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Monday, August 8, 2016

I've discovered something

I"ve discovered something in my work in the genre of bad poetry. When you read an actual bad poem, one not written in order to be bad, but one that simply fails, it is always worse than one that is deliberately bad. It is either a kind of non-existent poem, not a poem at all, or a poem that aims to be good but is confined by its expectations of what a good poem ought to be. Sometimes, the poem falls into the crack between these two options.

Take my poem "Textiles" for example:


Once I did not understand textiles. I read about them as a child in

encyclopedias, how some countries or regions produced them

in abundance, and were known for their finery, but the word itself

bore no meaning for me. I wore shirts and socks

but had never seen a textile in my life. What could it be?

I think about this, Diana, as we take on and off clothes

morning and night, changing and choosing them,

bathing and making love without them on, washing

and repairing these fine textiles of our domestic bliss.

Ok. I'm glad I got that off my chest. I think I am looking for that sweet spot between the actor who thinks he is talented and hams it up, and the actor with no illusions who is merely wooden, who cannot even emote. Or, we could say: taking poetry seriously, as the conventionally good poet does, but de-MFAing her work. Nothing should be in the poem because it's supposed to be a poem.


Leslie B. said...

What would happen if the first stanza were shortened slightly and the phrase domestic bliss were substituted with something less ... familiar, less often used ironically?

Jonathan said...

That would improve the poem. The speaker would not be taking as much pleasure in his silly joke in the first stanza, and not be using a cliché earnestly in the second. That would make it a good poem (almost).

As a child I learned of textiles in encyclopedias
how some nations made fine ones
but what were they? I had never seen a "textile."

Jonathan said...

By the way, this is a true story. I really was puzzled by this word and by things like "livestock" or "poultry." They were abstract categories that I couldn't quite get my young head around.