Thursday, May 28, 2009

Finding a Fresh Way to Make One's Point

"I once responded to a girlfriend’s love poem by critiquing its imagery. That relationship didn’t last long." Besides that classic opening line, we found this rumination on love poems interesting in other ways. We especially liked how one unusual formulation startled us just a little: the idea that a young poet's main handicap springs from being "an inexperienced feeler." A nice reminder that saying something in a fresh, interesting and possibly unexpected way is what good writing is really all about.
UPDATE: The newly installed Poet Laureate of Great Britain says all poems are love poems.


At 11:05 AM, Blogger Art Durkee said...

The inexperienced feeler aspect of it is I think very true. That's often what leads to the hoary clichés in the poems themselves: because you don't know how to articulate what exactly you're feeling, how to get it into words, being both young feeler and young poet, you fall back on the common practice of the pool of shared tradition, and imitate.

But the other comment that stood out to me was Craig Arnold's about the Decade of Irony, in which one if never supposed to express directly or sincerely. To my mind, that's become such a dominant trope in poetry now, to the point where it's SO indirect you might as well be talking about plumbing rather than love. Can we please finally get past the belief that irony is somehow the most authentic, real, or hip and cool stance for poetry? Please? It's so frakking cold by now, just let it die.

Not to mention that this was always a very urban thing, and not a "regional" or "rural" trope in poetry, not so much. As most literary fashions are.

At 11:19 AM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Bravo, all well-said, Art. As usual. Speaking of irony, there's one delicious irony embedded in all this: that website to which I linked might look awfully well-tended for a poetry foundation, and it is. That's owing to a giant $200-million bequest to the Poetry Foundation (based in Chicago) from a pharmaceutical heiress, Ruth Lilly of the family that founded Eli Lilly. Interestingly, she made the donation despite the fact that the foundation, which long published a poetry magazine, declined to publish the poems she had submitted as a young girl. Anyway, as one might guess, all that money caused some savage infighting in the normally staid poetry world, with various competing ideas about how it should be put to use.

At 12:50 PM, Blogger Art Durkee said...

Oh, heck, yes. When the Lilly endowment hit the news, the ripples went all through the poetry world. They still are. Everyone wants a piece of that pie. Still do. And the jealousy backbiting? Ouch.

As a poet friend of mine once quipped, "The reason the poetry world is so vicious is because there's so very little at stake." LOL

The Poetry Foundation's online poetry workshop, you know, one of those workshop poetry boards, anyway, that's affiliated with the Foundation, has laughably become one of the most toxic of all such online poetry boards. The money makes things worse. Why?

Because it makes everybody think more conservatively—not because money makes people conservative, although it can, but rather, the fear of now having something to lose makes them more cautious.

And to be honest, it was not necessarily a nice thing to do to the Foundation, because it made them a target. And they really don't know what to do with all that money. They're still trying to figure that out, I believe. So most of the new programs they fund are pretty staid and unambitious.

Not that Poetry Magazine itself has remotely supported experimentation in poetry lately. Quite the opposite. Speaking of staid.

At 1:14 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

It certainly has become a cautionary tale about the bad consequences of sudden riches. Coming into so much money suddenly seldom works out well--for individuals, families or organizations. Nevertheless, I remain open to the possibility of personally disproving that dynamic myself. So send along your checks with many zeros. I promise to use it responsibly.


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