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News: Foetry.Com v.2 Forum Archive Through May 2007
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Author Topic: Irons in the Fire  (Read 15567 times)
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Posts: 768

« Reply #15 on: February 02, 2007, 10:03:58 AM »

The Tupelo and Crazyhorse actions are believable.  You see people come on this site all the time claiming that they think the ends justify the means.  But the system is corrupt.  Even a great collection of poems is a let-down when you think of the backscratching and politics and bullshit that produces it.  When I look at a Tupelo title now the first thing I imagine is who sold their integrity to make it happen.

his is the abyss--quit staring!

Posts: 1314

« Reply #16 on: February 02, 2007, 09:39:40 PM »

Varallo got his PhD from Missouri....(hello Scott Cairns!)

...where he was classmates with John Tait...

...with whom he was just down in Austin at AWP...

...whose story he just published in Crazyhorse (and who he made finalist Crazyhorse's fiction contest, too)...

by the way, Tait was hired at UNT right out of Missouri, sans book, etc., when what's-his-name--Cairns!--left UNT

Cozyhorse indeed.

"You especially have to be hurt like hell before you can write seriously. But when you get the damned hurt, use it -- don't cheat with it.” -- Ernest Hemingway
Alan Cordle
Monday Love
Posts: 1130

« Reply #17 on: February 03, 2007, 10:42:54 AM »

Thanks, Alan.

It sort of resembles tunnels of rats.   (shudder)


I also think it's well understood by everyone here that there's nothing wrong with literary circles consisting of friends bound by a legitimate and unique aesthetic cause.

But this is clearly a prize and cred-giving business arrangement to further crass ambition, which cuts out others and damages the art in the long run-- a termite nest feeding from the inside of American culture.

The combined actions of Iowa/Missouri,Boise/Tupelo/Crazyhorse, et al, is anti-democratic.  There is a presumption on the part of these writers that since the public will not buy enough of their books to support who they are, they need to heap awards upon themselves by playing the system, and thus keeping alive (in their eyes), true literature that the "foolish" public will not support.  But once this presumption is fully accepted and it becomes a code to live and write by, which no doubt it has, little good can come of it.  Despite what a small group of friends may think, democracy is the best way to achieve aesthetic excellence and avoid the insularity and corruption of foetry.   The seal of validity is never valid in itself.

hisper and eye contact don't work here.
Posts: 1314

« Reply #18 on: February 19, 2007, 01:05:21 PM »

Levine wasn't lying!  He's on the faculty for the Colrain Poetry Manuscript Conference where you can get your manuscript read for only $900.  You see everyone, you should have taken him up on his $300 offer.  Sucha Deal!

See also:

And the whole personal critique is just sort of skeezy. Tell me, who among us has ever really read a poem, a book, by Levine? Or even heard of him outside him being the editor of a (formerly) prestigious press? Not me. I think if I were going to pay that much for mss. critique, I’d choose a poet whose actual WORK has made them well-known, not their position of power in po-biz.
-- from

"You especially have to be hurt like hell before you can write seriously. But when you get the damned hurt, use it -- don't cheat with it.” -- Ernest Hemingway
Alan Cordle
Monday Love
Posts: 1130

« Reply #19 on: February 20, 2007, 11:48:37 AM »

I think Foetry should rent out the Round House and have a conference.

Those sleeping cubbies--so cute!

I see no difference between this Colrain manuscript conference and the vanity poetry publishing schemes which more 'respectable poets' decry.

What is the difference, besides the setting?  

Who are these people getting all this money to judge your manuscript?  
Levine, Houlihan, Marchant.  Where are their great poems?

Have any of these people written great poems?   No.  They are busy-bodies and quacks who are immersed in fraudulent schemes of legitmization, and it's OK because 'it's poetry,' practiced in a place which 'looks like a town in Ireland.' LOL

What is the difference, really, between this and the folks who accept your poem and put it in a big book and then ask you to buy it?

At least the Poetry Vanity Biz salespeople publish you and satisfy your vanity--that's something, at least.  What will the Colrain faculty do? Levine charges you for the promise of possibly publishing you, and offers you either the vanity of his worthless approval or the pain of his equally worthless rejection.  There's an excellent chance your vanity will be injured, and anybody can do that--simply by ignoring you.  Why pay someone for this?  And how much can a poet 'improve' by being one of many manuscripts looked at for an hour or two by a dime-a-dozen poetic mediocrity who happens to have a book or two and an editorship somewhere?

Colrain has no more to do with poetry than the Poetry Vanity Biz does.  Let's be honest.  This has everything to do with the Round House.  

The added horror is that imagine if your poetry is a great deal better than Levine's or Houlihan's or Marchant's?   It is psychologically true that the odds are good they will reject the young poet for this reason, or turn them in a different direction.  So there is the added minus that de-educating of quite a serious sort could also occur.   The beauty of the Round House should not cause the would-be applicant to forget this.

What you are paying for is the chance to stay at the Round House and perhaps share a sleeping cubbie with an attractive person.  (Jim Behrle, for instance, might attend the conference, and invite you to his cubbie at night.  Now here you might learn something.)

There's a pretty good chance, since none of the Colrain manuscript doctors have distinguished themselves as poets, that any advice they give will lead the apprentice astray.   Workshopping is never a guarantee for improvement.

The weekend workshop experience can just as well make a person worse, and if the teacher seems negligent, or the process feels unfair in any way, the experience may even be damaging to the would-be poet.

I think we should workshop a Levine, Houlihan, Marchant poem right here first, and see how the teachers themselves write.  That would be at least as amusing as any workshop in a beautiful house in western Massachusetts--but which looks like Ireland!  Ireland, Ireland, remember, it looks just like Ireland.  Just imagine!  You'll be in a place which looks like Ireland!   And be with people who slightly resemble poets!

hisper and eye contact don't work here.
Posts: 1314

« Reply #20 on: February 20, 2007, 12:05:47 PM »

Hey Monday, great idea.  Meet me in the Round House.

"You especially have to be hurt like hell before you can write seriously. But when you get the damned hurt, use it -- don't cheat with it.” -- Ernest Hemingway
Alan Cordle
Monday Love
Posts: 1130

« Reply #21 on: February 20, 2007, 01:22:51 PM »

Here's a Joan Houlihan poem which I found on the web.  I picked it because it sounded like her best title.

I Sing to You, Offering Human Sound

Come here. Let me finger your hair.
I like the way you imitate weather:
a white breath here and there
the rush and sting of pinkened air
a coven of crows talking briefly of home
and then the pelted tree.
By these shall I know ye,
bless yer little round mug.

Oh, my semi-precious, so much slow time
so much crawling and browsing
so much fascination with harmful insects
and corrosive sublimate.
As if you have as many eyes
as many eyes as the common fly,
and every one stuck open wide
to the wonderful, wonderful world.

So, I get up at 4 am, finally, to put on some tea—
a soothing explanation for steam.
Children grow into themselves, then away.
We musn't worry when they're gone—
or worse, not-quite-gone-yet.
The roots of things connect
where we can't see.

When I was born, Mother began counting
to herself. Something in the middle
must have gone missing.
Fortunately, I have all my faculties.
In fact, I still remember to turn
every small thing until it gleams:
like your favorite airplane pin

there, riding on its own cotton wad.
Now come here so I can see
through your eyes to the sky within.
You are my only animal—
my animal of air.

Any good poem will explain itself and not be a mystery to us, unless that mystery is a pleasant indefiniteness as part of the aesthetic pleasure.  

We know, from reading a great deal of contemporary poetry, that stringing together stream-of-consciousness observations which make little sense to the reader is all too common a thing.  

Let's see if Houlihan is more than a common scribbler and can show us she deserves money for her insight and wisdom.

The title sets up an expectaton of sound, but the first line is 'let me finger your hair.'  It is a real drawback to begin with obscurity, and that is what Ms. Houlihan has done.  Why do so many poets do this?  Because they equate obscurity with difficulty and difficulty with virtue.  This formula leads to more bad poetry than even the most fastidious workshop dandy can read.  "I sing to you" is the template with which Ms. Houlihan begins, and so the reader can't help but wonder: who is the "I" and who is the "you" and what is their relationship?  And also, how will 'sing' and 'sound' come into play.  But immediately, with the first line, we are thrown off.  

 Every poem sets up expectations and then fulfills or dashes them.   The title sets up an expectation, followed by the first line, and so on.  If the expectation is dashed too many times, the reader will give up in despair, even as the poet trundles on, with all these visions which the reader has not been told about.  

How do we know what we know about a poem, as the poem is being read? Will 'the voice' gives us a clue?  Will the narrator tell us?  Or do we have to guess?  Ms. Houlihan is one of these poets, it seems, who writes poetry as 'guessing game.'  The more the reader is in the dark, the more 'difficult' the poem is, and since difficulty is a virtue, the poet thinks they are succeeding, when in fact they are failing.  Read any great poem and the thing you notice is how you know right away the whole circumstance of the poem.  You don't have to guess.  Poets who make the readers guess are the inferior type.  When Eliot writes, "Let us go then, you and I..." one knows immediately the circumstance of the poem, and the lines which follow build on this clarity.  True, we do not know everthing about the narrator and guest, but enough is known so that the reader is not put in the condition of wasting a lot of mental energy guessing what the poem is all about.  The amateur forces the reader to wildly guess about what the hell is going on.  

Houlihan's first line is confusing in the worst sense. "Come here.  Let me finger your hair."  The speaker makes an intimate request, but we don't know yet what's going on.   Now comes an elaborate metaphor.  "I like the way you imitate weather."  Ms. Houlihan is going to leave us in the dark.  But why is this necessary?   Why keep the poem from its readers? Why, Mrs. Houlihan, why?   Don't you realize you are breaking the number one rule?  You are putting up a wall between your poem and the reader, and you should never do this, unless the payoff is really, really big, unless there is an internal reason for it.  

Mrs. Houlihan continues on with her metaphor (before we know what the metaphor is describing!) and now we get a description of 'weather' and a natural landscape (not very specific to anything) and then the randomness ends with "By these shall I know ye/bless your little round mug."  It must be the narrator is addressing a dog.  And now the title makes sense, because since the dog cannot undertand language, when you sing to a dog you offer the dog 'human sound' rather than 'human meaning,' though 'human sound' might also encompass 'meaning.'  

But there is still too much obscurity.    The poet is not in control of the poem; it is not enough to toss out ideas and metaphors and images which might be interesting in themselves; with every new line comes well, something new, but also the responsibility to make it make sense as a whole; 99% of poets can do the former but only 1% can do the latter as well.  There is nothing in her elaborate metaphor which is specific to the 'mug' to whom she is speaking.  The poem is going backwards, in fact, since "human sound" provided an interesting template, but if a dog's mug was where this template was going, we should have been told about the dog in the first place, for 'human sound' to my dog completes the idea, and there is no reason to separate them by 8 lines on hair and weather, unless those 8 lines reify the idea, and they do not; and so those 8 lines become a detour, and not important to the poem.  

The second stanza appears to be an ode to her dog, how the doggie chases bugs and is sensually alive to the 'wonderful world.'   A common perception, and a pretty dull stanza.  "wonderful, wonderful world" is 'telling' and not 'showing.'  This is a below-average stanza, clearly.

The third stanza now turns away from the dog and focuses on the narrator getting up at 4 AM to make tea, contemplating kids leaving the nest, a sentimental and plain stanza, really.  By now, it is pretty apparent the poem is a failure.  We've already had an onslaught of ugly lines, such as "the rush and sting of pinkened air" and  "Oh, my semi-precious, so much slow time" and "We mustn't worry when they're gone" and there's nothing about the poem itself to make it interesting: a sentimental and cliched address to a dog.

In the fourth stanza the narrator recalls, in a vague manner, her birth, her mother, and congratulates herself on having all her faculties, and then there's something about an "airplane pin."

The final stanza has the narrator looking into the eyes of her dog, and we get the final concept, "my animal of air."  

So our journey took us from "human sound" to "animal of air."    "I can see through your eyes to the sky within" is the best line of the poem, in terms of uniting the poem's parts somewhat, but there has been too much plain language, too much delay, too many digressions, to allow this poem to lift off the ground.

This poem is problematic enough that I cannot imagine its author feeling confident enough to tell others (for pay) how to write.  

Here is Ms. Houlihan, instructing others, while this poem lies among her work, begging to be revised.

hisper and eye contact don't work here.
Monday Love
Posts: 1130

« Reply #22 on: February 20, 2007, 06:45:39 PM »

Welcome to the Round House.

Jeff Levine's poem, "Elegy in Instanbul" is abstract and brittle, in contrast to Houlihan's personal, homely, sentiment, but the Levine suffers from the same problem: obscurity.  The rhetorical strategy of sophistication and difficulty and paradox and indirection is the well-traveled path of the serious poet, but this strategy, as good as it is, cannot save the empty center.

Look how the poem begins, a long line of vague pretension:

What’s given up amazes everyone,
     as the wonder of what remains—pink and tender—

each body celebrates its losses, body leaving body,
     arcing out in dimmed rhythm like the seer

who rubs your shoulders hard enough
     to press out virgin oil, and later others wash

the towels until the last traces vanish from the nap—
     linens shelved into one long ballet blanc.

Levine greets the reader with a puzzle.  

"amazes"--what amazes?  

"the wonder"--the wonder of what?

"pink and tender"  pink and tender what?

"each body"  body of what?

"body leaving body"    leaving how?

"arcing out in dim rhythm?"     dim rhythm?  huh?

"like the seer"     and now we get a metaphor attached to non-meaning!  We saw Houlihan do the same thing to open her poem; the poet has established nothing, and now appends a metaphor to this nothing!   This is rhetoric so smugly confident of itself, so entirely self-pleased, that the reader is left completely out of the picture.  Something 'amazing' and invoking 'wonder' and involving 'body leaving body' and 'arcing out in dim rhythm' is doing so 'like a seer who rubs your shoulders' and 'later others wash the towels' --wait, now we have people washing towels--are the towel-washers part of the metaphoric appendage, or is Levine introducing something new on top of the nullity which he has (not) established?  How are we to reconcile "amazed" and "wonder" to towel-washers?  Levine wants to have his cake and eat it too.   He wants to describe something "amazing" without actually describing it, and does he then think that this will guarantee that the reader will find it amazing?  Is this what Levine is thinking?

The final image of this anguish is "linens shelved."

Well, gosh, Jeff, if you were describing something so plain, why not just come out and describe it, then?   Why all the rhetoric?  What are you hiding?  Are you ashamed of the subject of your poem?

Finally, we get a plain description of what might be going on:

Two smocked women in a narrow room strip
     layers from an antique canvas—

scuff through to faintest pentimento,
     a master’s oils alloyed in a crucible of berries, roots.

So meticulously they work, they start to love their hands,
     love each layer as it flowers beneath their hands.

The layers flake to dust, settle like hoarfrost
     to the pitted floor.

At day’s end, flecked smocks pegged, the linings warm
     and worn, abalone buttons fracture

under jaded fingers like dime-store paint, half-
     Caravaggio, half-mystic, these artisans,

their patience out of nothing, but somewhere
     something solid lives.  As there,

through the half-light of dusk, someone’s returning berries
     to the berry bush, replacing each just so,

and in winter, too.

So two women are doing something to a painting--restoring it?  

"they start to love their hands" is awful.  

And "their patience out of nothing, but somewhere/something solid lives" sounds like condescending praise of the womens' task from an outsider/tourist perspective.

Finally, "someone's returning berries to the berry bush" is awful again.

As with Houlihan, we have to wonder why someone who writes poetry like this feels they are qualified to teach others--for pay.

hisper and eye contact don't work here.
Posts: 89

« Reply #23 on: February 20, 2007, 07:31:59 PM »

It's all so cozy in that Boston poetry scene. The left bone is connected to... The same people spend decades reading with each other, blurbing each other, conecting and hooking eac h other up with publishing opportunities. I guess the good thing is that they don't really deviate much. Seems boring when you get a another notice that Marchant is reading with so and so again...for the 55th time. They seem afraid to read with anyone they don't know.

A whole group of mediocre poets are all connected to each other and they have had entre to Four Way Books, the old Zoland Press, Agni and Greywolf. Chicago is there for Lloyd Schwartz and Gail Mazur, Schwartz a little better than the very mediocre Mazur, and both of them promoting the fumes of each having taken a last class with Lowell, supposedly. Though I find no where that Lowell stamped either one with the genius stamp. Mazur making her rep by running the Blacksmith House and turning it into an MFA puddle to run everyone through. You don't read there if you're not in that crowd even though take money from the Mass Arts and NEA (I assume).

Marchant is a nice enough guy but reading him is like reading Basho light or Bly light or Transtromer light. Bly says go live in the forest for a year so you can learn to think anew and see anew and of course he is repeating the lessons of monks from 2,000 years ago. The MFA poet lives on the edge of the forest in a nice motyel with cable and takes photos of the forest. And writes poems describing the photo. In their poems there is no smell (good or bad), blood, rocks, real moonlight. It's like they've been shopping in the poetry department at Walmart, picking up lines and a few images on sale.

Basically everything Monday says is on point. A good analysis. There's nothing there in those poems. They are poems without a heart, or pulse or real skin. It's all in the head.

This is Transtromer:

After a Death   
by Tomas Tranströmer   
Translated by Robert Bly

Once there was a shock

that left behind a long, shimmering comet tail.

It keeps us inside. It makes the TV pictures snowy.

It settles in cold drops on the telephone wires.

One can still go slowly on skis in the winter sun

through brush where a few leaves hang on.

They resemble pages torn from old telephone directories.

Names swallowed by the cold.

It is still beautiful to hear the heart beat

but often the shadow seems more real than the body.

The samurai looks insignificant

beside his armor of black dragon scales.

From The Winged Energy of Delight: Selected Translations by Robert Bly, published by Harper Collins. Copyright © 2004 by Robert Bly. Reprinted by permission of Robert Bly. All rights reserved.

Big difference from Marchant or Houlihan or Levine. They skate the surface but never get there. They live off the praise they give to each other, they aspire to the reputation and even argue for it in their many promotions of each other but they don't see into the dark. Bly in the 70s called what Transtromer has "night vision." I think Transtromer is right there with the greats: Neruda, Vallejo, Lorca, Machado. He not only looks out the window and sees the invisible threads that hold the world together but also connects one thing to another. He is a walking tuning fork, picking up messages from the other side most of cannot see or hear. The faux poet waves the Western Union telegram saying it is from the other side (we know it is not). Transtromer though sits down for diner with ghosts before a plate of shadows. He sinks into the earth and picks the messages traveling through the dark.

Here is another Transtromer:

The Half-Finished Heaven

Cowardice breaks off on its path.
Anguish breaks off on its path.
The vulture breaks off in its flight.

The eager light runs into the open,
even the ghosts take a drink.

And our paintings see the air,
red beasts of the ice-age studios.

Everything starts to look around.
We go out in the sun by hundreds.

Every person is a half-open door
leading to a room for everyone.

The endless field under us.

Water glitters between the trees.

The lake is a window into the earth.

I rarely find anything in Machado or Lorca or Transtromer that I have seen or heard before . The MFA poet writes the poem filled with objects telling you there is a story or emotion but rarely do they actually connect.

This not as eloquent as Monday but I'm just throwing this off the cusp. I've just come in from a long trip and I am exhausted. The message of this missive is to read Lorca, Machado, Hikmet, Neruda, Bei Dao, Vasko Popa, Transtromer, Anna Swir. I have been going back to them for three decades now.
Expatriate Poet
Posts: 150

« Reply #24 on: February 20, 2007, 11:43:48 PM »

Thewayitworks wrote:
 This is not as eloquent as Monday but I'm just throwing this off the cusp. I've just come in from a long trip and I am exhausted. The message of this missive is to read Lorca, Machado, Hikmet, Neruda, Bei Dao, Vasko Popa, Transtromer, Anna Swir. I have been going back to them for three decades now.

Thank you, Thewayitworks--and it may not be as eloquent as Monday Love and just thrown off the cusp, but it's about poetry, that's for sure. It's about poetry and not about you.

Thank you Monday Love too--now I see that you can take the talk to the poetry after all, if you want to. This is a very valuable thread now--take note of that and make it a model.

One final plea--poets should try not to publish anything that they themselves have not approved by living with daily for at least 5 years, preferably 10, and then having got to the point that they really can't add a word, or change a word, or subtract a word without lessening the soul of the poem. That takes a lot of time to know--there's no shortcut to arriving at a work of art that is so right it feels both inevitable and forever.

Such patience may be taught in a workshop but cannot be learned there--put up the poems on a board for all to see and then come back in 5 years to re-examine them. Are they still valid? Are they still intact? Then let the critique begin.

Thanks, you two,


P.S. I feel sure all the participants at the Colrain Poetry Manuscript Conference will want to read what is being said here, it's so much to the point. Indeed, if the organizers are really serious about what they are doing they will want to provide the participants with the URL before they arrive, and recommend that they view it. That's not to say that the organizers or the participants have to agree with all the details, but they stand a much better chance of actually benefitting from the conference if they reflect on the larger issues that are involved.

As to my own comments, yes, of course there are poems written by almost anyone, including children and hospice patients, that are all there from the very start but, as valuable as they are, those poems are not written by intention, and are very, very hard to repeat. There are also poets who do write a considerble number of great poems with apparent ease, but they are very rare individuals and very unlikely to sign up for manuscript reviews!

It's like all the arts--who expects to play the piano well without practice, or golf? And do piano teachers and golf teachers have to play well in order to teach well? It depends on how well you mean, of course it does--but please spare me from the teacher who tells me, the tone-deaf or handicapped emperor, I'm doing just fine! Playing the piano for my own pleasure, or golf with my friends, that's a delight, at any level--but don't promise me Carnegie Hall or the Masters when I'm just a beginner!

And finally, if you're tone deaf or handicapped yourself, go on teaching by all means, but make sure you teach the right students at the right level--because we all have had the benefit of learning in some way from people whose limitations are the source of their strength, like my deaf and dyslexic paraplegic brother who taught English language in Bangkok for free. Such people have a very valuable place in the scheme of things, to be sure, but they would never be effective in what they did if they covered up their disabilities, what's more were unaware of them.


Christopher Woodman
Monday Love
Posts: 1130

« Reply #25 on: February 21, 2007, 12:29:12 PM »


I have just begun a project, going through all the past Best American Poetry volumes, beginning with the first one, 1988, edited by John Ashbery--I have many of these books, so I think, why not?--to choose poems I think are really the best of the best.  

I'd like to see for myself: how many 'good' poems have been published in America in the last 25 years?  

As you know, the Best American Poetry series prohibits translations.  

The first 1988 volume contains, in my opinion, only 4 good poems:

"Prophecy" by Donald Hall,

"Nostalgia of the Lakefronts" by Donald Justice,

"Histoire" by Harry Mathews and

"Dummy, 51, To Go to Museum, Ventriloquist Dead at 75" by May Swenson.    

Coincidentally, Swenson published a book of Transtromer translations, by the way (Pittsburgh, 1972).

I'm up to the H's in the next volume (1989) and have only found one so far, by David Budbill.

I confess I've never lived in the woods.  I belong to that urban, Harvard Square world of Gail Mazur.  I'm not going to go as far as condemning certain lifestyles, ones that are not monk-like enough, for instance, in my critique of po-biz.  Perhaps I'm the weaker for being too urbane and sheltered; I'll be the first one to admit this.  

I do think a poet needs some kind of journey or hurt which takes them out of themselves, but I can't say where that pain-of-awareness has to come from, or even if it has to come; read any biography of a great writer and there is always some death, some exile experienced, even if in childhood, which is rarely discussed. Or, perhaps the writer is lucky to have a large amount of joy and peace in which to write, even as they experience sorrow from afar.

Some will get more from a stroll in the woods than others will get living in the woods for years.  But these sorts of things are hard to determine because awareness can be bred in secret places, and in the tender beginnings of life.  

To be a monk, to go into the woods, is a crucial trope for human beings, for writers, I won't deny that.  The foet does not tend to be the monkish woods dweller, that's certainly true!   The foet is more often than not the busy-body, running readings and publishing everybody.

I have to admit I've never really 'got' Transtromer.  But then I don't 'get' the translated poems of masters like Valery or Mallarme either.

But I think what you are describing is an other-worldliness, this 'night vision' that allows us to see ghosts.

I don't know if everyone would describe it this way.  For many, poetry is a social act, like a quilting party.  A lot of people look for social normalcy or social connection in poetry, and not much more.  And if this 'social connection' includes foetry, they think, 'so what?' because 'the quilting party with friends' is their guard against the darkness.  

But think of how different it is for someone like you, who wants to go into the darkness.

I describe it as a 'fix.'  I want poems that intoxicate me, which get me stoned.  I want a poem that takes me out of the normal, social environment, away from the usual social gestures, quirks and quips.  

These two general types are bound to be at war with each other.   The first type, the 'social' type, looks for social connection.  The other type (and here I think I include both you and myself) want some sort of otherworldly intoxication (even as it 'connects' darkly to real life in some harmonious manner)--it's almost like the poem is a shot of whiskey, and if the poem does not produce an elevation in us, we find that it 'doesn't work.'  The first type of reader is suspicious of any intoxication; the second type requires it.  The first type is charmed when Gail Mazur goes to Fenway Park to watch the Red Sox.  The second type laughs: Fenway Park??

The first type drinks poetry like water, and doesn't need anything to happen beyond a simple quenching of social curiosity: Gail Mazur goes to Fenway Park, how interesting!   The second type needs poetry like a drink, but finds themselves always one drink away from giving up on poetry altogether--since most poems they read don't give them the fix they need.   How long would booze stay on the market if 49 bottles in 50 had the same effect as water?

Ironically, the first type of reader has a better chance of being an actual alcoholic.  (Actually I have no idea, but in my gut I think it's true.)

The first type is also bound to stick together in a group and socialize with each other, for obvious reasons.  The second group, while sharing a common identity, is sure to disagree among themselves more; the second group live more 'on the edge, tend to be more 'blunt and honest,' are perfectionists, have greater expectations, and base their expectations more on what exists elsewhere--in the land of ghosts.   Look at us.  We disagree on Transtromer.  If I were the first type of reader, it would be enough for me to say: oh, he's a Swedish writer, isn't that interesting?  It wouldn't even occur to me to say, "He doesn't give me the 'fix' I'm looking for!"

I actually strive to study, understand, and be more like the first group, if one can believe that, since getting along socially is crucial to happiness as a human being--if not as a poet.


hisper and eye contact don't work here.
Posts: 38

« Reply #26 on: February 25, 2007, 03:09:15 PM »


When you make a comment like:

"I'd like to see for myself: how many 'good' poems have been published in America in the last 25 years?"

You really ought to add on at the end "by my personal standards."  To do otherwise is to court pretension.
Monday Love
Posts: 1130

« Reply #27 on: February 25, 2007, 04:46:57 PM »


But isn't 'by my personal standards' a given?

Of course it will 'by my personal standards.' How could it be otherwise? I'm not God.

Over time, however, even 25 years, some truths do begin to emerge.  Nobody thinks John Clare is better than John Keats, do they?   Even though everyone has their own 'personal standards?'  

It does help to read poems more than once, also.  I've read all these volumes many times.  Eventually the good poems do rise to the surface after multiple readings.  

But yes, you are right.  These choices are 'by my personal standards' and even by 'my accidents of mood, etc etc'


hisper and eye contact don't work here.
Posts: 1314

« Reply #28 on: February 25, 2007, 04:49:26 PM »

It's always fun when Tripiv returns, isn't it?

"You especially have to be hurt like hell before you can write seriously. But when you get the damned hurt, use it -- don't cheat with it.” -- Ernest Hemingway
Alan Cordle
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