Sunday, April 17, 2005

Confessional School

I was recovering some old poetry from the bit bucket a few days ago. It was quite an experience. There was a time when I worked at poetry quite a lot. I wrote often and published around in the small press world. Even gave a few readings.

Then I stopped and have rarely felt the urge to pick up the pen again.

The problem, it turns out, is that I didn't think much of what I wrote. I have no objective sense of good or bad, but subjectively, I was one of my least favorite poets. As a former small press editor, I know it wasn't total dreck, but looking through the old works was pretty painful.

Watching-video-of-your-high-school-play painful.

A dear friend and fave writer, Brent Askari, once said something to me that's been rolling around in my head for a long time. He said that he found it hard to feel like he was being honest when writing poetry. The comment didn't affect me then, but the remark proved prophetic. Most of my stuff was oblique discussion of simpler ideas, raising the question—does poetry reveal truth, or embed ideas in riddles? Of course, we can all point to a favorite poetic phrase that seems to capture an image, moment, or idea perfectly. But how many of us feel like we can sit down with a volume of poetry and figure out what we're reading, line after line, page after page? How often does poetry substitute aesthetic use of language for clarity of expression?

Don't worry poets, I'm not drawing any conclusions about the merits of your work.

I thought it would be clever to reprint one of my old pieces for National Poetry month. (Everybody's doing it.) Alas, most of it was too painfully embarrassing for me to put out. Even what was not so bad once, is spoken with the voice of a younger man I have trouble locating today.

I found this one, and thought I could survive it living on in search engines caches indefinitely:

The crows no longer
over a field of wheat
or sorghum. Not flying
over a stable or a road.

They fly disconnected
from all backgrounds.
They are just crows
in a world of only-crows,
the smallest
known particle
(known to crows)
is the crow.

If I publish any more entries for National Poetry Month, they'll be under the heading "April is mock my bad poetry month."


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