Thursday, February 23, 2006

Industrialization of Poetry?


















"Don't worry that the process of revision seems slow. The writer's tools were developed early -- paper, pen, and ink; a watchful eye; an open heart -- and good writing is still the patient handiwork of those simple tools. A poet who makes only one really fine poem during his [her] life gives far more to the world than the poet who publishes twenty books of mediocre verse. The Industrial Revolution did not reach imaginative writing until recently, and today black clouds of soot belch from the smokestacks over the creative writing schools. Poems get manufactured and piled on the loading docks where many of them rot for lack of transport. Wouldn't we all be better off if there wasn't such an emphasis on productivity? "

(Ted Kooser: From - The Poetry Home Repair Manual: Practical Advice for Beginning Poets, published by University of Nebraska Press, 2005)

8 comments:

Peter said...

Nick: I was hoping to write a new poem today. Now I don't want to.
*Thanks* for this. ~grin~

But seriously, the point is well taken. Though the visual gives me depression.

THE SCRIBE said...

I don't think we'd be better of with less productivity. With less productivity, there is less change. We have a lot to change in this world to make it right again and most, if not all, is done by the pen. Write well...

Nick said...

Peter,

Sorry if this post was a "downer". But the way I've been writing lately or more appropriately not writing - it kinda provided some solace in view of my situation. ;-)

However, there does appear to be a flaw in the logic of the statement. How does one define a "fine" poem? & Who defines a poem as fine? Is not the scrutiny given in the "here and now" subjective? Surely great poetry must stand the test of time to meet this requirement. Then and only then can it be put in its proper perspective.

So how can a poet really be sure that the poem that they have just written is really "exceptional"? I am convinced that they really can't. The poet writes poem after poem hoping that this is the one that will make up for all the other mediocre verse. ... At least this poet does!

Scott Glassman said...

Interesting post.

Kooser's statement doesn't hold true if you see poetry for what it is, in all its conditions, a kind of singing, and a very personal kind of singing at that. . . would you tell a bird to stop chirping so much because there are lots of other birds also chirping in the same tree and that the people living near the tree are tired of hearing so much mediocre birdsong? It's like telling the universe only to breathe its "important" breaths. Well, to the universe, all its breaths are important. Maybe why creative writing programs are flourishing is that they bring out the songs that would otherwise lie dormant in someone's heart. Who's to say that a so-called average poem hasn't freed someone from an internal prison, made them love a little more, kindled in them a new vigor for life. Who can measure the value of any poem's effects, who can measure the distance their effects travel? Poems are nonlocal and far-reaching, and by far-reaching, I mean they reverberate in the quantum void, immune from space and time. All of them do. If you accept this, the question then should be, WHY are we so keen on defining some objective standard, a concrete reality by which all poetry must be measured? Seems to me this is where poetry criticism has gone haywire. It has put the joy of the poem in the indelicate hands of the "front self", the shallow self, and assumed that there is one all-encompassing judge we are trying to get in good with. Better that there be thousands of average poems on the dock, handed back to the world, completing a circuit whose personal significance can never be known-- than a small group of pristinely formed father-approved children set out on the porches of our souls, for display purposes, who are announced to represent the entirety of the human condition and the full breadth of its longings.

Nick said...

Who's to say that a so-called average poem hasn't freed someone from an internal prison, made them love a little more, kindled in them a new vigor for life. Who can measure the value of any poem's effects, who can measure the distance their effects travel?

Yes...indeed!

jenni said...

Well said, Scott. Agree 101%

btw, like your blog. :)

Nick said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Scott Glassman said...

thanks nick, jenni