I’m aware that I read poetry in too forensic a way, particularly poetry of the moment. Is it because I identify as a translator? I broach a new poem in English with a cocked snoot, I’m afraid. It’s recognizable as a defensive stance. I don’t want to be made fool of by a style of poetryship that escapes me.
A friend with a distinguished career of teaching and publishing in a university’s non-fiction program shuns poetry. It smacks to her of too many gatherings in which literary colleagues rhapsodize over poems which only they, and not she, seem to understand. (She said.)
I warm to abstraction and surrealism in painting, but bridle at speech I find unconstruable. Bizarre word reference is predictable. Robert Lowell described a bad morning once by saying, “I woke up in a police whistle.” It’s dotty, but it scans conventionally — subject, predicate, etc. There are days I wake up on Alpha Centauri.
Unlike word reference, what strands me in petulant pedantry is the flouting of syntactic relationships, a je m’en foutiste disregard for the architecture of sentences. Dealing with it is like exchanging pleasantries with the taciturn Gallego encountered in a Spanish stairwell: you’ll not find out whether he’s going up or going down.
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