Thursday, May 9, 2013

taking poetry seriously

If you lack the desire or compulsion to write coherent, thoughtful, elegant, and persuasive pieces of literary criticism about poetry, then maybe you should give your own poem-writing some time off. If at poetry readings, it never occurs to you to read some poems written by others, then maybe you should give your own poem-writing some time off.

Some time off to think about taking poetry seriously.

I'm on a certain social network, with many poem-writers among my acquaintances there. Many poems are presented but never any essays about poetry. Neither about the art of poetry in general nor appraisals of others' work in particular are to be found there.

That's not taking poetry seriously.

I already hear the protest: "There's not enough time to blather about poetry in general or about the work of others and also write my own stuff. Let the non-poets who are interested in poetry assemble the blathering essays and reviews. Heckfire -- I'm a poet, not a prose stylist. Paragraphs that are coherent, informative, and stylish are not my forte."

To me, that smacks of ego, insularity, and wrongheadedness. If you really love poetry and take it seriously as an art form, then writing prose about it would be as natural and desirous as breathing. Literary criticism should be a goes-without-saying (so to speak) ancillary to writing one's own poems, a thing flowing in the same stream as inspiration and creation. The knack for writing prose would blossom according to the will and conviction of the poet. And shouldn't the poet -- one in communion with language -- be as accomplished in prose as in verse?

At readings, Dylan Thomas used to spend half his time reading the work of others. In the past, poets wrote not just their poems but also about poetry. They took poetry quite seriously.

Perhaps if a quantity of literary criticism was being produced among those in certain circles today, then more non-poets would be attracted to poetry, would become curious to know what the fuss is about, would become enlightened beneath the glow of aesthetic explication and appreciation.

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