Writers: A Room of Our Own

by Polly Whitney

Home Forums Living Poetry An Exemplar for all Poems

This topic contains 21 replies, has 2 voices, and was last updated by  Polly Whitney 2 years, 5 months ago.

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  • #214

    Polly Whitney
    Moderator

    If I had to recommend a starting point for poets working today, I’d tell them to get a copy of Ted Hughes’ CROW. The poems that accumulate into the story of CROW are powerful and dramatic and spankingly original. It pays to read these small masterpieces aloud. Ted Hughes, of course, was the poet laureate of England and the tortured and torturing husband of Sylvia Plath, and he gets much of the blame for her suicide. I don’t buy that, but it shouldn’t matter anyway. CROW stands alone — a rare book that needs no context. And a book that teaches just by its existence, whole and clear. The depiction of CROW’S birth, for example, gives readers insight into any and all births — including that of a poem — not a bad starting point for any poet.

  • #305

    davidsmith
    Participant

    I’m attracted by poetry that’s easily understandable. Robert Lowell, Robert Frost, Tennyson, for example. Life’s puzzle enough – I don’t appreciate artists who demand that I spend a chunk of my very short time on Earth riddling their riddles.

    • This reply was modified 2 years, 9 months ago by  davidsmith.
  • #307

    Polly Whitney
    Moderator

    Some of our choices in poetry, surely are matters of taste? I can’t fault your choices, and I’m glad you have strong feelings. Which poets, I wonder, are making demands? I’m genuinely curious about this.

    • #311

      davidsmith
      Participant

      I confess I can’t remember. When I reject something, I usually forget all about it. I have too small a mind to keep much more – well, consciously – than I want to remember. I suspect that most contemporary “New Yorker” poets would leave me longing for a V8.

      Yes, of course, everything is taste. The trouble with just saying that, though, is that it leaves Mr. A free, in his column in the New York Review of Books, to declare something wonderfully worthy even if it’s clearly junk, so long as he’s respected among the “in” people and, in turn, respects them. By far the best thing someone who cares deeply about art can do, I suppose, is to sync his thinking with that of the right crowd.

  • #325

    Polly Whitney
    Moderator

    What you say also applies to a loosely grouped bunch of poets:

    New Yorker poems are a breed apart. They are very “precious” and “sleek” and “usually about the great outdoors,” odd in a magazine called THE NEW YORKER.

    • #330

      davidsmith
      Participant

      The New Yorker has changed. The name’s the same, but it’s now a political magazine, with poetry, as I recall, that’s trendy, not sweet.

      • #340

        Polly Whitney
        Moderator

        Is that a good thing? That change in the magazine?

        • #350

          davidsmith
          Participant

          For me, no. Far too much media has become politicized. I liked the New Yorker that could be read comfortably by the little old lady in Iowa, for the pleasure of the prose and the poetry and the cartoons. The thing it’s become is cheap and snotty and nasty, like the city culture in which it swims.

  • #356

    Polly Whitney
    Moderator

    What I know for sure is that the NEW YORKER arrives faithfully each week in my mailbox and then sits on my kitchen counter for three weeks until I throw it out, unread. The wretched stories, it seems to me, were built upon a model the writers have seen before — in the NEW YORKER.
    But, I’ll admit: I’d got nuts if the NEW YORKER printed one of my short stories.
    So, there it is: the NEW YORKER still has vast prestige and a targeted audience who will buy your other works.
    I’m afraid I’m a hypocrite.

    • #368

      davidsmith
      Participant

      Humans are all hypocrites, I suppose, at least if by “hypocrite” we mean someone who says one thing and does another. But I think what we usually mean by that derogation is someone who behaves that way egregiously, not just normally, the way we all can’t help behaving.

      Many years ago, I subscribed to the New Yorker, then I didn’t, then we did, and now we don’t. It’s certainly a pretty publication, but so are many others. A few of the cartoons are very funny, but many are deliberately directed far over the heads of the little old lady in Iowa and me. I can live happily without succumbing to the temptation to pay for them.

      Do we live in humorless times? Have we lost the gift of laughing at ourselves?

  • #384

    Polly Whitney
    Moderator

    Yes. And yes.
    If you can’t laugh at yourself and your own pretensions, you cannot understand yourself, your effect on others, or the problems and agonies of the mass of people living in warzones like poverty and drugs and constant gunfire, etc.
    David, I’ve been thinking. You have, often, a dark view of the world. Yet I don’t come away from your posts depressed or angry. Oftentimes, after reading your posts, I come away with a smile. Does that mean I can laugh at YOU?

    • #391

      davidsmith
      Participant

      I’m a complainer. As a child riding a bicycle to an art gallery and a contemporary crafts store, I discovered that there was beauty in my world, intuitively recognizable, tangible, and obtainable at a price I could afford. A little older, riding a bus to a movie theater, I stumbled on “foreign films”, and found that a movie could connect with something inside me in much the same way. Once you’ve discovered beauty, you can’t go back. Whenever you come across something that falls short, as you do a thousand or a hundred thousand times a day, you’re deeply disappointed, and, if you were an only child, reared to expect the world to meet your expectations, you complain. Non-beauty is so unnecessary. Meeting it makes you sad, and not a little angry.

  • #392

    Polly Whitney
    Moderator

    Then, David, I suppose it would be in order for me to ask for your definition of “Beauty.”

    • #394

      davidsmith
      Participant

      It’s personal, of course, and it’s intuitive. I don’t define it. Defining is for overthinkers. A few adjectives off the top of the head will have to serve. Simple, spare, clean, rich, elegant, intelligent, balanced, colorful, harmonious, joyful or somber or sad or serene, and complete.

  • #414

    Polly Whitney
    Moderator

    I like your last adjective best. I’m not sure what “complete” means in this context. I suppose to me it means there was a goal and the poet reached it, for himself and for the reader. Or, perhaps it means there’s nothing extraneous and nothing left out. Or maybe it means that the poet “earned” the final line — there is no god in the machine who steps out to finish the action; the poet’s arrangement of his elements needs no outside help.
    Ah. Maybe that’s it. When the job is done, all the bills are paid, the contract is fulfilled, the books are balanced. We can turn out the lights and go to sleep. Maybe with nightmares, but asleep still.

  • #447

    davidsmith
    Participant

    Coherence in incoherence. Finished and understandable. Sense out of nonsense. A point of light.

    Oh, heck, I dunno.

  • #459

    Polly Whitney
    Moderator

    Smile. I dunno either. But I like the idea of “coherence.”

  • #471

    davidsmith
    Participant

    Edward Lear. That’s coherent. They went to sea, found a ring, were married, and danced by the light of the moon. Period.

  • #480

    Polly Whitney
    Moderator

    And then there’s the magnificent Jabberwock!

  • #481

    Polly Whitney
    Moderator

    Hey, David! Would you dare to eat a peach?

  • #491

    davidsmith
    Participant

    I don’t know. Where has it been?

  • #507

    Polly Whitney
    Moderator

    LOL! Must you ask? Then, you probably wouldn’t eat it.

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