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poetry for non-poets?

Ted Kooser in a Jim Lehrer poetry podcast interview says poets should read 30 poems for each 1 they write. His writing time is from 4:30 a.m. to 7:00 a.m. daily. He has published and sold 10 titles. For a short poem he would do 40 to 50 revisions, revising to move from difficulty to clarity until it feels fresh and yet the person on the street can access the poem.

I’m still undecided. Should I even try to write poems that could be understood by non-poets or would that be a waste of my energy since I don’t have access to non-poets who read poetry anyway. Everything has been said. It’s a matter of saying it in an amusing way. Simple and elegant is rarely also clever and amusing, edifying and gratifying. Constraining to simple when people want to be confused and tipped and titillated, offended, rear-ended and with a twist that doesn’t feel like a bait-and-switch.

Poetry is most about hashing things out with self, making useful meat or cutting off small castrated parcels of disorder that can be tied and thrown away innocuously. It’s not for addressing a general public or specific poetic encampment. But if one takes it out of the drawer, it ends up wanting one audience or another. It requires more specialized form, to become more elaborate or more self-explanatory.

It does little good to communicate with self because I know me too well. I already can cover for myself and fill in gaps of what I intended but didn’t express. I need, to learn to communicate, to have an audience as different from myself as it can be. Therefore to communicate poet-to-poet might not cut it, especially if backgrounds are similar. To communicate with self, one needs to be clear and frank and BSless. Which requires an explicit linear simplicity that one also needs for the general public.

But maybe that too is all wrong-headed. The point of communicating is not to communicate well. That’s a means to an end. The end point is instrumental message conveyed (in an ideas market) from someone who has it in hand to someone who wants or needs it now.

There has to be an information or goods gap or else it is a pointless exercise without need. Merely confirming information back and forth might be comforting but I want more than closed loop or mutual massage and mutual message.

Bottom line is: If I intend some point and you see another I have failed to communicate whether the you is a poet fond of conventions and conceits of form, or the you is a non-poet.

If you read what I say and what is conveyed is not what I have meant, you may have succeeded in getting a new idea but that is completely you. I am inert as ground and as much a part of that success as a baseball field is owed congratulations for hosting a winning game.

I like the idea of simple direct observations without all the enchanting crap, and without getting too stark or raw, but love the sequined sequence of glittery rush-convoluted revolutions of words bronco-bucking into being, madly off in 3 compass bearings at once.

I like clarity, a point, something edifying, clever, that tells me about a perspective I didn’t have. If all is delusion and illusion as it seems, then I want to spend my time on ones that are going to confer the maximum productive, thriving outcomes possible. Patness, flatness, flattery, self-battery, black-and-blues trusims isn’t going to make that criteria.

But refined and processed that is the only thing I see, I bore.

So I want panache. How much decorativeness can I add without getting my point lost?

Not too raw, not too canned, not too local. Sheesh I’m pick-y.

Diversity for all audiences, keeps the element or surprise.

Am I only gliding, some dove, before the floods recede? Is it too early to land or am I blind to the obvious, willful to find some new island with olive tree just coming out dripping for me alone?

I feel satisfaction with poetry slide. Neither “amateur” or “professional” liked. No mainstream I see pleases or displeases in general. No particular poet, or poem, a word, a line. Like some sort of raven raiding with no appreciation for the grand form and process that went into it. A monkey.

The dichotomy seems absurd. I need information but I don’t know what or else I need busy-work.

Maybe what I need is not poetry of any shape at the moment, but a jog, or a nap, flex or sex or food or something that does not stir the mood.

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4 Responses

  1. for me poetry is more about recognition than understanding. it’s about conjuring something capturing it maybe and saying – here, look at this. have you ever seen anything like this? of course you have. no? well you will and when you do you’ll think back and reflect on this. and in that respect for me clarity is important. it is very much the same thing i do or try to do with my fiction.

    your side of the bed
    really isn’t any more
    and yet… there you aren’t

    there is very little to be understood there but it is something that you can recognize if you’ve been there.

  2. i disagree with lehrer…the knowlege of others poetry does not a poet make , nor does awareness of the audience, not even how many publications they are in and have, etc.

    some of the worlds greatest poets have been a grandparent reciting to a grandchild.

  3. Sorry for the slow reply Warren. Being there deepens it alright.

    Thomai, given, one on one catered poems given and received in love are blessed poetry and communication.

    A friend said a poet is, whether a poem is ever created or not. But again that too is a whole other issue.

    What made Lehrer’s talk noteworthy to me was how was talking about how Passion or serendipity may start a poem, but discipline, attention and work complete it. What you read isn’t to emulate the masters who do it well in line and verse but more elevate from the garbage in, garbage out trap.

    To do the craft of communicating, is a commitment, constant checking if you are refining towards clarity to the average person. That’s valuable to me.

  4. I can see how it’s about setting up something for the reader/listener to recognize then push the envelop a little towards new.

    That takes a certain understanding of self and situation and poem and consumer expectation. Maybe we’re spinning the word “understood” differently.



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