Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Quoting Mr. Joshua Marie Wilkinson

"Nothing reeks of maintaining the status quo as much as this call for poets to be 'accessible.' I don't blame you for not wanting to get into poetry. It's a murky, strange set of practices. For some, that work's a great pleasure. For a few, it's synonymous with life. But why denigrate poetry just because you don't care to do the work to enjoy it? Baseball, continental philosophy, and flamenco have their own difficulties—and pleasures, no doubt—too."   (I took this from his statement here.)

I agree with Joshua. In every art form there are critics (and lazy audiences) who cry out for accessabilty--why not paint a still life of flowers?  Why not dance The Nutcracker again?  Why not write a novel about suburban angst? Let's just keep things nice and easy and familiar, shall we?

The reverse of this, the danger, (and I fall into this trap myself) is this-- Watch me be arty by painting these paintings that are utterly white except for one green dot.  If you don't "get" this, you are shallow. Read this poem: it's murky, uses unclear diction, and messes with the rules of normal grammar. So it is new and good, and revolutionary.

I'm not faulting Joshua.  I admire his work greatly.  I just bought his latest book,  Selenography, and am eager to delve into it. I am just saying that I myself veer back and forth between a desire to write poetry as clear and plain as Amish furniture, and as beautiful.  And then I want to write murky hard poems, poems that take a reader a lot of desire and committment to deal with.

Do writers need to worry about an audience?  About writing poems that the untrained, non-poet reader can "get?" Is it worrisome that the only people reading contemporary poetry are contemporary poets? Baseball has it statistics and acrane rules, yet non-players watch it. Flamenco has devotees who do not dance a step.  But poetry?  I am not sure who is out there paying attention to it but people writing poetry.  And I do not know if this is a problem or not.

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