Sunday, January 01, 2006

On Poetry

To hyperbolize, the only people who care about poems are people who write them, and most typically these people only care about the poems that they, their very selves, write. They might spend a little energy reading their friends' poems. They might sit for long periods of time reviewing another poet's work, but only insofar as the activity reflects their dedication to poetry, their love for it, how hot they are at dancing with understanding.

Well. Okay.

Maybe this is not necessarily the case. The problem with poetry could be more simple. It is. I believe that most poets are simply bad, and most journal editors are dumb, and they mostly publish bad poets. Because I confess: I do not like most of the poems that I read. I can't read them. I try, but the work does not rise up to meet me. A poem should at least meet the reader half way. In fact, everything that the reader is responsible for comes to an end once he turns to a poem. At that point in the relationship, the poem ought to fetch the reader by the hand and guide him through all the ways that it is beautiful.

All the ways the poem is beautiful should be readily, superficially, obvious. When that is the case, I will read and re-read a poem, and if it is a good poem then I will discover a million cubby holes with a million gems tucked in. A poem is like a crossword puzzle -- I once realized after spending twenty minutes with E.E. Cummings -- and when I read one, I complete one. I finish it off, and it makes me proud.

I am okay with thinking about poetry like this, but I am afraid that poets think that to "finish it off" means to kill it, so their poems are forever running away, intentionally eluding the reader/murderer.

Of course, if I weren't such an outstanding poet, unconcerned with my position in the field, I would keep these thoughts to myself. But if Kooser won't say it, I will, because it needs to be said.

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