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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...

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

On not caring how good my poems are / whether they are good at all

I could care about whether other people think my poems are good.  I have little control (none to be exact) on other people's judgment of them.  I guess I could try to write poems that I think other people might like, but my insight into what other people's taste is limited.  I know they are different from one another and that many more people like Mary Oliver's poems than Ceravolo or Mayer. Even poetry I ought to like (written by experimental folks) is often dull to my taste.

I have zero interest in mimicking some period style that would get me published more easily.  Between 100 and 400 people look at my blog every day, so people who want to find my poems will do so.  No tenure or external legitimation or salary increase depends on the quality of my poems.

I could care whether my poems are good in some absolute sense, irrespective of any reader.  But what does that mean? There is no poetry god in the sky to whom one can appeal. So one judgment would be to not ask if someone likes it, but whether someone, me or you or her, for example, might think it would meet the approval of some theoretical poetry deities? This is surely a fool's errand.

So I can really only care about whether my poems are good for me.  What does this mean?  That is satisfies the poetry itch I feel.  To do this the poem must have some quality I value, so it is not "anything goes." What I am striving for now in my work is a kind of imaginative freedom, where I can do anything I want with no fear of badness per se.  I can be as confessional or MaryOliverish even, without it being even parodic. I will collect Rod McKuen's books. I know some my aesthetic flaws already: excessive reticence, the recording of trivial observations that mean nothing to anyone else. Those flaws are likely to be mitigated if I don't care if it's good in some pretentious sense.