9 ene. 2006

Grad students, even colleagues sometimes, have asked me, "What do you do with poetry?" The process of writing about poetry seems mysterious to them. I suppose that's because a lot of people working mainly on the novel use the plot as the main organizational guide for writing. They go through the novel's plot and point things out as they go along, but the basic rhythm of the article is narrative, an echo of the novel's structure even when overt "plot summary" is kept to a bare minimum. At its worst, this method does produce mere plot summaries. I've been to conference panels where scholars simply summarize the plot of a novel for 20 minutes.

For those of us who write mainly on poetry (I don't think I've ever written an article on a novel), there is no such ready-made critical vehicle. The closest thing would be to string a few "analyses" of individual poems on a thread.

I like the fact that for what I do there is no one format that works most of the time so easily. I can try out different organizations.

I try to have a least one "intrinsic point" and one "extrinsic point" in my argument. Intrinsic in terms of the "poetry itself." Extrinsic having to do with the context of reception or production, the larger point about why the poetry I'm talking about is significant in the larger scheme of things. I am dissatisfied with articles I read that don't have some contextualization. The reader needs some reason to care.

As a peer reviewer for scholarly journals, I find an enormous range of competencies.