Sunday, January 25, 2009

Poetry today: All dressed up with nothing to say?

There are so many important things we should be discussing. I want to take up a comment by Dan from last month about Robert Hare's book, "Snakes in Suits: When Psychopaths Go To Work." I want to discuss video games to teach economic systems that are alternatives to the free market. I could discuss my new academic studies of Aspergers syndrome. I could discuss how students are smarter than they used to be. We could discuss a million things.

But with those promissory notes, right now let me share something out of the blue: the state of contemporary poetry. I was a bit underwhelmed by the inaugural poem of Elizabeth Alexander, but hey, the themes that can be conveyed in a poem for an incoming president are so highly constrained that its not worth complaining about the poem's tepid content.

But let me complain about this poem, in the highly prestigious magazine, The Atlantic. Its about the secret life of a needle missing in a haystack. Wow. I was inspired to write a response (BTW, I know that poems that rhyme are considered Ewwwww).

All dressed up

I took my peek at poetry today,
Talented dears, you're all dressed up with nothing to say.

I know its art, let's emphasize form,
Until barely glimpsed abstractions become the norm.

We can almost forget, because you write so well,
That at the heart of the act you've so little to tell.

Why so little to tell....? We've been beaten down by the culture (by something?) into apapthy and momentary hedonism? Or poetry is yet another potent stirrer of human imagination and action, so it has had to be neutralized - or housebroken?


Miss Conduct said...

I like the typo "apapthy"--is it like a cross between apathy and apoptosis? A sort of ennui that eventually programs you for death?

Seriously, though, while that is one crap poem in the "Atlantic" (which got sold a while back and isn't as good as it used to be), I take issue with the metaphor "housebroken."

A dog that is housebroken is not a dog whose spirit has been trammeled, or who has been constrained in any way to fit human convenience. Dogs are naturally clean creatures that won't soil their own nests. Housebreaking a dog means teaching it that your home also the dog's home. It empowers the dog. A housebroken dog is a confident dog that knows what belongs to it and what doesn't, a dog that has a sense of place and belonging, a dog who can navigate the world from the secure foundation of knowing where its safe space is.

I should think an excellent MFA program would be one that instilled in its students a sense of, "Here is your sanctuary. Here you may feed and rest and find the other members of your pack. Out there is the rest of the world. There, you may shit."

HumanProject said...

Yes, my usage of housebroken harkens back to the time of a less enlightened relationship between man and dog; the days when a "dog's life" was a miserable life, "dirty rotten dog" is a scoundrel.

A lotta things have changed.

"Here you may feed and rest and find the other members of your pack. Out there is the rest of the world. There, you may shit." ha ha

Dan said...

You married a communist, I married a poet. Maybe you'll find something you like in some of this modern poetry: "Cloudland" and 3 poems in Frigg.

HumanProject said...

Tara Deal is a joy to read. Thanks for those links.

VNTuongLai said...

__ You’re invited to view my latest video “684”__ a collection of some short poems. ( )