Friday, January 11, 2008

Some linky links and a question

Love, love, love this poem by Kate Evans on Verse Daily today.

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Thanks to C. Dale for pointing out a new poetry feature on the Bounders, er, Borders website -- which includes this contest. I was actually going to enter the contest, since there's no entry fee (no prize either, except publication on their website and some comments from Mark Strand). But then I pulled up the entry form and there is a field for "first name, last initial" and a field for "full name" underneath which it says "Your full name won't be published." So, you know, screw that. If you're going to publish my poem, you're damn well going to put my whole name on it.

You can also submit your questions and get writing advice from Paul Muldoon, which is kind of amusing. He's reading here in Bloomington next week, by the way. I'm looking forward to it.

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In the past I've been too quick to give up on poets I don't "get" -- figuring there are so many other poets out there to enjoy, why waste a lot of time banging my head against what might be a brick wall? But lately I think that's not such a good option, and I prefer to try to stick with them and see if I can get something out of it.

When you find yourself reading poems (or a poet) you don't really understand, do you just put them aside or do you try to work your way into them? If the latter, what sort of questions do you ask (of yourself or of the poems) as you try to understand them? Or, do you just read it a bunch of times and find that it reveals itself without any particular interrogation? Or do you enjoy it without feeling any need to understand it further?

I'm not talking here about poetry that's just not good -- there's no sense wasting time on that, for sure. I'm talking about the kind of poetry where you think, "She's doing something here for sure, but what in the heck is it?"

Or maybe I'm the only one who's ever that dense. Nahhhh.... surely not.


Sara said...

You're not the only one! If I just stumbled upon it, I give up pretty quickly. But if something was assigned or recommended, I'll try to muddle through. Some things should be muddled though--for example, despite the many tear filled hours I spent on Charles Olson's "The Maximus Poems" I still don't know what the f*** he was talking about.

KATE EVANS said...

Thanks so much for linking to my poem--and for loving it! What a nice surprise.

When I come across poems I don't get, I read them aloud. That's how I got into (and into and into) Emily Dickison.

Erin said...

Being involved in academia has its perks, many of them, but can make you feel as though you need to defend every poem you respond to with a two minute explication.

Which is just crazy.

If you respond to a poem, you respond to it. And if you want to know more, dig deeper, then explore that. If not, revel in it. It's a gift.

But when I need to understand why I respond to a poem the way I do, I read it aloud, too, maybe ask a friend to read it aloud as well.

The more senses I use, the better chance I have to get to the center of the thing.

Anne said...

Thanks Sara, Kate, Erin! Yes -- I think reading aloud is an excellent idea. I've done that before and hadn't thought of doing it in this specific instance. Some things are definitely worth muddling through, indeed. (It's not poetry exactly, but: when I was an undergrad I took an honors seminar on Joyce's Ulysses. I still only understood about 10% of what he was doing in that book, but that 10% was well worth the time and effort...)

Collin said...

Kate's poem is amazing. :)

I'm going to enter that Border's thing anyway. What the hell. I would think if you are the grand winner -- or whatever -- they would use your entire name. If not, I wouldn't let them put on the site.

Poet with a Day Job said...

It depends of course on how confused...I am notorious when it comes to having a block toward language or experimental poetry, and so, I tend to stick it out for longer when reading something that has been given this label...because then I know it is usually me, predisposed to not "getting" it.

But, when it is a usual suspect, and I don't get it, and I usually do, I throw it aside. I don't waste time. But I always come back to it during a different season of the year because you never can tell how much your mood affects your ability to understand.

Anne said...

Collin: Good luck! I'll be curious to see what kind of poems they select.

PWADJ: I have a similar block, heh. I'm better at finding my way into that stuff than I used to be, and sometimes I find myself really enjoying it, to my surprise. But sometimes I still just don't get it and I know it's not them, it's me. Good point about the season and the mood.

Lyle Daggett said...

First name, last initial, but no last name. As in: "Trees," by Joyce K.

Sigh. Poets Anonymous. Truly civilization is coming to an end.


To answer your question --

Likewise, it depends on how much of a brick wall the poem seems to be putting up. If it's absolutely obtuse, -- talking John Ashbery here, for instance, -- I often won't make an effort past the first one or two lines. On the other hand, if a poem is difficult but not totally unwieldy, I may spend some time with it to see where it goes.

Reading out loud works for me too sometimes, for instance with a couple of poems by Charles Olson and Robert Duncan that I might not otherwise have found approachable.

I've read Eliot's "The Waste Land" all the way through a few times over the years, and I still don't know what the heck he was doing.

If it feels like there's something really there in the poem, or in the poet's work overall, and I'm just not getting it yet, I'll come back to it again from time to time and read it again, to see if it talks to me yet. Sometimes it will. Now and then a poet whose work I originally didn't get into much will become one of my real favorites later on. For example, Adrienne Rich, Lorca, Olga Broumas.

In the case of poets translated from other languages, sometimes I'll have a strong sense that there's really something there, but it's hidden behind a muddy translation. When that happens, I'll keep seeking out other translations until I find one that brings to life the poem or poet I sensed was there.

Jessie Carty said...

in a sad hold over from academia a lot of the time i'll gloss over things i don't understand unless it is "assigned" but after my last MFA residency I find myself really focusing on the poems I am reading even if they aren't ones I'm overly fond of (say Frank Bidart--sorry for Bidart fans, just not my thing) but on the flip side there are poets like Mary Ruefhle (spelling?) that I read and enjoyed even though I didn't "get" everything she was doing.

Larry Lawrence said...

I feel "lost" reading many poets that are so acclaimed and accepted as wonderful writers. I usually plow through the poems and hope that I can take away at least two or three that hit home for me. I enjoyed your blog and will return for a more extensive read! Cold here (NJ) too! Bring on the summer.
Come visit my blog.

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