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

Monday, February 23, 2015

How good a poet are you?

"Technique is the test of sincerity."

    - Ezra Pound

     Imagine you are hiring a poet (why?) and can ask each of the many applicants three "deal-breaker" questions before assessing their po[e]tential.  What queries would you pose?

     I'll go first.

Earl the Squirrel's Rule #73
1.  "Who are your favorite modern poets?"

     A respondent who cites no metrical or no non-metrical poets will likely harbor other limitations in scope.  The same is true of candidates who mention fewer than four poets, especially if these are household names.  For such people, the most honest response would be "Why, my favorite poet is me, of course!"  Similarly, providing too many names can be a problem if all of them share the same style or genre;  the person may be more interested in confirmation than art.

     There isn't room for a fourth question, one geared toward discovering their attitude toward serious objective critique.  However, if none of the poets on their list are onliners it's fairly safe to conclude that criticism would not be welcomed.  This would be more or less confirmed by a positive response to both of the subsequent questions. Needless to say, the ability to demonstrate critical thought will be essential.

Earl the Squirrel's Rule #148
2.  "Do you follow discussions of technique?"

     I don't expect full geekhood but utter disinterest in the elements of the craft bespeaks a laziness and naivete that would render an aspirant useless.  At the very least, we need someone who can satisfy the second half of a poem's "good story well told" requirement.

     We would like to avoid the stereotypical "street poet" or MFA grad.

Earl the Squirrel's Rule #155
3.  "Do you believe poetry is, essentially, profound writing?"

      I see no hope for anyone who answers in the affirmative here.  Of what use is someone who understands neither prose nor poetry, beginning with the fact that both can be equally profound (or funny, or romantic, or dramatic, or tragic, or whatever)?  Do we really need to start our training with something as basic as a definition of poetry?  How much Convenient Poetics crap will the person have to unlearn?

      So...which three questions would you ask?  And why?

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