17 mar. 2004

I never said that using language clearly or writing in meter was tantamount to treating the reader as a "blithering idiot." I meant that the reader I imagine being addressed in verse like this--

Yes, the police have called me many times,
And generally they've taken my advice.
I keep a scrapbook of uncommon crimes
I've helped with, when the vision was precise
Enough to lead the searchers to the scene --
Most murders, as it happens, are within
Three miles of home and in the day's routine,
Stopped by a stranger (or the next of kin).


--is a reader who needs to have certain cultural stereotypes and commonplaces (the police psychic, that perpetual staple of bad television) explained to him (or her) in inept rhyming pentameters. What is the reader supposed to admire here, the skill at putting this into rhyme? This is disrespect toward the reader's intelligence. By intelligence I don't mean detailed knowledge of specific academic fields. It ain't brain surgery, folks! (I'll save the debate about whether poets should be serious intellectuals for another time; can't they be as smart as normal folk, at least?) Notice, too, how the poet has sacrificed all other poetic values on the altar of formalism. There is no convincing imagery, no logopeia or interest in language, no intelligence of the everyday sort, no emotional weight. There is no style. Is the idea that a police psychic might speak in verse witty in and of itself? I don't think so. Milton thou shoulds't be living at this hour!

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