Thursday, May 3, 2012

Arguments for Writing Poetry (1)

I love this quote from Mark Strand's The Weather of Words
I is for immortality, which for some poets is a necessary compensation. Presumably miserable in this life, they will be remembered when the rest of us are long forgotten. None of them asks about the quality of that remembrance--what it will be like to crouch in the dim hallways of somebody's mind until the moment of recollection occurs, or to be lifted off suddenly and forever into the pastures of obscurity. Most poets know better than to concern themselves with such things. They know the chances are better than good that their poems will die when they do and never be heard of again, that they'll be replaced by poems sporting a new look in a language more current. They also know that even if individual poems die, though in some cases slowly, poetry will continue: that its subjects, it constant themes, are less liable to change than fashions in language, and that this is where an alternate, less lustrous immortality might be. We all know that a poem can influence other poems, remain alive in them, just as previous poems are alive in it. Could we not say, therefore, that individual poems succeed most by encouraging revisions of themselves and inducing their own erasure? Yes, but is this immortality, or simply a purposeful way of being dead?
The quote makes me happy, giddy, really and it also reminds of the following quote from Ted Kooser's The Poetry Home Repair Manual

Considering the ways in which so many of us waste our time, what would be wrong with a world in which everybody were writing poems? After all, there’s a significant service to humanity in spending time doing no harm. While you’re writing your poem, there’s one less scoundrel in the world. And I’d like a world, wouldn’t you, in which people actually took time to think about what they were saying? It would be, I’m certain, a more peaceful, more reasonable place. I don’t think there could ever be too many poets. By writing poetry, even those poems that fail and fail miserably, we honor and affirm life. We say ‘We loved the earth but could not stay.
I like adding to energy, and creating poems to the whole process of creation seems like adding energy to me. Further, all of this rings of some kind of spiritual and moral life. These things are also close to my heart. I live a life of some sort of spiritual discipline, hoping to add to the good in the world.

There are so many arguments that poetry is dead but I don't think that is true. It's not just these quotes that make me think that but the way in which I see poetry working in the communities around me. I see poetry as a healing conduit, a way that people connect, share, vent, transform, understand, make connections and build dialogues. Perhaps what is dead is the ego in poetry. The Poet's work is for all not just for one. I think it's probably always been that way, despite any of our initial hope and search for glory.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

First Post of Many Poet's Journal Posts

It's time to post regularly.

I thought I would start with some poet's journal posts, most of which will come from a notebook I did for a poetry class in college (2006). I am partially copying my friend John May, whose autodidactic tendencies are both admirable and inspiring. His knowledge, poems, and explications are constantly growing. Please visit his blog. He does good work.

Between the old journal, the inspiration, and of course further readings on my own time, I hope to add to the conversation, or at least post tidbits here for me to revisit as I need or want to or can. Part of this blog then will be a poetry journal that I can access and share online.

I do hope that others will join in the conversation, post their thoughts, write their own posts, share their work, and on and on. I miss the classes, the friends, conversations, and the workshops. Here's hoping I retrieve back some of which I crave.

I wanted to start out with this, a quick essay over the question of whether poetry need be accessible. I would love to hear your thoughts. I see a couple of slippery slopes down there. I didn't edit them out because I'd love to be argued with. ;) Peace and junk:

Accessible Poetry First

"Poetry is knowledge, salvation, power, abandonment. 
The poem is a shell that echoes the music of the world."
--Octavio Paz.

The most potent poetry is universal. It communicates. Its aim is to translate abstractions and the human experience into language. It translates the subconscious, memory, sensual experiences and emotions through images, allusions, and a poet's perception. When a poem is inaccessible, it alienates the reader, guaranteeing a lack of connection between the reader and the poet. There is no communication. Many poets argue that they have a duty to connect with readers. Sylvia Plath for example, states that "one should be able to manipulate [their experiences] with an informed and intelligent mind...personal experience shouldn't be a kind of shut box and mirror-looking narcissistic. should be generally relevant to such things as Hiroshima and Dachau...[things that others can relate to directly or indirectly]" (Alvarez).

Inaccessible poetry can offer grand mind games. It can send readers on scholastic scavenger hunts through dusty library book shelves and obscure articles in databases, as in the case of many of Ezra Pound's or T.S. Eliot's. The readers of such works will surely become smarter and more experienced. However, for those looking to solely connect, inaccessible poetry is a kill shot which can shock a reader from ever trying poetry again. William Carlos Williams states, in his poem "Asphodel, That Greeny Flower," that though "It is difficult/ to get the news from poems/ die miserably every day/ for lack/ of what is found there."

This statement suggests that poetry is an extremely important medium for the understanding of things that are difficult to talk about or understand. Poetry approaches life's questions and though it does not always succeed in finding answers, it tries. It sends the message that the trying is worth the effort. In Poetry's search for understanding, it dually aids others in their own search as they read. To obscure the message in poems for the sake of being elite is to shirk the Poet's duty and to greedily hoard the message for a select number. It is a tactic that can make the way too difficult for readers uninterested in scholastic exercises. Elitism suggests that one must become a person of letters in order to understand the work. Any reader communing with poetry wants to be touched by it. If it is not understood, it is difficult to feel anything. 

Work Cited: Alvarez, A. Sylvia Plath. Beyond All This Fiddle. London: Penguin, 1968. pp. 56-7.