Friday, November 17, 2006

What I Love and Hate in Poetry.


I don't want this to be conflated with what I think is good and bad in poetry.
There is, however, substantial overlap, so anything that I think generally good in poetry, as well as being pleasurable to me personally, I will put in italics. I'm taking a relative approach to "objectivity" here. Nothing is absolute or without exception.


1. Musicality.
2. Repetition.
3. Symbolism and Allegory.
4. Sense and Color.
5. Meter and Rhyme.
6. Bending Conventions... that is, either establishing a choice as a process that could be codified and repeated... or conforming to a previously codified tradition, but only with exceptions.
7. Sexy people.
8. Emotion and Passion.
9. The possibility of the Sensational (in a literal, physical sense).
10. The possibility of Progress.
11. The presence of Risk.
12. Anarchy, but only as Artaud defined it.
13. The impression that the poet is craftier and wiser than I am, thereby allowing me to be manipulated (in many senses) without feeling guilty or foolish for it.
14. A willingness to grapple with the social and aesthetic implications of Postmodernism.
15. Almost anything that feels new, either in the sense of "soul" or "fresh" or in more formal terms.


1. A lack of self-consciousness in the medium.
2. The subject of artists and writers in particular.
3. Atavism and Despair, but I only hate them if they are static.
4. Rage, Panic, and Rapture, but again, only if static, and even then it's less awful than atavism and despair.
5. The notion that any one person has "it all" figured out, although this is acceptable if it only happens occasionally and briefly.
6. Sexy people who are nevertheless hate-able.
7. Removal/detachment.
8. The denial of sequence.
9. Absolutes, most particularly in reference to oneself and society.
10. Pseudo-scientific BS, with the lowest and deepest circle reserved for 21st century Freudians. Why? Because he's long dead and was wrong about most things. He was right about a couple, however. Self-consciousness (even credulous self-consciousness) however can make this acceptable to me. Ditto for religions, spirituality, astrology, and most -isms in their most extreme forms.
11. Any form of anarchy different from Artaud's definition.
12. The impression that the poet thinks he/she is craftier and wiser than I am, and is most emphatically not.
13. Postmodernism? Postmodernism.

On an elemental level (I don't know if there's resonance with someone else's Ars Poetica, inasmuch as there's any border area between prose and poetry, I think it is easier to locate in the latter than the former. Specifically, everything I've encountered that calls itself a "poem" has had in common an engagement and reckoning with the elemental forms of language, physically and semiotically. In the (hazier) definition of prose, this exploration is either neglected or submerged beneath other concerns (narrative, plots, character, theme), which may nevertheless be present in poetry.

The most important distinction, then, is a matter of emphasis and not kind. This definition strongly informs my preferences.



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