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Anxious gatekeeping

Analogous to nervous cluelessness is something we might call “anxious gatekeeping.”   This is desire to police the borders of poetry, or of...

Friday, December 18, 2015

Hitting the Ground

When I read a poem in the New Yorker, I get frustrated by the lack of verbal economy. I think of Larry Hart:

Have you met Miss Jones, someone said as we shook hands
She was just Miss Jones to me
Then I said Miss Jones, you're a girl who understands
I'm a man who must be free

Then all at once I lost my breath
Then all at once was scared to death
Then all at once I owned the earth and sky

Now I've met Miss Jones, and we'll keep on meeting til we die
Miss Jones and I

That's like 90 words or so, and ten are "Miss Jones." Take the first 90 words of a New Yorker poem and nothing has happened yet. Even in a shorter one.

Prose should be concentrated in the same way. Every page must have worthwhile ideas. Even the presentation of background material must do so with a sense of urgency. In other words, it's not "here's what you should know before you understand my argument," but: this is how my argument shapes our understanding of what you might already know by way of background.

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