Saturday, April 27, 2013

In response to Christopher's comment on yesterday's post:

Yes. There are plenty of published poets out there who (1) don't understand the grammatical logic of punctuation and (2) pretend to invent new uses when they really just don't want to have to think about the ramifications of what they are doing.

After I posted yesterday's excerpt, I received an email from a poet who is also a freelance editor and a university teacher: "Loved your recent essay on punctuation in poetry. I'm going to recommend it to my creative writing students. So many of them think that punctuation is inherently 'unpoetic.' It doesn't 'flow.' I actually forbade them from using the word 'flow' in class--it became a catch-all phrase for everything from rhythm to transitions--to lack of punctuation."

Here is one teacher who is bravely fighting such laziness. (Also, look at her interesting, unconventional use of the dash.) I fear, however, that plenty of other teachers overlook or even encourage it. As I hope my excerpt made clear, I--unlike Philip Larkin--am no enemy of strange new uses. I tend to be grammatically conservative in my own work, but that's just me.

My book is not intended to be a complaint about the state of modern poetry. I could write one of those, but I'm not terribly interested in coming across as "a faceless whiner who wishes she were more famous than her work deserves," which is the sort of answer I'd get from the sort of poets I'd be complaining about.


Christopher said...

Good answer -- gets to just about everything I was asking.

But I'll venture another: has there ever been a great poet who wasn't essentially conservative, at least at his or her roots, at the place where the flight first took off from the ground? Can we as human beings construct any building that can stand contrary to what the text-books say about foundations, for example, or anything new at all that isn't built on ancient, communal knowledge? Is there any way of beating wings that doesn't include the intimate knowledge of flight known by birds aeons before pilots?

Or punctuation that is free of the exigencies of language?

Did "make it new" ever work, even for Pound -- who was so intensely conservative he never got beyond the 12th Century -- or even cantos?

Dawn Potter said...

I'm not equipped to answer this question, Christopher. I'm no historian or scholar of poetics. I don't tend to try to extrapolate in these large-scale ways, and in fact I think it's a bit dangerous to do so because it takes me into generalizations about poetry instead of pressing me up against the actual materials of an actual individual piece of work. Note that I say "me." This is surely a very useful way of thinking for many others, as it is for you.

Christopher said...

You're so rooted, you women!

(Dear Dawn, I feel so foolishly stuck together with wax like this way up here, and everything I write is endlessly crashing!)