Showing posts with label SELF-OBSESSION. Show all posts
Showing posts with label SELF-OBSESSION. Show all posts

Friday, May 31, 2024



Interesting things afoot in discussions about the precious craft of writing poetry, an endeavor fraught with personal assessments of what-poetry-must-be . It’s an intense crossfire of what seems like irreconcilable views for some and suffice to say that nearly any side you might take on an issue of trying to “express the inexpressible in terms of the unforgettable”, your bound to offend someone,  be called a fool, dismissed as a philistine, labeled a reactionary kook. It’s a minefield. But lately it’s been intriguing that partisans of different schools of thought about the Highest Art have agreed on one thing in particular, a general feeling of being fed up with poets drowning their poems with first person pronouns. “I, me, mine, my”, an excess of author presence, the feeling of someone talking at you , not with you. No names of offenders or the critics involved, but in a general way I’d like to offer my perhaps fence sitting take on this general complaint.  

It's a matter of "having an ear", a musical ear.
I prefer the ‘I’ of the poem to be a narrator engaged with a world fully outside their senses. It’s composing, no less than composing music. I accept the first-person pronouns as legitimate starting points or anchors, but what satisfies is if the poet concentrates on the perception of things in the world around them and does not use those perceptions for trivial finger exercises in autobiography.. The biggest sin against the art of poetry is the rise of ‘Poetry-About-Poetry’ and, worse, ‘Poems About Being a Poet.’ This is a symptom of someone who has nothing interesting to say.  

I would agree in principle that a contemporary poet is most effective when the language is pared down to the right words for the right image. Prose is the big picture and poetry x-ray, some would have it. But to have poems be hard, solid things, literally objects on par with paintings or sculpture, which was the over all mission of the Imagists movement, is at best a fool's errand. Poetry seems to me the most subjective of the writing arts, one that has inspired unlimited numbers of "schools", manifestos, rules, and regulations and demands that have tried to remake the idea of all poetic expression . Poets are individuals , though, and given a hyper awareness of themselves in the world with minds that work too hard to make connections of people, places, things, ideas, philosophies , morality that wouldn't normally be connected, the need for a writer to access their feelings, their sense of how the world appears and the qualities particular things seem to have --comparing one thing to another and the result being an unexpected third meaning, a new perception--seems to me inevitable.  

Both Steve Kowit and Paul Dresman, my two mentors in my early attempts to write honest poems, insisted that what makes for an effective and resilient poem is craft and having an ear for the right phrase and the right number of words for that phrase, an "ear" as Paul called it. And Steve in particular insisted that half the art of writing poems is in the rewriting. Even if one didn't like Steve Kowit's work, he worked on each poem relentlessly until there wasn't a false note in the piece he was about to publish and / or read.