Poetry Mirrors Life

When the world appears to be crashing down, when we’re going down the drain, it helps—truly!—to realize that others have survived trials and troubles. Poetry can help, especially since Poetry Mirrors Life.

That’s the lesson in today’s post about “Paper Cup”, penned by Jimmy Webb of the 5th Dimension.

A Bit on Background

On 3/25, in the post about Dolly Parton’s “Wildflowers”, I noted the 4 Requirements of Song. Poetry has a role to play in our daily lives ~ it’s not just pretty words.

  • 1] Poetry should speak clearly
  • and 2] from the heart.
  • Music-driven poetry should also provide 3] strong lines that catch our imagination
  • and 4] powerful imagery that helps us visualize the situations.

When a poem achieves these 4 requirements, it echoes to our souls. The reason: Poetry mirrors life in its intensity. Other types of communications—essays, films, novels, blog posts—struggle to reach into their audience’s hearts.

Jimmy Webb’s 1967 “Paper Cup” fulfills these 4 requirements—and also resonates with the current situation.

Lyrics are here and the peppy video is here!

Strong Lines

The extended metaphor in Webb’s poem presents a narrowed little world into which we cage ourselves.

This world satisfies us with a shower stall, running water, a den, and refrigerated air, bland walls that make our lives easy.

Then Webb turns this life around with its bleached, waxed-paper world. We may think we’re in the catbird’s seat, but one day we’re “going down the drain” and won’t care. When trials and troubles hit so hard, we sink into apathy. We deadened ourselves to reality so we can “feel no pain”.

Only through this apathy can we say “life is kind of / groovy in the gutter”.

Powerful Imagery

Webb tells us that such an apathetic life has no purpose. We are living “without a rudder”. We follow the currents of life and never stop to consider what we want. More importantly, we don’t consider what truth is.

The crowd declares what is popular and “hot”. We follow, rat-like, behind the pied piper crowd into a maze that will devour us.

Heart-felt Speech

In the film The Matrix, we saw characters awakened to the myriad things that the mass crowd pummels us with in order to keep us distracted. Our focus is forced onto the temporary and earthly things. Drugs, paychecks, sex, blingy rat-race materialism, crime, taxes, insurance—these things are what we worry about instead of the IDEAS and SOULS we should care about.

Webb is preaching to us, much as Tyler Perry does with his Madea films.

Webb tells us that we may claim freedom, we may shout “freedom”, but all those material possessions and other addictions just put us in a bland round cage. We are “always looking up” since our lives are nothing extraordinary.

Politics of Poetry that Mirrors Life

As Percy Bysshe Shelley said, “Poetry is a mirror” reflecting life. By presenting life, it “awaken[s] and enlarge[s] the mind … a 1,000 un-apprehended combinations of thought.” (from “A Defence of Poetry”)

As Shelley tells us, Poetry Mirrors Life.

Webb wants us to reflect on what we think life should be by comprehending how bleached-out and bland such a life is. This is the same point in Dolly Parton’s “lost in a crowd” Wildflowers, with people too afraid to pursue their goals. In “Paper Cup”, Webb reminds us that a boring constricted life focused on things is no more than living in a gutter.

A better world is available to us. Webb points out the problems of merely existing in a mundane world, with distractors that keep us on the rat-race wheel.

Ha! The wheel in the rat’s cage can be turned sideways to be a round cup that imprisons us. At least the rat can look through his bars.

Parton’s “Wildflowers” tells us how we can escape that “common and close” existence. Never forget that we must uproot ourselves from gardens where we will wither and hitch a ride with the wind.

Webb uses Poetry to mirror Life. He tells us that we have to escape the apathetic life and pursue our goals with passion.

No matter what, we take action to achieve.

Coming Up

On the 15th, more Politics of Poetry as we look at Joni Mitchell’s call of personal change before we can achieve social change.

And from today, the 5th until the 19th, we have the MORE blogs celebrating Easter, running from Palm Sunday to Bright Sunday. Join us!

Celebrate! *Discovering Your Writing*

It’s the 1st anniversary of the bundled Discovering Your Writing”, the epic journey for writers.

cover by Deranged Doctor Design for Writers Ink Books

Designed for writers at any skill level, this four-book bundle of the acclaimed series is a resource-rich compendium of craft information.

4 Books

for Writers

Bundled together

Discovering Your Plot covers six types of plot structure and the necessities of genre expectations. In its detailed examination of the major sections of a novel, it offers clues to pacing, tension and suspense, and sequencing of events.

Discovering Characters guides writers to create individuals rather than cookie-cutter stereotypes. This guidebook is designed to reveal the public and private interiors of characters. Templates and interviews are merely a start when delving into the backstories and relationships of our characters.

To hook readers, savvy writers manipulate cover imagery, titles, and the back-cover market copy. With the right keys, explored in Discovering Your Author Brand, learn how to brand your books, your series, and yourself as writer. A supplementary section covers writing a book trailer—the best guidance for writing any market copy.

Improving your writing craft is simple with the lessons and examples provided in Discovering Sentence Craft. A writer needs much more than grammar and spelling. Figurative and interpretive elements are the first step in creating rich text. Structural elements like opposition, repetition, inversion, and sequencing offer additional methods to polish your words.

At 129,00-plus words, Discovering Your Writing is truly an epic undertaking, a heroic journey necessary for anyone wanting to grow as a writer.

Writer M.A. Lee worked as a journalist and copy writer before pursuing the challenge of teaching high school students the triumvirate of literature, composition, and grammar+. Those years of teaching meant that she continued learning herself, sticking fingers into the writing craft and twisting things around to understand them before conveying that knowledge to students. The Discovering guidebooks for writers are proof that her internal teacher keeps presenting lessons.

Since beginning her self-publishing journey in 2015, M.A. Lee (under her pen names) has published more than 30 works of fiction and nonfiction.