Beauty and “Bad” Poetry

Much like Professor Kinyon told us in class, I myself am not a poetry lover either. I find poems to be outside the realm of my literary understanding and completely boring by the time I figure out what the poet is trying to say. That is not to say I do not enjoy the occasional poem, but honestly, poetry is not the medium for Oscar Wilde. While reading the selections we were assigned, I couldn’t help but notice the difference between Wilde’s blank verse poems in prose and his more structured poetry. It felt as if he were trying to conform himself to the box of poetry and lost his artistic flair in the process. Wilde is a particularly verbose writer, and when he tries to fit his ideas into rhymed stanzas it does not impress to the same effect that his other writing does. 

Even though Wilde’s poetic skills are questionable, his poems in prose were more indicative of his true brilliance. This first one that piqued my interest was the poem Doer of Good. Wilde wrote it from the point of view of a savior, God, to criticize those who abuse the gifts bestowed upon them. This cautionary tale serves to reveal to the reader that being given gifts from God is not being given the license to then live however you want. In a similar way to the age old quote that “power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely,” these people reveal the seductive nature of the material world. Before, they were lost. After being saved, they realize how much easier it is to live the “pleasant way” rather than a spiritual life of material hardship (901).  I believe Wilde wrote this tale to reflect the decadent movement. Even though he himself was a prominent decadent figure, Wilde was extremely interested in the Catholic faith. Because of this, Wilde writes his poems in prose as a collection of work warning his readers of the damnation that awaits those engulfed in the life of society and climbing the social ladder. Not only does it make you feel good to have more power and things, but it makes life considerably easier. Wilde acknowledges this fact throughout his writings that we have read so far, but they always have the underlying message that the truly beautiful things in life do not come from society or even money, but from compassion for one another and an ardent desire to create something that impresses upon its audience. 

When Wilde is not restricted by the structure of a specific style, his writing depth increases exponentially. These poems in prose were some of my favorite poems to ever read. As I have seen multiple times in the short time we have been in class, Wilde does not do well to try to conform himself to a box. His ideas are too elaborate to condense into a few words, which is obvious when you take a look at his complete works. Wielding words is a challenge in itself, and not everyone excels at the same medium. So this is me, criticizing the artist that told us himself how not everyone has a gift to create in some forms.