Sunday, July 1, 2012

poetry and audacity

I read some poetry by internet poets. On blogs and websites. When I was on Facebook, I would read quite a bit of poetry by people who posted their stuff there. I also read some poems by people whose stuff gets published in cyber and print journals or in books.

For the most part, I'm struck by mediocrity. An attitude of mediocrity, a blasé disposition toward the possibilities of language. As if a poem is no big deal. As if a poem is where a slightly perturbed consciousness sets down its lines with a casual motivation and circumscribed expectation. If a handful of friends or a small circle of readers likes what has been written, mission accomplished. As time goes by, the circle might slowly expand. It's as if the poet says: "I'm satisfied to write poems that are not powerful enough to reverse Earth's magnetic field or cause frogs to levitate over Tokyo."

As if every attempt at writing a poem should not be to produce something marvelous, something on the highest level of artistic accomplishment.

A friend wrote me a while back. This friend was feeling disheartened, was having a moment of self-doubt, a crisis of confidence. The talent to write great poems, said my friend, was missing.

My friend may not realize it, but the main ingredient is already there for writing great poems -- the desire to write great poems. The audacity to hold such a thought in consciousness! I'm confident that my friend is one of the rare poets who will, eventually, produce great poems. I'm excited to think about what poems may come and how they will reverberate in my own consciousness.

My friend sent me some poems that had been written over the past year. They are already more marvelous than what I usually encounter. They are already haunted with an awareness of the great poets, are implicit with the audaciousness of those who turned language into art.

This is not about ego, although ego is always a part of artistic expression. This is about sensibility and appreciation for things that are on the highest level. It's about reaching for or climbing toward greatness.

Tomas Tranströmer writes with boldness. When I consider his images, I realize that he moves in an atmosphere far removed from the blasé. Yet showing-out doesn't enter into it. Rather, a compulsion toward quality has gathered around and spiraled into his work. The audacity of serious creation makes his images astound.

My friend and Tranströmer share an attitude toward the page:

"This new poem will not be a mediocre thing. This new poem will be a momentous occasion for shaping language into marvelous forms of echo and vision. Otherwise, why bother?" 


  1. Wonderful post.. Not for having to write on this subject. but saying what needs to be said. I see many writers striving for quantity vs quality and it saddens me. It's as if they take what could be 1 strong, meaningful piece and spread it over 4 weak pieces.
    I personally have not written a poem in over 6 months and will not write /publish until the quality is what I feel a reader deserves to read.

  2. I was having a bit of trouble describing exactly what I wanted to say with this piece.

    It strikes me that many think of writing poems as something other than hermetic participation in the mystery of aesthetics. As if a mundane or non-extraordinary sense of the waiting page is just fine. As if poetry is a form of verbal needlepoint or whatever. (Again, I'm stressing attitude here and not, this time, focusing on craft.) This attitude seems to me prevalent even in much of the big-time stuff that gets published.

    I think the setting down of things into poems should take place in a certain profound context -- poetry as fine art, not as beatnik blathering or microphone slamming. And not as diary mumblings cast into line breaks.

    A poem should be approached the way Beethoven came to a sonata, the Bolshoi to dance, Van Gogh to canvas.

    I think a quality of attitude affects quality of utterance. Lifts it to a higher register, makes it actual art.

    And as always, these little tirades of mine are also sermons to myself.

  3. I hear what you are trying to say and could not agree more. There is one poet, Rich Furgeson, that does "beat" better than anyone I have read of late.. It's not even remotely close to blathering or diaryesque scribbles.. He gives pause and care for his words and from that yes, it is "beat" genre but damn it's well said..

    Our society has such a "Hurry up" attitude, people artists/writers) are not compelled to allow that art to roll around their being until it's a finely polished gem yet seem content in offering the public a cubic zirconia. (I hope that made sense)