Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Publish the poem, not the poet

Going through Absent subs lately, I've been reading a lot of poems that feel basically perfunctory. They are perfectly competent poems written by poets who have every indication of being good writers: I recognize their names and the places that they've been published; their credentials are impressive; often I'm already pretty familiar with their work. (Everyone submits to and gets published in the same online journals, for the most part.) But the poems are merely competent; they have no [oomph/je ne sais quoi/duende/poetry]. It's like the poet wrote them just because you gotta write something. These writers are probably capable of turning out a "publishable" poem any day of the week.

I get the feeling that these writers are accustomed to being published because of who they are--because they have come to be accepted as good poets--rather than because of the particular poems they have submitted for publication. Everybody knows this happens. Everybody's read a throwaway poem by a good poet in a journal. Fine. I write those too. But I don't want to publish those poems in Absent. I admit it's hard to turn down mediocre work by a poet you're excited to have a submission from at all, but you have to publish the poem, not the poet. Otherwise you end up being, I don't know, Ploughshares. (Sorry to pick on you so much this week, Ploughshares. But you're so namey.) When I scan the TOC in an online journal and it's just the usual suspects, half of me assumes they are half-ass poems, potentially written primarily to keep up with solicitations from online journals.

Here's what I'd like to see more of in submissions: IDEAS. Why don't poems have more ideas? So many poems I read are essentially just descriptions. So you went outside. It was beautiful. Or not. I don't care how creatively you describe it, if it didn't trigger any thoughts beyond "Hells yeah I am going to describe this," it's not a poem. It's just showing off to yourself, or as Matt Rass used to say, "masturbating to language." Ha. I love that phrase. Anyway: ideas. Take this poem by Matt Henricksen from the new Handsome (a journal that has a recognizable aesthetic not wedded to names):
NO DIRECTION

Numbness is where
depression gets the beauty beaten out,

she thought she'd written on the wall
by the sink. Shoot the horse

if you want to, but negative capability
is only possible in the less-than-human,

and Keats meant become of things
to describe a tiny, despicable self.
You'll note, first of all, that MH is guilty of Move #20, "surprise re-framing of an utterance." (I say "guilty" in jest; I don't think moves are don'ts.) Secondly, notice how little of this poem is description. If you take out the description ... oh wait, you can't, because there really is none. This is a poem made of ideas. See? It's possible. Lots of poems I read in the slush, if you took out the description, there'd be nothing left. All facade, no scaffold.

I know nobody wants to read grouchy editor posts, but I'm writing this as a reader, too. Poems are not supposed to be beautiful (though they can be). They're supposed to be good.

NB: I'm strongly considering a number of poems in the Absent box, so if by chance you happen to have submitted, and not heard back, do not despair, there is every possibility I'm not talking about you.

52 comments:

  1. Amen, sister. No things but in ideas. You know...sort of.

    ReplyDelete
  2. i like this a lot. although, i'm never aware of having ideas when i write. i wish i knew how to do ideas, but i don't. i can pretend to have them, sort of, and that seems to work sometimes, though i always end up hating myself for it.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I like grumpy editor posts personally. And make my share, of course. I like this--I certainly know where you're coming from in terms of widely published poets going through the motions of producing competent but uninpsiring poems.

    One of the turning points in my writing was realizing that I was trying to privilege the image/setting/description over ideas and torqued language when that's (A) not really what I value in poetry and (B) not particularly my strong suit, though I can do it. Too bad it happened about halfway through my first manuscript writing.

    Of course, it's quite possible to write an idea-based competent uninspiring poem too. Sigh...

    ReplyDelete
  4. Enjoyed this post. The way I would probably put it (and I guess I have put it this way once or twice) is that what I look for in a poem is some sense that the poet wrote it out of a real need to, some compelling reason. I look or listen in the poem for some sense of necessity.

    In at least half of what's out there I don't find much sense of necessity. I can't figure out why the poem decided to write the poem, other than (as you described) just writing a "competent" poem that could be published somewhere.

    A poet friend of mine years ago published a short-lived poetry magazine (I think two issues came out), and when he accepted poems for it, he would ask the poets to send him a non-academic bio note. He said a lot of the poets found the request difficult to deal with -- they didn't know how to do a bio note that wasn't just a list of where they had taught and the most prestigious magazines they'd been in.

    ReplyDelete
  5. @Matt: I actually think pretending to have ideas, i.e. faking it, is a good way to get at having them. I mean even outside of poetry, sometimes I just say some crap and then realize, hey, maybe I actually think that.

    @Steve: True, idea-based poems can fall flat too. But I think it's harder to convince yourself that an idea-based poem is passable. Like bad ideas are more egregious than bad description, or something.

    @Lyle: I almost wrote something along those lines, about urgency or necessity, but I feel like there's a certain kind of exception poem that I like, that doesn't feel urgent or necessary per se, that feels temporary even, as though it needn't be read more than once, and still adds something to the world by way of true originality. I guess I mean I value when a poet can make me feel like he/she is doing something I've never seen in a poem before, even if it comes off feeling effortless, or like they didn't invest all that much in it. Does that makes sense? Still, I essentially agree, too many poems seem to have no reason for existing, and are forgotten the moment they're read, if they're read at all.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Elisa, thank you for this post. This discussion might just be exactly what I needed to read this morning.

    ReplyDelete
  7. What about actions? There are way too many poems that are like unemployed. Like, don't do anything.

    ReplyDelete
  8. @Paul: Thanks!

    @Dan: Action = narrative, right? There's a place for action just like there's a place for image. I just want some thinking in there too.

    ReplyDelete
  9. I like it not to be an either-or, though. I think if you can do an imagery of ideas, with ideas, to ideas, in ideas, or rather vversa, brilliant. In other words, I'm suspicious of the binary, to use an ideogrammatic term.

    And Henricksen blows it for me in the last couple lines, which just feel dark and linty. He's navel-gazing and skewering Keats along the way. But, then again, he engaged me in a dialogue with Keats *and* with this poem, so maybe that's the point.

    As poetic ideas go, I like this: http://jjgallaher.blogspot.com/2010/01/eponymity-manifesto.html

    ReplyDelete
  10. I end up clarifying a lot in the comments, but here I go again: I didn't actually offer a value judgment on the poem, nor did I prescribe that poems should consist only of ideas. I only said that a poem *can* be made purely of ideas, and most poems I read have *no* ideas. I don't want to have to choose, but if forced, I'd prefer an all-idea poem to a no-idea poem.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Also, the post you point to is made entirely of ideas :)

    ReplyDelete
  12. Yes, exactly. I don't think moves are don'ts either.

    ReplyDelete
  13. I like the complainy-part of this post, E. Most "names" are new to me, anyway, but I sometimes see the same ones turn up over and over- along with the same poem. Then again, people (all 2 or 3 of them ;-)) might think that about -me.- Who knows? The "ideas" thing turns me off, though. I'm increasingly turned off by the abstract (admittedly I take a sweeping, subjective view on what passes as "abstract" -almost everything does). And pretty-steadfastedly turned on by near-concrete representation of imagery. And increasingly turned off by people who use perfectly in-and-of-itself poetic imagery to half-heartedly "discuss" ideas. And increasingly turned on by figuring out all your "ideas" -before- you write the poem, allowing your conclusions to inform word choice/order/rhythm. I think it's possible to write a very good poem taking both (and other) approaches. But I lose interest in a poem when I see too much "idea energy" and not enough solid ground. If that makes any sense. In my own tinkering around, I work to distill more than instill.

    PS- thanks for keeping your blog roll. I use it frequently. xo

    ReplyDelete
  14. Hi Brooklyn,

    It's interesting that you say that "the abstract" (ideas) turns you off -- to me, image-based poems tend to feel more abstract, like they're just pretty phrases fluttering by me with nothing to grab onto. Maybe I should have clarified the difference between "ideas" and "abstractions" ... or maybe I should save that for another post. Or I'll try to find a poem that just has one big idea, and compare what would be lost (for me) if the idea line part was taken out.

    By the way, I love your blog and am glad you're using (word choice?) it again.

    ReplyDelete
  15. maybe this would be an example of a poem with images intertwined as ideas...

    Flowers by the Sea
    by William Carlos Williams

    When over the flowery, sharp pasture’s
    edge, unseen, the salt ocean

    lifts its form—chicory and daisies
    tied, released, seem hardly flowers alone

    but color and the movement—or the shape
    perhaps—of relentlessness, whereas

    the sea is circled and sways
    peacefully upon its plantlike stem

    ReplyDelete
  16. Or how about The Snow Frickin' Man:


    One must have a mind of winter
    To regard the frost and the boughs
    Of the pine-trees crusted with snow;

    And have been cold a long time
    To behold the junipers shagged with ice,
    The spruces rough in the distant glitter

    Of the January sun; and not to think
    Of any misery in the sound of the wind,
    In the sound of a few leaves,

    Which is the sound of the land
    Full of the same wind
    That is blowing in the same bare place

    For the listener, who listens in the snow,
    And, nothing himself, beholds
    Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.


    It's basically one big image (cold forest) encased in an idea. But it's the idea that's memorable, not the image.

    ReplyDelete
  17. yep. of course, X-treme description can also be fun, as we know:)

    The plain banks of the Neva are
    Gray. The dark Saône flows silently.
    And the Volga is long and wide
    As it flows across the brownish land. The Ebro
    Is blue, and slow. The Shannon flows
    Swiftly between its banks. The Mississippi
    Is one of the world's longest rivers, like the Amazon.
    It has the Missouri for a tributary.
    The Harlem flows amid factories
    And buildings. The Nelson is in Canada,
    Flowing. Through hard banks the Dubawnt
    Forces its way. People walk near the Trent.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Anything taken to levels of absurdity can be worthwhile.

    ReplyDelete
  19. I don't have the right kind of sense of humor for absurd poetry. :-D

    For me, the image lasts longer than the idea, and I like that kind of reading. It's the kind of reading that I with me when I go outside and look around my own world. My way of seeing things is very cinematic- almost obnoxiously so, I think. The only times I can have a conversation about my world is when I'm describing it in my poems.

    I think Matt makes a good point, too-- WCW is a great example of image-and-idea. I was just thinking that last week at work while I was reading-on-the-job. "Man, this guy sure does a lot of 'thinking' about what he's describing as he describes it." It's brilliant.

    Please do save ideas-and-abstractions for another blog post, if you get the urge. I'd love to read more. I think both words have multiple meanings when people start talking about poetry.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Ideas vs. abstractions: It's on the list!

    ReplyDelete
  21. Tony Hoagland refers to this sort of 'thing' as rhetoric in one of his essays on poetry. The strong declamatory statement at the beginning...and he noted a noticeable trend in current poetry to stay away from that sort of poem.

    When I read the same thing in two days....makes me think.

    ReplyDelete
  22. I don't know how it is for others, but I never send a poem out that I think isn't good, or that I'm not pleased with. Of course, later, I often decide those poems aren't good, or are boring where I thought they were not boring, or whatever. Sometimes that takes a lot of time to suddenly realize. Sometimes I unrealize it, as well. And them I'm right back where I started.

    And such things are subjective (to a degree), anyway. I heard an interesting exchange between Donald Revell and Mark Halliday a couple years ago (two poets who disagree on most everything) . . . they were talking generally about poetry, and they were both saying something along the lines of "I'm tired of great poems."

    I'm not sure what they meant, but they seemed to understand each other.

    ReplyDelete
  23. Interesting ... I'd love to see some great poems come into my Absent inbox, but "great" is a tricky word. I had an argument with two men a while back when I was talking about some book I loved and they both said something like, "It is good ... but not great" wherein great entails timelessness, the ability to be read over and over again and keep yielding, whereas I think some things (poems, but other kinds of art as well) are wonderful even if they're really only worthwhile for one reading/experience. I think something can be short-lived and still "great."

    ReplyDelete
  24. hmm...now i'm trying to decide if the white stripes are great because i really loved them for about two or three years in college and then basically lost all interest...i might have been okay with calling them great then, but not now. (but i'm not saying my opinion now is more correct or anything. like, they might be equally correct opinions, for me, in the respective times i had them...)

    ReplyDelete
  25. yeah I think something can be great by really capturing the zeitgeist ... but then the zeitgeist changes and it loses its effect. also some things are just less interesting the second, third, fourth times because they lose the element of surprise. but I think surprise is a key part of art that I find really effective.

    ReplyDelete
  26. Interesting, thanks. I get the feeling sometimes that a lot of good poets have had their ideas workshopped out of them. As though perfect wordsmithing were what poetry was supposed to be about.

    ReplyDelete
  27. BS: Yes, I think ideas do often get workshopped or revised out. I wonder if this is part of the "Kill your darlings" school of revision.

    ReplyDelete
  28. Everybody remembers Williams' phrase "No ideas but in things." But few people remember the next phrase: "Compose. Invent!"

    - Steve Silberman

    ReplyDelete
  29. Isn't art as "idea" the problem? Not that a poem should merely be a laundry list of recorded observation. Rather, it seems to me the great mass of poetry and art today is entirely ideative, i.e. written only to confirm or represent various thoughts, theories or philosophies. Poetry and art generally are the bedrock of the "humanities," precisely because they speak to the whole human, not just his head.

    ReplyDelete
  30. With the exception of much political poetry, maybe, I think most mainstream journals publish poetry that is very light on ideas. Also, I don't think poetry should confirm or represent established ideologies or theories -- I think it should *have* ideas. It should involve original thought.

    ReplyDelete
  31. "original thought" is problematic and essentially a chimera. Every poem cannot possibly hope to contain an "original thought," as there really aren't that many to go around.

    I would argue that an "original thought" is essentially a myth, much like "quality time," a spectral visitor necessitated by a culture that is not healthy. The fact is that the topics of poetry for millennia, across cultures and languages, have remained remarkably static: myth, legend, history, death, birth and the great chain of being. (Of course, this is a truncated list.) Most of the canon concerns the same essential themes and thoughts, only the truly great found a way to express them differently. There is nothing particularly "new" or "original" in the ideas of Vergil's "Aeneid," but his exposition is bold, daring and remarkable. His execution and framing of the themes is what is original. The same can be said for most of the greats.

    Poetry for the contemporary world has become a thought puzzle, something to be worked out in your leisure. As I stated before, it is a humanistic art and as such is a "whole" art. We should not be looking for "description" or "idea," but rather beauty and health, i.e. a cohesive whole. Beyond that, it is a fact that most of the poems in the major journals are merely representations of "schools of thought," each an insidious justification for LANGUAGE poetry, or post-modernism, or whatever other absurdity is voguish enough to be taught in the programs.

    ReplyDelete
  32. My poems are pretty much all about death, so I don't disagree with you that poems tend to all have the same topics. But there are endless ways to approach these topics, and my post is about approach.

    "Beauty" is lot more "problematic" as a standard for art in my view.

    ReplyDelete
  33. Part of the problem is that ideas are scarier to write about. They're more susceptible to being mocked/criticized/slammed/whatever. If you're presenting an idea rather than a description, you can't just hide behind the finely tuned craft of writing that has won you accolades since junior high school. You have to commit to a point of view. And points of view are easy to dismiss in the postmodern, pastichey context.

    ReplyDelete
  34. Jesse: I agree. I think poems that go beyond description/word play risk more. It's the workshop cliche of "What's at stake here?" When a poem is merely pretty and well-crafted, nothing's really at stake.

    ReplyDelete
  35. "Beauty" has only become problematic in the last few centuries. Most other cultures didn't really have a problem with accepting some things as beautiful and others as not; in fact, it was in the margins between beautiful and ugly that most critical assessment was conducted. Beauty does not present nearly as many problems as the great bug-bear of our age: Art that is "interesting."

    At the end of the day, what is a work of art that "raises questions" or "interests" or "provokes" if the expression does not excite the senses? I think you get the great mass of art and poetry today: Completely uncompelling onanism that no one reads or cares about. It's funny you opened this post by claiming journals should publish poems and not famous poets. I agree, but isn't "famous poet" an anachronism? Who could name more than three living poets today? Who could name even one? Even at the largest journals, what's the circulation? 20k maybe.

    The reality is that beauty is seductive, persuasive and compelling; it is the foundation of a healthy art. Moreover, we know what people find beautiful: order, rhythm, patterns complicated and simple, rhyme, structure, etc. Ours is a culture just too childish to accept that.

    ReplyDelete
  36. I don't see why a poem can't raise questions and provoke and still excite the senses, have rhythm and structure, etc. It's not a binary choice.

    I think most art and poetry produced in any era is boring and forgotten. You can't look at the best 1% of what the past has produced and call it representative.

    ReplyDelete
  37. Sam Starkweather was having trouble posting this (terrific) comment so he sent it to me:

    Ironically, here's my ideological argument: What about feelings/emotions; not necessarily the feelings/emotions/tone of the poet or speaker of the poem, but the feelings/emotions/tone that the poem creates in the reader. Obviously, there needs to be a balance, but it's that feeling of sadness or wonder or anger, etc. that is what I remember the most about the poems I love the most (including your poems E!), and half the reason I keep reading poetry: to feel. The other half is of course, to think. However, I don't turn to poetry for ideology or to be presented ideas in poem per se, I think that actually tends to be boring. Of course I want intelligence and wit and surprise in the poem, and for its language to do something I didn't think language could do, or to take me somewhere I didn't think it could. I guess what I mean is I want the poem to take me to a space/place/state where I am left wondering and thinking and creating/debating my own ideas, but for me, that rarely happens when a poem presents the ideas within itself, but rather leads you to the edge of the water, where you then must take the leap or sip or piss, etc. For example, Claudia Rankine's Don't Let Me Be Lonely was a very visceral feeling-based book, not a book of ideas, but yet it is one of those books I'm constantly thinking about and which shapes my thinking and helps me form new ideas (about writing, loneliness, the future, etc.). All that being said, I think I agree with you, about description and language (as ornamentation) as place holders for the lack of something real to say, and about the majority of poems needing more oomph, necessity, intelligence, originality, value, feeling, or what I call "awesomeness."

    p.s. I love you!

    ReplyDelete
  38. when I teach freshman comp, I usually include this Robert Frost quote on my syllabus "All there is to writing is having ideas. To learn to write is to learn to have ideas." And then on the first day of class we talk about the etymology of the word "idea" (in the Platonic sense: look, semblance, form), and talk about writing as being the process of giving "form to thoughts." This usually leads to discussion of form/content, and how you can write an essay with the right form (thesis statement, body paragraphs, conclusion -- and it is the form of the expository essay that seems to get a lot of emphasis in first year composition courses), but that is can still feel empty. And then there is that whole discussion of how one can write a paper because it is assigned, but it is better and more fulfilling to write a paper because one has something to say. I wonder if this is similar to what you are noticing in the submissions. Poems that, look like a poem, move like a poem, are *formed* like a poem...but, as you and others have pointed out, may not have "something worth saying in the first place." "Ideas" seem to be one way of getting at that, but it seems like people probably use lots of words to describe what you are talking about...and then there is the whole question of whether or not words are ideas in the first place.

    I like posts like this one because you're exploring a particular type of pleasure in the poem..."the idea"...and I always value reading about why people like what they like, why they find pleasure in the things that they enjoy. Most editors usually direct readers to previous issues to "get a sense of what we like," but it seems more difficult to try to say what it is one likes. At least it is for me. And so I think it is cool that you are doing that here. Much thanks, Elisa!

    ReplyDelete
  39. I agree! Years ago I complained about this very thing to a friend, a poet who taught at the local university's writers' workshop. "Your students never make a statement," I said. "Oh, we beat that out of them in the first couple of days!" he said, grinning. Later I learned of his disdain for Yeats. Oof! That clinched it! How wrong can writers go?

    ReplyDelete
  40. It's beyond me how you can write something like this:

    "... but I'm writing this as a reader, too. Poems are not supposed to be beautiful (though they can be). They're supposed to be good."

    What is the end of poetic speech then? I don't see how you can separate the two, i.e. beauty and goodness. The thought, by implication, correlates beauty with description and the effectiveness of a poem with its ideas.

    And while it is true that most art is forgotten before it is even conceived of, the "the best 1% of what the past has produced" was, by and large, popular within its own culture and time period. Poets like Dickinson and Donne are irregularities.

    Yes, poems should SAY SOMETHING, but they should say it beautifully. That is a rather ham-fisted manner of expression, but nevertheless an entirely sufficient definition of the end of poetry: beautiful expression of an idea.

    It is not, as you say, a binary choice, but your manner of expression would lead one to believe it is ... so would your example of an "idea poem."

    ReplyDelete
  41. There are probably five interesting poets in the history of the world, and not many more interesting poems. 99% of what people call poetry is exactly the "masturbating with words" that is mentioned here. Anyone can say they're a poet if they string together a few self-indulgent lines that say, basically, nothing.

    ReplyDelete
  42. If 'many cultures' had no trouble identifying what they found beautiful, that only points to their lack of self-reflection -- eg, women with miniscule waists were considered beautiful without question, yet the process of obtaining those waists (corseting) was one of politicized control. Cultures don't practice 'beauty' without politics. 'Healthy' and 'beautiful' are socialization's chimeras, though I feel them in my bones, and our culture is no more or less healthy than any that preceded it -- just a hair more self-aware(not nearly fucking enough if you ask me, if you pick up an issue of Cosmo or Poetry Magazine), and even that small bit seems to make some people yearn for them good old days when poems were poems and men were men and smoking Newports was cool.

    Elisa, I don't know if this is similar to what you're so articulately & bravely saying, but what happens to me lately (well, for the past few years) is that I pick up a journal and read an accomplished poem, even one evidencing real quick talent, and I ask myself: yeah, but what does it fucking mean? When you go outside and you see the sun is shining, doesn't it make you also think of not only how you're going to die but of how people are dying in Haiti, about how you can't really feel their deaths except as a mute horror and what does that make you, about how it's no-one's fault, about John Travolta piloting a scientology airplane into Port Au Prince like some sort of Avatar and all you can do is text-message money to the Red Cross, about why can't one just leave one's job's for a month and go over there and help, or why doesn't every doctor's practice send one person over there, about what are borders even, and climate, and earth, and what would Foucault or Cesare or my deli guy say about this?... Yeah, doesn't the sun (an image/warmth on your skin) make you have ideas? And shouldn't the poem do all that too? And if it doesn't, as Mariah Carey says, got me feeling emotions, then why is it there? Mariah and Sampson are right.

    All this applies to my poems too. They better mean something and if they want to argue with me that meaning itself is a chimera they better do a damn good job or they're not getting submitted anywhere. They better make me cry first. That's why I'm lucky if I get one a month that means something and that I want to put out into the world. And that, my friends, is impractical in a publishing economy whose politics ask for more publication over meaningful publication.

    Also, thank god/monkey there are less Great poets around. Thank goddess for the proliferation of community-minded poets who value a conversation more than egomania. Thank dog we don't *have* to moon about with bottles of wine jumping from bed to bed in coldwater flats to ensure our legend, or coterize with bros, or play muses and hos, or pimp our nationality or flirt from our author photos unless we really fucking *feel* like it. And unless we want the Times to register our existence, haha. And do we really want to? I can't even read the Times anymore -- the language is so formulaic and it's all about how rich people are hip and poor people are authentic.

    What does it all mean?

    ReplyDelete
  43. Yes!

    God, I get tired of looking for good poetry in all the same places (APR, Ploughshares, . . ).

    That's probably why my favorite (living) poets are often quirky: Mary Jo Bang, GC Waldrep, Lucie Brock-Broido, Gabe Gudding, Albert Goldbarth, the occasional Flarfist, Bob Hicok, Joshua Clover, . . .

    J

    ReplyDelete
  44. Michelle: Thanks -- I don't teach so my blog is my only platform for this poetics mumbo jumbo. :)

    ITH: I think my post makes it pretty clear that I want to see _more_ ideas in poems, not only ideas. I included the example to show that a poem can be made with ideas instead of description. Nowhere did I say that it's my ideal poem or the perfect poem.

    Thanks everyone for stopping by and commenting!

    ReplyDelete
  45. Thank you for writing this.

    It is inspiring (as someone who hasn't been published) to see someone who wants a poem to scramble them. The poet may be the scrambler, but that's not what matters.

    ReplyDelete
  46. Hello Elisa,

    I felt a little edgy reading your post at first – I thought I should read your work in order to be a little more informed before I did. Well, I did, and I feel that you are very true to your word (regarding your mode of operation as a poet) and you do it wonderfully! But there's the rub – it works for you – although your work is abstract (terrible word) it is grounded in concept that the reader can grab onto, and it allows the reader to take it places (often ones that you might not have intended, but I imagine, still, with your blessing.) Unfortunately, too many writers begin with the same degree of abstraction, but what are they abstracting from? It is all too slippery and there is no where to go and it is easy to fall overboard and get wet in the bad way.

    Poetry that is simple description can be beautiful and meaningful, too, and take you to as many places as any. It all depends on who is holding the pen. I suspect that this sort of poetry that fails is easier to recognize for its failure because there are less diversions and trap doors – as well as walls to hide behind.

    So I believe (tentatively) that the operative word here is abuse – (perhaps too strong a word, but that is the general direction) – when a writer abuses the freedoms that the form allows him/her, it is, if not a crime, at least a shame, and a little bit of a waste. The good the better and the best don't do that, but they do, as you suggest, utilize the tools to produce the publishable poem.

    Ricky

    ReplyDelete
  47. Hi, Ricky -- thank you!

    I think the idea part of this post is problematic because it sounds like a rule and people are resistant to rules. In the end it's really just a preference, though one I feel strongly about ...

    ReplyDelete
  48. I must have missed the day in poetry class where they taught that ideas can't be beautiful.

    ReplyDelete
  49. A friend directed me to this post and what a good one. I find myself bored with so much poetry I read by so-called 'names' in journals these days. When I find a poet whose work turns me on, holds me interest, inspires me, makes me think, makes me feel...well, I'm thrilled.

    ReplyDelete
  50. such a great post and discussion going on. i thought this was just me! i actually let my subscription lapse to a very notable journal because the poems were just BORING! maybe editors and poets should remember less is more.

    and as an editor, there is nothing i hate more than when i solicit work and i can tell the poet sent me their weakest work. that is complete disrespect people!

    ReplyDelete