Friday, July 13, 2007


The other night, one of my neighbors and I were having a conversation about books. We talked about book group books, and how she feels compelled to finish them--I do, too, because a friend selected them, but, lately, I get to the point (as does her husband) of saying life is just too short to finish an uninteresting book.

I talked about not reading very much prose lately, especially fiction, which I often find pretty tedious--I'm not sure why. I guess I don't find that many convincing characters anymore, or convincing plots. Maybe I'm reading the wrong things.

So I talked about reading mostly poetry lately. My neighbor then, of course, talked about how she had difficulty reading poetry because she didn't always understand what it meant. I said I thought poetry was really more about the experience of reading--she looked at me in surprise. I was unable to convince her--though I tried to use the example of yoga, since both of us have been taking yoga classes lately--I suggested it's like opening your mind to new experiences, like concentrating, like getting your head into a certain pose.

I still don't know if I'm right or wrong or somewhere in between to think of poetry like this. I do care about meaning and voice. I still often like narrative. But I like it best when what I'm reading gives me a chance to experience reading itself anew. I worry so little about the extractable meaning of the poems I read lately. And it's not that they don't have meaning or something like that to extract. I'm not necessarily reading that much avant garde stuff. But I just like the experience of reading itself--the language kinetic and unfolding, the words in surprising combinations, of sound, of semantics, the admiration of the form and structure.

I have decided, though, to be concerned that my own poems lack meaning, lack something the reader can take away. The last few years, I've been focused on breaking through walls in my own consciousness, walls of technique, style, presentation. I've cared about discovery, about bringing the poem in for a landing (thus, about conclusion), and about 'turns' or shifts, as Michael Theune was describing. But maybe I haven't paid enough attention to a final shaping toward meaning. Maybe there's no 'there' there with them.

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