Friday, May 13, 2011

Return of the jerk

A week ago, I wrote this piece of wholesale celebration: "Poetry -- how I feel about it this morning." Today, I'm feeling irritable again about certain poetry. I'm back to my cranky self.

Of course, the odd thing is this: should an unpublished writer of poems be disgorging so many words about poetry as an artistic and psychological phenomenon? Why should his blathering on the topic 1) be of any value and 2) be read at all? Well, writing this present piece is a way for me to kill a little time. That will have to be justification enough.

I think poetry is a form of expressive art, akin to painting and music. I do not think poetry is a forensic or diagnostic science strutting across short lines in a sterile and sober white uniform. A poem should implicitly sing the colors of being, instead of presumptuously jotting down a prescription for wisdom-pills.

There is a lot of godawful poetry being written. I've written my share of lame junk. The danger is when a poet is convinced he has seen the light, especially a glaring, clinical luminescence. When his poems become expositions on how to understand life in some technical sense.

Loosen the fuck up. A poem -- as a specie of art -- should be an adventure for the reader. Like going to an action movie or mystery or tear-jerker. An experience for gobbling popcorn and slurping a soda pop while reading. The reader should be entertained, almost to the point of drooling or hyperventilation. Not lectured in a know-it-all tone, like in one of those black-and-white hygienic films for high school in the fifties.

Language, in my opinion, is essentially a goggle-eyed voodoo priest spinning around in a mysterious circle, with spazzy sparks flying out of his crazy feather bonnet. And a poem is where this delirious shit really gets to hit the fan. Don't hold it in -- those juicy, ancient, psychotic suppurations of being-into-words. If you do, you'll puff yourself up while your verse begins to dry and crack with sane saying.

Isn't life a kind of blind dance? Doesn't it flow in a sort of incantatory cadence? Aren't peculiar harmonies infecting the conscious melody? Here's a piece of free "wisdom" -- no one has the first clue what existence is. I think language is aware of that, deep down. A poem is where that ignorance gets to do its spontaneous modern dance. An improvisation of feeling and fuzzy thoughts coloring the white sheet in expressive pigments, building up forms of suggestive melancholy or transcendent yearning.

Sure. That's a formula for garish indulgence. So be it. At least it will make a stanza sing into the dream of life. And not a poised diagnosis gleaned from reality's x-ray. Let the bones sound their aching laments. Let the vague viscera tremble into bleeding words.

Life is a Mood and a Question. I happen to think a poem should be moody and suspenseful. Soberness and knowingness make a poem wince. Language is a form of chant. Always has been. A poem should intone, with sympathetic and intensified cadence, the high-strung syntax of being. A line of words achieves expresive symbolic power when surprising juxtapositions -- astonishing duplexes -- erupt from dubious trances, from the field of rich metaphor.

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