15 jun. 2007

If we knew what poetry was in the first place, criticism of poetry wouldn't have any interest. It is mainly interesting to me as an unstable, contested reality. I am not a relativist in this; I think my own perceptions are better than yours, but I like to contrast them with those of others.

For example, reading some essays by Helen Vendler I recognize that all the equipment of a reader of poetry is there. Yet she comes to divergent conclusions; I share maybe 40% of her taste. What's valuable is to see where perceptions diverge.

If I look at Koch's Making Your Own Days I see his taste (in the anthology section of the book) is infallible. There is nothing bad there, from my perspective. In fact it's uniformly great stuff. This gives me a base-line to work from, in the sense that I know I'm not completely insane, but it doesn't give me insight about my inability to appreciate the poetry of Diane Wakoski.

Reading through Alice Notley's essays I notice that whatever she quotes is marvelous. It all leaps off the page at me. Once again, my own perceptions are confirmed.

Pretending to like something you don't is not just dishonest, but does harm to others. Maybe the anthologist who leaves out my favorite poets should be commended.