Thursday, June 7, 2012

when a poem goes 5-D

Most poetry I come across being written nowadays is two-dimensional -- flat, lifeless.

Yesterday, I wrote a little piece bemoaning the stuff I find in the esteemed literary press. Come to think of it, I do believe I have fallen into the obsessional clutches of a perverse hobby: I find myself reading poems in order to marvel at how awful they see how bad it can possibly get.

And I suspect that my bitching about poetry is absurd. Important Editors could not care less what I think. They are apparently determined, no matter the aesthetic injury to readers and culture, to publish banal poetry. They are apparently not interested in publishing extraordinary poetry. (Let me insert here the fact that I also write poems and that editors have been at least discerning enough to reject everything I've submitted; so this is certainly not about me thinking my poems are better or deserving, but simply me thinking about the dearth of extraordinary poems, and wondering about the nature of such poems.)

Occasionally, I'll come across poems that don't actually suck. These have an extra dimension. I'll call them 3-D poems. The reader can discern a shape rising from the page, a certain writing into-the-round. Images have some life, texture, and resonance, even if those poems still lack that hard-to-describe special quality -- aesthetic magic.

Sometimes, a poem moves into the fourth dimension, when the image-shapes and thematic undercurrent begin to take on an aspect of time. The reader enters the time-zone of such a poem and begins to have a vicarious experience. Groovy.

But rarely does one stumble across a masterpiece. They can be known by the fact that hyperbole avoids them. Only the non-masterpieces get surrounded by over-praise. The true works of wonder leave the auditor almost speechless, so there's little chance of such a poem being blasted with arias of accolade.

These rare poems are 5-D poems.

Theme, image, voice, and a certain disinterested (observational, philosophically ironic) attitude come together. Magic ensues upon the page. However that is being accomplished, I just don't know. It must be more like a hermetic science than just sitting down to compose a poem.

So I'm forced to be circumspect and not lather up such poems with my foamy adjectives. As I said, a reader is left practically mute. I'll simply use the word "European" to attempt a description of such wonders. The poem by Victor Serge that I posted a link to yesterday -- "A Crime in Tiflis" -- is a 5-D poem. So are some poems by Cesare Pavese, like "Grappa in September." And many poems by Tomas Tranströmer.

This dimension beyond the 2-D page, beyond even shapes rising up, and beyond an experiential duration...this 5-D realm of poem as an uncanny encounter -- what is it? I just don't know. Maybe it's similar to that boundary we cross between waking and dream. Distinct worlds are entered and exited with no way to understand the ineffable border. Fifth-dimension poems are perhaps instances of moving inexplicably from the prosaic and the everyday into the truly aesthetic.

If you know of any other poets -- especially poets writing now -- who are 5-D poets, please let me know.

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