Sunday, August 28, 2005

Accessible Poetry-An article by Joan Houlihan of Boston Comment

Click on the title for the link. Personally, I've grown tired of reading poems writ by poets who seem more interested in showing their ability to manipulate the language than to write a poem that, as Ted Kooser says, helps the reader to see the world in a new and different way; to communicate, but to communicate in a fresh 'non-trite' way. The 'accesibility viewpoint' isn't in much favor now, despite two Poet Laureates lauding it. Billy Collins has been ridiculed on at least one major blog for dragging poetry back into the dark ages. Read the essay. Judge for yourself. Comment, if you feel moved to do so.


Geoff Sanderson said...

I read the Joan Houlihan article with interest - but 'methinks the lady doth protest too much' in places. Like the term 'Culture', it all depends on who is defining it; and 'good taste' - we insiders know what it is, don't we? It's what 'we' like; 'bad taste' is what 'those others' like. Any shop which opens up in my local town to sell well-designed, hiqh quality artefacts usually lasts around 18 months to two years at the most; those selling selling gimcrack, mass-produced rubbish prosper from year to year.

I sometimes wish that the whole literary critical industry could be abolished - whole university departments would close, and the staff would have to find real jobs - and just let us readers decide what we like; we can always leave alone the things that don't appeal to us.
There's a busy pseudo-intellectual establishment out there, all busy pointing out that they can see the king's new clothes, and that the rest of us are inferior beings if we can't see them too. To the flames with the lot of them, that's what I say. G.

johnee said...

What is the purpose of accessibility if there is nothing interesting or new to access? Better to have a sound and fury signifying nothing, or not very much; a momentary play of language, something to admire in a line.

easy to excuse vapidity when one tries like hell to communicate, even when most of it is failure, timid and circumscribed. funny: the "other pleasures" - as if they mean less than accessibility? less than being poetically pedantic?

all the poem has to do is be. here's the readers's link to it - be open, expect new experience, not in narrative, but in point of view, in syntax, in finding our pleasures which are new and not built upon words and images and metaphors and sense. not necessarily, anyway.


Pris said...

Joan Houlihan, if nothing else, stirs up controvery. Glad she did again here, too. EJohn..long time, no see. And I agree with you, if there's nothing to access, the poem is meaningless.

johnee said...

Pris, i don't think that's what i said... john

Pris said...

Apologies. You said nothing 'new or interesting'. I short-handed your comment, but still agree.

Rae Pater said...

It seems to me as though there's always the 'critically acclaimed' art and then the 'popular' art.
I do agree with Geoff. There are a whole bunch of people who make a very good living by sitting around in universities dissecting and analysing art/poetry agreeing, disagreeing, postulating, recognising trends, refuting each other.

It all gets very pompous and pedantic, and at the end of the day all you're really left with is the patently obvious fact that everyone has an opinion and that everyone's opinion is different.
This applies to even the most learned.

What I look for in a poem is never any one thing. I tend not to dissect poems into line/metaphor/grammatical units etc. I look for the overall impact of the poem, for that transcendent moment.
I think a poem has value both for what it's saying in a narrative sense, and also for the way it says it poetically.
I think a lot of people who waffle about avant garde wouldn't know how to spot a literary trend if it jumped up and bit them on the arse.

I agree with what Houlihan says at the end of her article. In my opinion truly great literature or art of any kind combines all things. It reaches people in some deep and inexplicable way that transcends superficiality and trends. The general public might not be able to identify in specific technical terms what it is they see in those works, or why they have the impact that they do, but they know it when they see it.

Pris said...

It reaches people in some deep and inexplicable way that transcends superficiality and trends
Rae, you summed it up all for me with the above words. I feel the same way about what good poetry/art/literature does. When I read something that lingers with me long afterwards, then, bingo, it's magic.

Michael Parker said...

Adding commentary this late in the game seems silly. A few weeks ago, as I introduced an amazing poem by Lee Herrick, I commented that I'm an emotional reader. What does this mean? It's very much like how Rae and Pris have summed it up--I look for that moment of transcendence. I await that image or phrase or verse that will stick in my head, communicate with me, and linger a lifetime. I like what I read to become a part of me.

Pris said...

You're never too late to comment. I'm an emotional reader, too, which is how I became the subject of that long blog by Silliman defending Clark Coolidge's poetry. I always get leery whenever someone tries to 'convince' me to like a poem or poet. It doesn't work that way. It's an instinctive reaction..gut level..when one reaches me.

jimfow said...

Pris, thanks for posting this piece. It comes to the heart of what good poetry needs to do, and how hard it really is.

"If a poem is to be more than entertainment, if, in fact, it is to be great, then it must express difficult truth, both originally and clearly. The challenge for a poet is to put those other pleasures in the service of meaning."

Most of us will be lucky, with effort, to write one or two memorable poems in our lifetime.


Pris said...

Well said, Jim. I've read that Issa wrote thousands of terrible haiku, yet from his willingness to keep writing, came also those gems he's so well known for until this day.

Coloratura said...

this is a great article, thanks for posting...

i like your site.

Pris said...

You're welcome and thanks for the comment about the blog. I just looked at your profile and your taste in movies is very similar to mine.