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  1. John Cooper says:

    Poetry is a minefield. It can create such an emotional connection that it’s never safe to differ when (only) one party loves the poetry in question. Who’ll stand idly by while someone disparages what they love? Whether the disparaging opinion is well-considered or not, it’s unwelcome. Churchill said that no true patriot would spout “my country, right or wrong” because it was unseemly. He compared it to saying “my mother, drunk or sober.”

    Today no one need worry about whether their poetry will be published; everybody, in effect, owns a press. If it’s acclaim you want, that’s another matter. But I have faith that quality will out, regardless of accolade. I hope your sonnet-writing student’s spirits weren’t dimmed. Picasso drew beautiful realist charcoals before reinventing the cartoon. Those who would break the rules effectively need to learn them first. The effects achieved by the dead white poets are rarely equalled nowadays. The final six monosyllables of Marvell’s “To His Coy Mistress” (a poem that was sniggered at when I was in high school) are as deadly serious as any doomed witch’s curse. They’re bullets fired straight into the chest of Death. They give me chills. And–sue me–they end with a rhyme.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. mcfeats says:

      There are a millions readerships today. Some popular poets generate fame from writing on blogs and social media. So, yes, I guess I’m thinking of writers whose works are published by established poetry presses. I’m traditional in that sense. Even so, writing without reading what’s been written before (in the distant past and recent past) strikes me as self-willed ignorance. This doesn’t mean that everyone should read from the same canon. A personalized canon is fine, as Eliot says, I think, in his essay.

      One way or another, I’ve been fighting this battle all semester. In my Humanities course I would say things like, “I don’t care whether or not you are smitten by Beethoven. Just know that today’s musicians, whether they know it or not, are influenced by him. That means that, if you really want to understand today, you must engage his music.” Then I would flip the desk and clench my fists in the air.

      I think spoken word is an interesting phenomenon. It hides the quality of the writing through dramatic performance. I hear a lot of confessionalist and unpoetic crap in spoken word, but I also see that it means a great deal to many people. I guess my post was intended for anyone who wants to write the book book, the booky book, the big book.

      P.S. I love the old rhymers—Yeats, Dylan Thomas, Blake, etc. Strangely, I never took to James Joyce’s poetry. That’s where and when the full, formal end-rhymes should die.


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