I’ve been leading a workshop on poetics at The Writer’s Center for a bit. It’s afforded me the opportunity (and impetus) for going back and rereading some foundational essays that I’ve read and not thought much of since. In a lot of ways, I’ve been surprised, surprised again by them. I’ve reloved Amy Lowell, found common ground with Frost, watched Marianne Moore play nicely with the boys and struggle with herself, and witnessed Williams’s own failings to adequately describe “the measure” in poems.
But it was probably Ezra Pound’s “A Retrospect” that I found most interesting. I have a generally low opinion of Pound, mostly informed by his failures as a person than a poet, although I also feel that he had an undue influence on American poetry of the last century. But, then again, he’s in large part responsible for the rise of Modernism and the practice of poetry we all engage in today–whether we write in Modern or postmodern tradition today, we are still contending with Pound’s edicts whether we like it or not.
I don’t know if it’s my attention span or my intermittent readings of poetry, but I feel often disappointed by what I encounter in the world. I want something to surprise me, and lately I’m rarely surprised. I’m looking for a formal surprise, I think. I want a poetry that inhabits something new. It need not be about something new, or using language that is new, but I want its shape, its space, its form to be something new.
I don’t like it when people use the term “form” too narrowly. So often it implies “pattern,” which is think is unfairly limited and does not account for all the formal considerations a responsible poet must make. Rhyme and meter are elements of pattern. Stanza breaking can be patternist, but most often it is a formal concern, as is line length, as is white space, text shape, etc.
I started working on a little thing that isn’t poetry yet, and I’m thinking of how I can take this received form, which rises from reality television and the form of the synopsis, and make it more poetic. I want the poem to begin and end in delight. If there is wisdom there, then take it. If not, leave the poem happy, leave it having been dazzled or surprised. That’s all. I’m not smarter than you. If anything, I might remind you of what you already know to be true.