TheThe Poetry
≡ Menu

Episode 7 of Poetry Fix: Robert Frosts's "Once by the Pacific."

Minimalism is not about powerful messages about the nihilism or poverty of the human condition (though it's certainly easy to think so!). Instead, minimalist art creates a framework through which you view the world. It gives you the bones of the skeleton and then you fill out the flesh. But watch out! The minimalist artist still controls the bones (and hence the body that you have put on them). Minimalism is as silent as the movie frame.

Literary theorists use literature as an excuse for ontological truths (or gender, or sexual, or identity issues). This is a legitimate way to ransack texts, but it will not teach you how to write. Ontology begins with detail selection—in terms of word choice, verbal relationships, rhythm. A theorist wouldn't know what to do with this poem, unless the theorist started to write a book on kinetics in terms of verbal constructs and the cultural bias of admiring athletes as per one's gender, or class. Minor may only mean a theorist can't find much to theorize about.

Episode 6 of Poetry Fix. Miroslav Holub's "Ode to Joy."

Here was a guy with the same ability, in American vernacular prose, to make a drab world come alive--the same ability to make magic from the ordinary that Japanese poets showed in haiku. Harvey gave the urban rust belt, and its daily triumphs and frustrations, a reality, a comic, deadpan glamor. No fiction writers or poets of that time approached. Long before Seinfeld, Harvey Pekar was doing his own small version of Flaubert's book about nothing.

When McLuhan described linearity (I think he actually used the term lineality...not sure if there's a difference? Spell check doesn't recognize the latter, if that means anything!), I couldn't help but think about the poetic line and the way it is changing. As print culture (and hence the divorce made by the phonetic alphabet) ends, we move from the line, back to the field, back to non-linear, acoustic space.

Episode 5 of Poetry Fix! Louise Gluck's "Mock Orange."

Episode 4 now available on YouTube. Wallace Stevens's poem "A Rabbit as King of the Ghosts."

Mary Karr and I have started a YouTube video series called Poetry Fix. Episode 3 is now available. Twice a week on Mondays and Fridays we'll upload a 2-4 minute video where we read a poem and briefly discuss it.

Lyrical poetry can be very dense. It can even be “high gibberish” (a form of ecstatic speech that does not yield readily to a standard meaning, but may create a mood, an orver all emotional or intellectual atmosphere). It does not usually explain. It is not prone to giving information in an overt and easy way. Why does it beat around the bush? Get to it! Say what you mean! Many a person has turned away from lyric poetry because it refuses to do the one thing people seem to insist on: get to the point! This is exactly where modern poetry wanted poesis to go—to the thing, the object, the point.

These are my loose translations of a form in Ireland known as "three things there be." Long before Saint Patrick came, the Irish thought in threes. They were a triune people, with a Celtic triune God, and they, like most Celts, cast spells, and framed their tales by the magic of threes. I have translated some Triads previously translated by the wonderful Irish poet, Thomas Kinsella.

[Episode 2 of "Poetry Fix"]

Wendell Berry recently decided to pull his personal papers from the University of Kentucky, and it got me thinking. While I know this news story isn't directly related to the topic of poetry (and this is--loosely--a poetry blog), I can't help but feel it connects on some other level as we (poets) think about the relationship of our poetry to the world around us. Most of my exposure to the world of modern poetry has taken place through the university system. And while I know there are many poets writing and thriving outside the university system, it seems to me that the relationship of modern poetry is hopelessly enmeshed with our modern universities. Let's admit it, the modern university (as well as the various foundations, titles, etc.) gives us poets [...]

[Episode 1 of "Poetry Fix"]

I've been reading a lot of Marshall McLuhan in the last several months. I know he's not the most fashionable critic anymore, but I admire his attitude toward culture. I've heard some call him a "futurist" but this seems to run directly counter to McLuhan as I read him. If anything, McLuhan is a medievalist who has adapted himself to our futurist culture in order to bring a rather old timey message. McLuhan created what he called a "tetrad." The general idea is that for every new medium, four things always happen. 1. The new medium enhances some aspect of us or our life. 2. The new medium obsolesces some aspect of us or our life. 3. The new medium, when pushed to its maximum, ultimately reverses some aspect of [...]

(it’s scaffolding) (it’s supposed to be temporary)