24 November 2004

Poetry Potpourri

I've been thinking a lot recently about poetry, about how and why I read it, what I want from the experience of reading it, etc. I've also been trying to think of ways to bring more attention to poetry in general and poetry for a science fiction/fantasy audience in particular. Consequently, I've got some links to share:

1. Cahiers de Corey is a weblog I just discovered (thanks to Dan Green) where Josh Corey has been discussing "difficulty" in poetry:
"Difficult" poetry is difficult because it can't be absorbed passively: it demands a response, an effort at completion or better, extension. It asks the reader to give up his or her secure ground and swim a little—which is exactly what a writer has to do. If I want to be reassured, or comforted, or to smile a little bit, I'd rather watch TV than read poems that only aspire to the level of TV (even really good TV). O'Hara still said it best: "If people don't need poetry bully for them. I like the movies too." I like the movies, too, but I also need poetry. And I see no good way to convince other people that they need poetry without compromising what poetry wants to be: not a commodity.
(direct links so far: one, two, three)

2. Alan DeNiro has just renovated his Taverner's Koans site, which is a great place to learn about innovative poetry. There are poems, essays, writing exercises (I did one and produced something I don't think I could ever have predicted writing, which is a sign of a good exercise), etc. The site demonstrates both knowledge and a sense of humor.

3. One of the best writers of poetry that often gets saddled with the "speculative" or "fantasy" label is Theodora Goss, and she has compiled an online anthology of Poems of the Fantastic. From anonymous medieval ballads to James Joyce, it's a wonderfully weird selection.

4. One of the best-known writers of "speculative poetry" is Bruce Boston, a writer of immense range, who recently guest-edited the poetry for an issue of the online magazine The Pedestal. Earlier, the magazine had published an interview with Boston that is fascinating:
Mainstream and speculative poetry differ in subject matter and the stance of the poet. Mainstream poetry deals with the rendering and exploration of the here and now, reality as we know it, internal and external. The poet is often present in the poem as an “I" voice, explicitly or implicitly. Speculative poetry has more to do with imagination, the world of dreams and the world as it could be. The stance of the speculative poet is closer to that of a fiction writer. If an “I" voice appears in a speculative poem it is usually that of a fictional character rather than the author. Like speculative fiction, speculative poetry often poses and answers the question: “What if?" [...]

There are also poems that are speculative because they experiment with language, the form of poetry, or the content of poetry. When free verse first appeared, or Beat poetry, it was speculative.  More recently, in the mainstream arena, post-language poets have stretched the limits of language and the voice of poetry, and to that extent their work can be viewed as speculative.
5. Finally, two unrelated links: Poetrymagazines.org.uk is a site offering the full text of a number of UK poetry journals. It's fun to type in a word and see what comes up -- for instance, I typed in "bilge". Meanwhile, Verse magazine has a blog where editor Brian Henry posts poems and reviews. Today there is a poem by Charles Simic with a magnificent final stanza.

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