Friday, September 09, 2005


I got a really long response to my previous blog about influence. I'm not sure I got it all, but basically he was saying that poets need to have some kind of "poetics". I think that's right, we all need to have some idea of why we're doing what we're doing. Not, I think, so that we can go around feeling intellectually smug that we're doing the right thing, though. There is a kind of "poetics" that says, for instance, that "I think poetry should rhyme/be free verse/be political/be apolitical" etc that actually limits the writer because, instead of forming your own poetics, which can subsequently be developed/change over time, you're signing on the bottom line of someone else's manifesto. Maybe it's my Quaker dislike of creeds and formulae, but I'm not going to sign anything.

But I do think we should sit down and do some thinking about why we do what we do and what it is we want to do; even if it's only for a temporary period. Why, for instance, do I find myself increasingly dissatisfied with the poems I write which are straightforward narratives? Why do I feel the need to take a pair of scissors to them and cut them up and rearrange them, introducing a chance element into my poems?

Well, it's partly in order to stay interested; but it's also because I think reality is much more fragmented than a lot of poetry written these days. Memory doesn't operate sequentially, and life includes dreams, it includes thinking odd thoughts that don't seem to connect, it includes parataxis. Life doesn't work according to logical principles, and I want to acknowledge that. But on the other hand, it's not totally meaningless or chaos either; even if some or all of that meaning is invented rather than inherent, human beings are meaning-makers or discoverers.

The beauty of this blog is that I can start to work out my own poetics as I'm going along. And it will be a going-along kind of poetics; hopefully, it'll change a little with each new poem. And part of my poetics will be the idea that poetry can be enjoyable.

Speaking of which. Someone sending to Brando's Hat the mag thought that I meant "light verse," when I said I didn't like overserious poetry. I don't; "light verse" is largely trash and full of obvious rhymes and jokes you can see coming for miles. Not to mention the dull suburban subject matter. What I don't like is pomposity, "kiss-me-I'm-poetical" junk etc (for reference, read Ken Koch's Fresh Air and The Art of Poetry.

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