As promised, here is a guest post from my colleague Melissa Girard, an aficionado of twentieth-century poetry, who first clued me in to the existence of grooks. Grooks, of course, are the subject of this week’s poem challenge, so read on about why this is her favorite form of poetry, and why you should try writing one :-). Attend:
We tend to think that experimental writing is difficult. Most people associate it with complicated language play, dense philosophy, and confusion. But, in poetry, there are plenty of experiments that are both accessible and fun. Piet Hein’s Grooks are a great example of this popular style of experimentation.
You don’t need any special skills or knowledge about poetry to write Grooks. Like Haiku and limericks, they’re easy enough that even children can enjoy writing them. The accompanying drawings, which Hein says are essential to Grooks, are the simplest of sketches. This accessibility was important to Hein. In one of my favorite of his Grooks, “If You Know What I Mean,” he mocks the difficulty of contemporary poetry. He’s particularly hard on “the critics,” who, he says, “demand” that poetry be “obscure, esoteric, symbolic.” Grooks are a reaction to this new critical establishment, which was growing in power and influence in the mid-twentieth century.
Hein felt that critics were making poetry too specialized and elitist. His witty, playful Grooks were designed to keep poetry alive in the popular imagination.
I first learned about Grooks when I stumbled across a paperback copy of Grooks in a bookstore in Pittsburgh in the late 1990s. I had never heard of Hein, but I immediately fell in love with Grooks. There is also a popular series of ceramic Grooks that pop up in mid-century modern furniture stores and on Etsy from time to time. Be on the lookout. They’re a steal.
OK, Jean here again. How can you resist? If you’d like to try writing a grook, you can post your entry here, or as a reply/comment anywhere on Think.Do., or send to me by email (do please email me any drawings you want to accompany them and I will post them). Your deadline is midnight, Sunday, 7/27. I must get grooking!