It seems when I encounter a poem I start an argument with it; I approach it as a provocation. Why is it written this way? What is it trying to tell me? What should I feel or think after reading it? I almost never ask, Did this entertain me?
It doesn’t seem right to treat signals sent by writers labeled poet as hermetic scriptures to decode, sort out, translate into apprehensible utterance. Not constructive; doesn’t speak well of me as a well tuned — or even competent — receiver. To read this way is to adopt an offensive lineman’s crouch, ready to deck the blocker and concuss the QB.
Paul Mariani quotes Wallace Stevens: People read poetry nervously, afraid that something [will] “go wrong with the sentence after next.” In my experience, something goes wrong even sooner.
I revel in non-figurative painting: line, stroke, color put to the pure purpose of expression, not just depiction. On the other hand, I’m afraid I read words for clarity, understanding, illumination. I have to say to many poets of my time and place whose art I strive to take on board: It’s not you, it’s me.
I must grow into poetry. Lately, as I take the dubious initiative to pepper my lucubrations with dabbles, it occurs to me to think of poetry more as painting with words than as hinged discourse. Let’s see where that goes.
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