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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, March 31, 2017

POEMS

I'm thinking I should write a guide to writing poems as well. I was going to do it once. I remember someone, an MFA Graduate, being outraged at the idea. You cannot have a textbook about writing poems. That seemed sacrilegious to him, somehow.  That's not why I abandoned the project, but I remember thinking, if it is sacrilegious to have a textbook, why is it also not sacrilegious to have an MFA program?  He refused to see my point, and got defensive: why was I attacking MFA programs, he wanted to know?

Of course, this would bring me back exactly to what I don't want to do in my other anti-textbook: tell them what good and bad poems are. I just get frustrated with other people's poems and want them to write better ones.  This almost always happens to me at poetry readings. I never say anything, of course, but I am thinking they should study with me and I would help them write better.

This is a curious delusion on my part.  I don't know quite how to abandon it, though I'm sure I should.  When I find poetry written the way it ought to be, I know that immediately too.    

3 comments:

Leslie said...

There are apparently textbooks on how to write poems now. I saw it in a Facebook thread.

Vance Maverick said...

Long ago I read this book of exercises in writing poetry. Most seemed wedded to a warm/bland notion of what poetry was about, with the salient exception of Charles Bernstein. Not sure what he was doing in such company ("like a Redon among Alma-Tademas," I wrote to someone) but that began a fruitful chain of reading. And I never wrote any poems.

Jonathan said...

Then I think I will have no exercises in my book.