Two of today's most successful poetry editors have told me that they have never studied the elements of verse. Others have made it clear through aesthetic statements and editorial decisions that they have no interest in technique.
Obvious question: Why dedicate your time to something that doesn't interest you? What duffer, patzer or palooka doesn't take lessons to improve their game?
Obvious comeback: What bother learning the craft if we're able to become editors, [content] critics or teachers without this knowledge?
Perhaps those of us who study prosody have done a terrible job promoting the science. One would think that, among poetry fans, technique would be as easy to sell as water in a crowded desert. After all, other things being equal, these tricks can and do mean the difference between losing and winning tiebreaks in contests--writing or slam--or publishing decisions. For example, members of the tiny group of technique freaks we call "onliners" have won all ten of the last Nemerovs. They have produced both of the best poets and all six of the great poems in this, the 21st century.
Ironically, one of my editor friends recently complained about his publication reaching a number of shortlists but winning no actual awards. Apparently, he doesn't think that his ignorance of prosody is evident to readers, critics and, perhaps most importantly, judges. What is true for individuals in a contest or submissions pile is equally true for books and magazines eligible for awards. Assuming fair and competent judging, quality outs, even when differences are miniscule.
Consider the view many have of critics, editors and technicians as dour negativist vampires sucking the life out of the poetry world. The impression is that these people cannot be thrilled by poetry. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Take a gander at Lola Flores' performance of "La Cogida y la Muerte" from Federico García Lorca's "Llanto por Ignacio Sánchez Mejías":
Non-Hispanics can appreciate the drama but, for obvious reasons, cannot hope to enjoy this as much as a native Spanish speaker. For agnostic clerics, all poetry, including English verse, is in a language they don't understand: poetry. Sure, they may catch the drift of it but, by definition, the sonic syntax is beyond them. They are like tone deaf attendees at a Loreena McKennitt concert.
|Earl the Squirrel's Rule #13|