Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Why experimentation doesn't move me.

I suppose that I feel about most modern poetry the way I feel about string theory

which, to quote from a master, signifies nothing.

Sure, people, I know it's interesting work. It's a lot of fun to erase words and pretend you've written a poem or to master the villanelle. Experimentation is important -- it stretches the art, lets us know what can be accomplished. It's fun! But it's not what sustains art. Yes, I understand you're enjoying yourself,

but so are self-pleasuring monkeys at the zoo.

And while wanker monkeys are funny to look at, they don't propigate the species.

To steer back from the impending allegorical trainwreck, let me simply say the following for clarification:

I am championing narrative poetry not because I hate lyric poetry or because I think that no one should write it.

I am championing narrative poetry because I know that stories connect more immediately with people than descriptions. And what I want poetry to do, more than anything else, is connect with the most people it possibly can. Because I know that right now, today, the majority of American readers (approximately 100 million people) aren't reading that much poetry. They certainly aren't buying it. I think that we, as poets, need to stop blaming publishers or readers and start looking at what we are doing wrong. The most minute distillation of this that I can say is --

I believe:

that we need to write better poetry


that our poetry needs to connect with as large an audience as possible.

Many people believe that the two goals are irreconcilable. I say bull. We need to challenge ourselves to write poetry that is as experimental, difficult, and intricate as anything the most calculating language poet/modernist/post-modernist can dream of that is still readable by the majority of Americans.

Isn't that a far greater challenge than just being a Jackson Pollock of words?

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