25 sept. 2006

Isn't there a mystery behind every poem? A mystery you're not supposed to figure out?

Among twenty snowy mountain, the only moving thing... An old pond -- a frog jumped in. Siempre la claridad viene del cielo. As I sd to my friend because I am always talking, John I sd, which was not his name. So much depends upon the apparition of these faces in the crowd, petals on a wet black bough. Nothing in that drawer. Verde que te quiere verde. Nothing in the drawer. Nothing in that drawer. Like cellophane tape on a schoolbook. Each joining a neighbor, as though speech were a still performance. Empieza el llanto de la guitarra. Nothing in the drawer. You were wearing... Snow has fallen into the bottle of eraser fluid.

So the problem is not having "accessible" poems (or not). A poem of perfect surface clarity might be enigmatic--or a seemingly more difficult poem might not really be that mysterious after all, once you crack the code. Enigmatic luminosity in the one case. Covering up something clear (in a riddle) in the other. What proponents of "accessbility" want the poet to do is explain, in the poem itself, who John is and why I don't know his name, why the frog jumped in and what it "means," why Padgett's drawer is empty, what the red wheelbarrow "signifies," what snow has to do with white-out, what the color green "symbolizes."

The poem should "communicate" something, according to some people. Well, no. At best that's just a lazy way of talking about the phenomemon in question, a kind of imprecise shorthand; at worst, it's profoundly misleading, because what would the opposite of "communicating" be? Offering a verbal experience not wholly translatable into a communicatable message. And isn't this exactly what poetry does, withholding its actual message? The poetry is in what's not "communicated," or more precisely, in the tension between what is and is not said. I'm not making this stuff up. This is just poetic theory 101. It tends to get lost in the age of Garrison Keillor, of course.

4 comentarios:

C. Dale dijo...

I prefer the veil of accessibilty. Poems or other literary works that may appear accessible or simple on first read but invite you back (only to discover that the work isn't simple or that accessible at all).

Jonathan dijo...

Good point. I love those sorts of works too. Isn't the invitation to come back a soupçon that you don't QUITE understand yet, that the work hoids something in reserve?

John dijo...

The invitation to come back results from a delightful or enlivening (or . . . ) experience that is unique to that particular poem. That's what poetry does. It provides an experience. It makes experiences happen. "Communication" is part of that experience, probably usually. If people need "communication" to be the most important part of the poem experience, bully for them, to quote (implicatively) F O'H.

Joseph Duemer dijo...

I'm teaching an intro cw course right now & when they write poems, most students want to jump right to the symbolic, or what they understand to be the symbolic, w/o having established any ground of reality in the poem (no matter how fantastical). I like poems that have a ground of reality that the poem then pulls out from under the reader. Sometimes the fall is just like going over a dip in the road--that feeling in the stomach--but sometimes it's like being shoved off a tall building & only discovering at the last second that you have wings. Or the poem has wings.