A few weeks ago my sweet friend Nick posted a few comments about Same Old Story on the book's Amazon page. In it, he made more or less the same remark that my father also made when he wrote me a letter about the book: that it was a relief to read poems that were "accessible."
Accessibility is a broad and ambiguous concept, one that might cover poets as different as Sappho and Shel Silverstein. Yet as bandied in contemporary criticism, the term can be slyly pejorative. The implication is that accessibility may add to a book's general attractiveness but may also equal naive or lazy. Accessibility, such pedants suggest, is a bone to toss to non-experts. The attitude is both insulting and stupid, tantamount to claiming that Rembrandt was inferior to Pollock simply because Rembrandt was a realist.
Both Nick and my dad are well-educated men, and both chose the word with care. For them, accessibility implies a fruitful engagement between written word and reader, a conversation rather than a battle, and I am honored by their praise. But of course accessibility means different things to different readers, and I daresay there are plenty of people out there who would tell you that (1) my poems are too hard to understand and (2) my poems are too easy to understand. Both of those reactions are true because, as readers, we are changeable. Today, for instance, I would call Dickinson's poems accessible, but I struggled with them when I was a teenager. As an older reader, I have patience with strangeness and discomfort whereas when I was young, all I sought was rapture: "give me Keats and Keats and Keats!"
So I'm interested in your take on the matter . . . not necessarily with my poems but with the idea of accessibility in general. Does it mean easy to you? Or something more complicated? And how has your private definition of accessibility changed over time?