Friday, December 6, 2013

There are at least a trillion-trillion...

...things to write a poem about. It doesn't matter all that much what a poem maker chooses for his or her literal theme. What matters is that a subsidiary, ineffable theme should run in parallel to the verbalized one.

The presence of this invisible, congruent, and unexpressed theme is accomplished through style, which is made up of attitude and aesthetic sensibility. Almost all the poems being written are missing that spectral element of the unspoken. Almost all the poems being written are just people saying stuff in short lines, who then declare, "I have made a poem!" Not so fast, I reply.

A poem should have something in common with a great painting or a great piece of music -- an uncanny implicitness. Something metaphysical and unsayable should haunt the poem.

You know you have read an actual poem when you realize your soul has just been made strange, when a kind of mystical paranoia infuses the nerves of your reading eyes. Something unexpected, astounding, and ghostly has been opened by the poet. You're not just reading a weather report, so to speak, of someone's neurosis or wading through a solipsistic memoir composed in stanzas. No...when you've encountered an actual poem, the laws of an unknowable physics have tilted your orientation, have altered the dimensions of your consciousness.

What is there but not written is what makes a poem a poem. See the works of Tomas Tranströmer and Adam Zagajewski.

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