Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Strong Verse, Briefly

In a bow to the tl;dr nature of the internet and with an understanding that the revelation of ideas is not their purest expression, you'll find below the distillation of the Strong Verse series.

In order to recall poetry from stagnation, poetry must become an everyday occurrence.

Poets must understand what poetry does best:

Poetry best joins together voices in a homogenious society.

The job of the poet is not to be a slave to language but to be a servant of humanity. As "the proper study of mankind is man," we must realize that if we are to have an audience we must understand and engage that audience.

We cannot, as David Yezzi says, write short poems by a solitary speaker on individual experience about "going into the woods" and "feeling something."

We must serve, not ourselves, but our society--and if we feel that society is not worth serving then we must serve the society we want to see--civilization follows art and art must lead.

To this purpose, lyric poetry remains useless. The lyric mode is incapable of providing the breadth of experience necessary to continue to validate poetry. Without narrative--and without a re-examination of the purpose of poetry, our art will slip irreparably into anachronism and irrelevance.

The easiest way to do this would be to balance the appetite of the audience with the desire of the poet--but because so many have been poisoned on poetry this is, for all intents, impossible. Therefore we must look to a past when poetry held more relevance. This directs us to the Tennyson-Longfellow era in English-language poetry--which is where we draw the desire for the narrative and a disdain for the lyric.

In discussing poetry, however, we must move beyond the simple lyric/narrative divide and delve into grades of poetry.

For that we turn to the troubadors who divided poetry into three classes.
Updating their language we have:

Fun verse:
"Light" verse that is easy to comprehend but lean--subsequent rereadings have nothing to reveal.

Van verse:
"Experimental" verse that is often difficult or opaque--new techniques are explored and multiple readings may be required for the barest comprehension.

Full verse:
Verse that combines the accessibility of fun verse with the complexity of van verse--subsequent rereadings reveal layered meaning and depth of craft but first readings also reward.

Poetry must be a complete art--with introductory, experimental, and mature work, and it is the mature work (Full verse) that is often neglected.

Four steps to writing Full verse are:

1) Use precise language.

2) Use natural language

3) Write with authority.

4) Give the readers what they need to understand the poem--that is, be aware that there is no room for context in a poem.

A development of full verse in conjunction with the currently thriving (for poetry) fields of fun and van verse will result in a "strong verse"--a poetry that regains relevance--that is no longer a parlor trick but an important part of the lives not of poets, but of all readers.

1 comment:

J said...

No, it's pretty obvious She's dead. Miss Poesia, DOA. For some time. Peruse the freaks that Silliman features, not to say the usual beatnik circus clowns and hobos, and ho's (aka the "language" school, as in "I have to use the language toilet"). Even Bobby Dylan's cheesy laments superior to most hackademic and cafe "poetry". Poesia died like with Hiroshima (that's not to bless any euro-gauchistes). And what poet has written anything worthy even of recent novelist freaks, say Pynchon, PK Dick, cyberpunks, DeLillo, Vonnegut, or farther back Dreiser, Steve Crane, Melville? No one. Crying of Lot 49 was a poem of sorts.

Poetry's become an affliction...the poetry disease