Tuesday, March 20, 2007

On reading from a box of my old poems

There's value in leaving things out of poems, of allowing gaps in a narrative field as a way of allowing a reader to assemble a line of thought or interpretation composed of what the writer has furnished and the tactile facts of one's own experience and reading. The best results give us a bit of verbal mystery, a collection of skillfully arranged elements that, hopefully, results in a new poem with each person's reading. But this is an approach fraught with danger, and one wanting to write in this style would need to ask themselves essential questions, such as whether they're going to be able to do what it was Eliot, Ashbery or Rae Armantrout, creating a abstract writing that still draws in a reader and compels them to "finish" the work, or is one going to write a impenetrable mess, either skeletal or verbose, that absolutely defies having any coherence brought to it by even the subtlest reader? I fall into the latter camp more often than I care to admit, and spent too many years being willfully obscure, hermetically sealed and airless, so private in intent that even I was at a loss explain what I was trying to say. Prolixity and drift are my twin trademarks as a flawed poet, and I am the author of many boxes of unreadable sheets of typing paper that are where they belong, in boxes, many of them, waiting for the dumpster.