Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Poetic Relativity

I cannot even bear to look at the smattering of poems that I wrote as an adolescent. The poetry that I wrote as a graduate student (in Sociology) contains, perhaps at best, a few choice lines, forms of comparison and transfers of meaning that I have haphazardly tried to incorporate in some of my present poetic work. ….Heck, even some of the stuff I wrote a few months ago (during NaPoWriMo) - I read and go …Huh???

I was over at Greg Rappleye’s blog only to read a preface to the posting of a poem as follows:

It's from my first collection, Holding Down the Earth (Skybooks, 1995). I wrote this book before getting my MFA. I think it's obvious that I had a lot to learn, but I still like the poem.

This may not be a seminal question, but do we as poets (and I loosely define myself as a poet here -- although certainly not with the poetic acumen of Greg Rappleye) ever look at our previous work and go: “I wouldn’t change a thing.” -- or are we forever possessed by a sense of misgiving vis a vis our efforts twice (or even once) removed?


January said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
January said...

Sorry for the deletion.

I think revision is key, but I've looked at a few poems and not made any changes. But the overwhelming majority have experienced some changes over the years.

My older poems serve as a photo album of sorts. They remind me where I came from and how far I've come as a writer.

Suzanne said...

I can't bear to look at my very early work -- it makes me cringe --hell my attempts at NaPoWriMo make me cringe. I'm of the 'a poem is only abandoned never finished' camp.

Nick said...


Caught your earlier post -- thanks. Yes, the almighty god of poetry is revision -- agreed.


You know I belong to the Mary Kinzie school of thought -- that any (and I mean any) poem is at best only provisional. I did however want to play the devil's advocate & hear from other POVs. (Thanks for weighing in on this festive occasion.)

Andrew Shields said...

I have two poems from my undergraduate days (B. A. 1987) that I still have "active," and a few from the grad-school years (up to 1995). And one of those undergraduate poems finally got published two years ago!

shann said...

My teen-angst poems were standard caliber (though maybe a little better- I won a state scholastic contest and some awards). What was missing was experience, a broad view.

When I came back to 'serious' writing (20 years later), I had a lot to say and had a fire I think I miss now- though I sometimes steal from those old poems.

As I get better (I think) at poetry, I lose a little of that hunger but replace it with craft.

I'm not sure if that's a good thing.

Nick said...


Unfortunately, none of my old poems have aged well. Of course, when I wrote them I thought that they would have become a fine wine by now - en lieu of vinegar. But then again, even vinegar has its uses.


Craft is always a good thing. ;-)

Nick Piombino said...

Take another look in 15-20 months, then again in 3-5 years, then again in 15-20 years. You might change your mind. I've noticed for years, decades in fact, that shortly after (and by that I mean up to a few years) after you create something it might first appear ungainly or awkward. This could mean it might be making you uncomfortable for positive reasons beyond your conscious judgement. I've come to think that art should mostly be left alone to ripen on its own. Like so many things in life, it needs time. The electronic instantaneity of publishing writing today has changed the feel of time for writers, it seems to me; but the fact is, like wine, affections and many other important things, if written works have a few good qualities to begin with, they should have a pretty good chance to age well in the long run.

Nick said...


Obviously, it is difficult for any poet (in retrospect) to get into the particular mindset that conceived any poem let alone a poem that was created several decades ago. But, I agree that seeing it through new appreciative eyes sometimes takes time. I am vicariously reliving some of the moments I've crystallized in poetry -- via my teenage daughter. It is interesting to see how the two sensibilities match up. Thank you for the thoughtful response.

Nick Piombino said...

My pleasure. I enjoy bloggers bringing up topics to discuss that ring true.