Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Why poetry? If it were good, you wouldn't be asking.

I am not a poet or very well read in the form, but when I encounter what is generally considered fine work, I recognize the quality. I have delighted and wondered. I have experienced transcendence.

My beef with contemporary poetry is much like my beef with contemporary art. In its desires to promote content, which, unfortunately, is most often composed of simplistic social commentary, the form has become as uninspring as the naked soapbox. Its modern practitioners have lost the undergirding aesthetics that make great work both powerful and lasting. Many of today's artists (and poets and writers and musicians) promote a message first and barely concern themselves with the package they've wrapped it in. Modern faddists have learned to tolerate such puling coarseness, while most "unsophisticated" (read normal) audiences alike consider the hasty, vulgar packaging and disregard the contents

When I tackle substantive poems with the intent to try to understand what's great about them, I always look to heavily annotated editions and other criticism to help me get the most out of my novice reading. However, as in art, my favorite work grants immediate pleasure, and more and different enjoyments upon examination.

I believe much of the art currently touted is horrifically superficial and worse, boring. I find myself tiresomely able to predict what will be promoted as "shocking" and/or "edgy."
After all, there really are only so many ways that used tampons, condoms, and bodily excretions can be employed in iconic representations of govermental and religious figures. I'm surprised the approach hasn't run out of steam yet. I've been yawning for a decade.

Camille Paglia, who I do not always applaud, is releasing a new book, a line-by-line examination of 43 poems. I expect to find her detailed analysis of the poets' language, context, structure, and antecedents enriching and fascinating. I believe reading work that is intitially beyond my comprehension, and certainly my own emulative abilities, is calisthenics for my brain, and should improve the crapola which I am able to produce.

What is obvious in this article, excerpted from the introduction of her book, is her affection and enthusiasm for the form. May she aid its revivification.

I know I said I'd learn to use the condensed links, and I will. I gotta get on the ball with pictures, too.

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