Friday, February 26, 2010

Beginning Thoughts

Well, here I go, I suppose.

Currently I am at work on a number of reviews of some poetry books I think people would like (particularly Joan Houlihan's The Us), so this first post is something of a mystery to me. A public record that everyone is keeping? Is that what a blog is? A public diary? That's interesting. So then a bit about me (rather than those interests, favorite music, and all that).

This is a blog about poetry and literature, specifically American poetry, my chief interest. While there are some depressing figures about the institution of poetry and the amount of people within that institution who incestuously work together - how many MFA blogs like this one are there? - I'm trying to think up ways in which the public can once again be interested in poetry. I suppose what this blog might be are just some thoughts on particular poems I've been reading, with the hope that those laymen who don't read poetry will take an interest.

Because the problem (I see) with the lack of poetry being read (while the amount of poetry being written is rocketing - the number of MFA programs has never been higher), is that 1) we are taught a classical poetry in school - Shakespeare, Tennyson, Frost is usually the farthest we go - and 2) we are asked as students to "interpret," rather than absorb. At least the school I went to was focused on the ideas buried within the line, not the line itself, not the music of the line. So when a student reads:

"and sable curls all silver'd o'er in white"

we are asked to interpret what the "sable curls" are and what the sonnet means for age and time and love, rather than focus on the beauty of the iamb and the ending stress of the "t" in "white." We are asked to write essays rather than look to the beauty of stanzas like this one from "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,"

"I have seen the riding seaward on the waves,
Combing the white hairs of the waves blown back,
When the wind blows the water white and black."

The stoicism of this teaching approach, the absolute puritanism of it which is called "appreciation," has damaged people so much that when they read a poem such as Hugo's "White Center," they say "It's nice . . . but I don't understand it." My theory is that the reader has been caught up in a line, in trying to "interpret" the line - because a poet to this reader has always been hiding meaning rather than giving it to the reader with tea and scones in the afternoon - and have read it with only half an ear, too caught up in meaning to hear the piece itself.

My posts will then be looking at poems for their beauty and not necessarily for their meaning, and hopefully those that follow along will be all the more enriched for it. And I, too, hope to gain some interesting information from others and engage in this strange dialogue that is the blog.

No comments:

Post a Comment