Wednesday, July 19, 2006


JH: What of a poetry that is without any innovation, and is thus without surprise to the poet or reader? Examples could be Augustan poetry, or avant-garde poetry that presents familiar disjunction. What does such presentation enact? A point of Neoclassic poetry is to provide a poetry that is classic, a square peg in a square hole. Contemporary procedural poetry does much the same thing - words filling their intended formal slots. Do such poems present an idea of literature, rather than an instance of poetry? "Yes" would be my immediate answer, though mulling it over (as I shall) may raise a qualification or two. Antic View (is Antic View outside us personally as much as Monster?) has raised a dichotomy of literature and poetry; one sentence in the definition of literature may be that it can exist as a closed book. In writing prose commentary on poetry, Antic View has been approaching poetry as literature: Here It Is, without many particular examples. Thousands of examples would be chicanery, deferring an eventual awareness of the treatment of poetry as literature. One can write poetry, with or without the assistance of literature, but can poetry ever be written about, without being prose about the ornamental (other adjectives could be used, I'm using "ornamental" to suggest that the poetry is visually subsumed by the prose of the commentary) verse within the commenting prose?
AHB: First of all, you writes real good, a language of strange immediacy. I notice this as I scramble to reply. You are right that a non-surprise quality of poetry can exist. Formal works can please within their formality. Which, maybe, qualifies as the surprise I brought up as essential. Certainly iambic pentametre poems in abab rhyme can surprise by content. Think of those critical knots that Donne ties in his clanking machines, worry beads of metaphor that hold you. What's crucial isn't the form but the content, or some tight equation of the two. That is, cliches and banalities can be writ in formal or informal structures. Those square pegs in square holes are, to me, a phony poetry. Emphasized by a necessity to get something across. When I think of Poetry, the magazine, the guff it presents seems linked solely to some idea represented: here's something that looks like a poem. Not a true enactment of the active poetic influence. The same way that when you see a Hollywood movie, and recognize all the elements (need I list them?) consciously added to satisfy the idea of a Hollywood movie. I really don't know what poetry is. I probably already have mentioned that the first writing I did was inspired by Robert Benchley and James Thurber. Both humourists, but I thought I was writing poetry. I couldn't write their particular feuilleton, but did see this possible expanse, predicated on surprise (as humour is surprise). I guess likewise I'm satisfied to think of Antic View as POETRY, at least because it aint rigid. And perhaps because half of it is out of my hands, and furthermore because I'm riding waves of surprise as I respond to what you write. Commentary is prose because of its direction. Poetry can't be directed, even when fitted into forms, even narratives. Oh gosh, I dunno. Poetry is a megalopolis. We're all denizens.


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