The Seeker

A Meta-Cognitive Journal About Writing… Plus Other Stuff

Back in Iowa (What Are We Writing, Again?)

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The question continues to dog me.  What the hell are some of my classmates writing, and why are they writing it?  I can’t be the only one of the ten of us to be asking this.  We continue to  face poems in which there is no place to “put your feet down,” as was mentioned in our second week of work shopping.

One remedy to this, rather than tell those poets to write something more readily understandable, was to refer us to an article about approaching poems that seem almost impenetrable.  I read the article, and am going to go back to it and take more notes, and it helped quite a it.  Something I needed to understand is why someone would write a poem that needs to be “solved.”  The person who wrote the article suggested looking for a “persona” and a “world,” instead of an argument or a plot.  Right there are two major ways in which my poems differ from some of these “new” ones.  That’s actually what the author called it:  New Poetry.  Actually, Very New Poetry.  Like it needs time to prove itself and see if anybody takes the bait and declares it is “worthy.”  I’m not sold.

The author, Stephen Burt, also nailed the issue I’m struggling with:  some of these poems tease or demand or frustrate; they’re hard or impossible to paraphrase; and they try not to tell stories.  Bingo!  So why the hell would someone write a poem like that?  What’s the point in communicating if those are the precepts?  Seems that some of this is a reaction to the conservative and staid academia who preached what quality verse was until students and others were tired of it being forced on them and reacted.  So, it’s backlash against the establishment and it’s been dropped in my lap for me to deal with.  Thanks, white dudes with the elbow patches on your blazers.

I’m not sure how much of the “new” poetry I’ve dealt with is reactionary.  I keep getting the feeling that some of it was scrabbled together the night before workshop, and some of it is a turd sprayed not with perfume but with something else distracting and not necessarily sweet.  I also tried to handle a poem recently in which I had to break the code in order to even read it correctly–that was made apparent when the poet read it in workshop.  The poet had the “key” and read it as it should have been read.  I reverted to my old habit, and once I got lost in it, I put it aside.  Ain’t got time for it.

This hasn’t all been frustrations, though.  Handling some of this “new” poetry has expanded my schema, and I’ve even worked in some vague ways that are new to me as I’ve composed my own poems.  I’ve also become much better at handling the stuff.  So despite my protestations, I’ve learned!  I’m going to cling to my philosophy of dumping stuff that doesn’t engage me, or that I can’t put my feet down in.  It’s just that now there won’t be so much of that stuff.



Written by seeker70

July 16, 2014 at 10:39 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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