The Raw and the Cooked

One of the things I’ve been kicking around in my head lately concerns the whole “cerebral” versus “emotional” dichotomy the Alfred Corn interview re-raised.

While there are a few Wallace Stevens poems I really enjoy, by and large his poems, to me, are big brick walls. When reading him I feel like there isn’t a way in for me. But I think that’s because I have different expectations about how a poem should speak to me (I mean, we all do). I know a lot of poets I treasure in turn treasure the work of Stevens, and so I end up feeling really complicated about it and I continue to ask myself why I can’t get into him, or Elizabeth Bishop (who is less brick wall and more privet), or Marianne Moore. Or why “oppositional” poetries like Plath—who is also listed as being counter to the “cerebral” poets—appeal to me more.

But then again, someone like Cavafy, who is a bit “cool” but not what I would consider “cerebral,” is very homelike for me.

I know that I prioritize the personal over the universal in nearly every instance. It might be that what I respond to in the cerebral poets is the objective distance they take to their subject. I don’t want to understand the world from the outside in. I want it from the inside out. Extrapolation over interpolation.

And it’s not that I need first-person narratives or voice. I do tend to dislike third-person narration in poems. I almost prefer not to notice a narrative source.

Feeling muddled today.

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