Earl Gray

Earl Gray
"You can argue with me but, in the end, you'll have to face that fact that you're arguing with a squirrel." - Earl Gray

Thursday, July 17, 2014

A Letter to the Void

Carol Muske-Dukes (photo by Carlos Puma)
     In a surprisingly interesting interview with "The Paris Review", "Those Who Hope Not to Be Erased", we are treated to some novel perspectives from Carol Muske-Dukes:

    "Poetry is like mailing a letter to the void."

    No, it's the exact opposite.  Poetry is like receiving a letter [back] from the multitude.  You tell your story and the crowd decides whether or not your words are worth preserving in memory.  To paraphrase¹ Leonard Cohen, "art is a verdict, not a claim."
    "I don’t see much difference among types of writing, prose or poetry."

    This is understandable, given how much prose is being published as poetry today.

Earl the Squirrel's Rule #35
    "Most writing students haven’t read poetry extensively, broadly, wildly.  If poetry students don’t read broadly, why should anyone else?"

     Good point.  However, if we narrow the field to contemporary poetry, there is a real danger that time spent on studying failure might be better spent examining the albeit rare successes.  Granted, the last half century has been a liberal education in how not to write or perform poetry, but we could be left wondering what might actually work today.

    "With no critical standards and little reading, we aren’t talking about imaginative writing anymore. We’re talking about a cottage industry and the creation of artifacts and trinkets."

     All too true, and all too fatal when combined with an inability to market those artifacts and trinkets.

    "There are poets of all ages who are not threatened by technology but do not have to use it as a club--in both senses of the word."

    I confess that I don't know what she's going on about here;  I just like a good double entendre.

Earl the Squirrel's Rule #24
    "The reality is that we live in an age that works against poetry.  Poetry is an act of attention and we’re in a time where having an attention deficit is the norm."

    It seems that our times work against poetry.  True, no one reads it, performances attract only presenters and friends, and there are no familiar verses that strangers can discuss.  In theory, though, this attention deficit in an age of sound bytes and memes should be an ideal backdrop for poetry's compressed language.  It wouldn't be difficult to test.  Someone needs to say something memorable in a memorable way, preferably in memorable circumstances².

     "We’re bombarded with images and information, but images and information are not knowledge--and they’re certainly not poetry."

     Doesn't this depend on the mode (i.e. prose or poetry) in which the images and information are expressed?  For example, aren't many of the images and information with which we are bombarded in songs (which are verse and, therefore, poetry)?


¹ -  The original version of Cohen's was:  "I don't think anyone should try to be a poet; this is a verdict, not a vocation."

² - Which is why the inaugural "poems" by Richard Blanco and Elizabeth Alexander, along with Shane Koyczan's beer commercial ripoff at the 2010 Olympics, were such bitter disappointments.

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Earl Gray, Esquirrel

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