Saturday, December 10, 2005

Pontification or some such

Have just finished reviewing the blue proof sheets for my poems that will appear in Colorado Review this spring. So exciting!

On another subject, I still find myself puzzled at times by the role emotion is to take or not take in contemporary poetry. Dean Young describes it in one of his definitions of poetry period as 'somewhere between information and shriek.' There's a wide latitude there.

I can understand staying away from shrieking, although a good shriek every now and then surely does no harm. But I still feel, and maybe it's my imagination, a sensibility out there that would have emotion take a backseat to all the other elements of a poem. I find this a weird WASP throwback in a poetry world that no longer seems run by down on their luck WASPs like Robert Frost and Robert Lowell--although Lowell certainly broke any number of WASP taboos like writing about, god forbid, the personal.

Yes, those offenses to WASP taste: the personal and the emotional, they do linger as mild prohibitions on the poetry circuit. Odd. And I say this as the very exemplar of a WASP myself.

It seems like emotion--or strong emotion--most convincingly exists (convincingly, yes, because all this is just representation of emotion anyway) when it is caught up in some sort of poetic tension. The most obvious would be the use of understatement to check what is apparent through the imagistic glimpses we have of it as a baldly emotional scenario.

But this can't be the only technique in the bag of tricks. Use of rhythm or musicality to call understatement on the carpet? Use of heavy stops to create white space that carries emotional resonance? Getting rid of punctuation, which, in effect, tells us how to follow the emotional content of a line, pointing out as it does the stops and pauses in a piece? With the markers that connote much emotive force gone, there is a tension between the words and musicality and the lack of direction those little five-year-old traffic cops provide, those commas and periods.

Ain't pontificatin' on a blog just grand?

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