very short four-line poem I thought added a lot to the story.
June 25th, 2002, 04:22 PM
I do enjoy poems in a book. But it does depend on the context of the story. I skipped the hobbit and the lotr the first time, but read them closely the second time, and enjoyed it thoroughly.
I have a lot of respect for writers that can write good poetry. I don't like the old style poems, but those that manage to put down straightforward facts with some flowering. Those, I enjoy.
I also find that Brian Jacques does it excellently. They fit right in with the feasts, and the quests are well done.
Tom Bombadil for example. ery very good, seeing that it is all written in prose. And I have two hungarian books, 100 pages or so of pure prose that tell a story very very well. You can put so many more emotions into two lines of prose, then half a page of descriptive writing.
So nowadays, I don't miss any of them, except the ones that seem so trivial that it becomes bad.
June 25th, 2002, 04:44 PM
I have always enjoyed reading the poems in fantasy. Tolkien of course did a lovely job with his poems, as did Williams in MS&T. They add richness to the story.
I agree with GemQuest that poems can add meaning to the story by way of prophecies, etc, and that's true--but also remember that most fantasies are set in a quasi-medieval setting. At that time in history written material was quite rare, and information was usually transmitted orally. People would memorize long poems and songs that would be passed on to the next generation--this is how history (and legends) were taught. It was a big part of early medieval culture. That's why it makes sense to me to include poems in works of fantasy.
Not to mention that a well-written poem is simply enjoyable to read.
June 26th, 2002, 11:54 PM
poems? it depends.
if i think a book im reading is derivative anyway, then poems really annoy me.
but if the poems in themselves are original and have some merit in themselves, i love reading them
i read them like ordinary text, anyway. like if good, hate if not.
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