baseball, poetry, and kim chi

Saturday, July 23, 2005

is it good?

I’ve been reading about subjectivity in the reading of poetry (seems to be all the rage). Again, I am not sure how we can get away from it totally. If we develop rules, the rules we use are subjective. There is always a value judgment. So why not be honest about it? Why should we read a poem from a place other than where we write one? What I am thinking is this, just as when we need to step away from a piece of our own to edit, I am wondering if we can’t make that same step with someone else’s work. If we can enter the work and improve it, then the work might not be all that strong (or it might be strong but have weakness). But, if in the attempt to edit/translate the work we are unable to “improve” it, that might just tell us that the poem is complete, that it does what it needs to do.

If in our desire to revise a poem we weaken it, we also learn what it is that makes the poem tick. We begin to see the strengths and the reasons for the moves.


Blogger Sean Mac said...


"improve" (please define vis a vis poems. doesnt this involve the ever-human art of the meddle (hi there))

also: Why should we read a poem from a place other than where we write one?

more on this, please.

w/ strong/weak, i am reading you a la the I ching, broken and unbroken lines. young yin and old yang, that sort of thing. so -from there- no ethical judgment - weak is just weak (like a snail's body ) strong just strong (like his shell) and all this is in circles o weak and strong, always in relation (to itself and to others), so the shell is not strong to the lion's paw or Convers - and has some form, is not all weak (flow). converse? how spell that shoe idea?

Converse, taxonomy of shoe - weak or strong? Seriously, one end of the carrot is "stronger" than the other and tastes diff. - so to skin and blood, surface dirt, underground ore. endless.

the worship of strength alone leads weird ways - study weakness too - whats that?

8:16 PM

Blogger JWG said...

When I say “weak”, I am not taking about a snail’s body. Is a snail’s body weak? Hell if I know. Seems that little body can do a lot of damage in a garden.

When I read, whether I like it or not, I am always changing the poem. I edit every poem I really read. Can’t help it. These edits usually go on in my head and not on the page. For a poem I am more interested in though, I sometimes edit on the page. I find places that I think are weak and try to improve them. (I believe a poem can be improved. That is why I edit. get it closer to what it needs to be. Make it do a few more curls.). What happens though, least when the poem is strong, is that I can only manage to make it worse. I take pieces out and the foundation crumbles. etc. whatever.

When I am editing my own work I do the same thing. Always am editing. never safe to read a piece. An edit might arise. I keep track of my edits so I can move back if I screw it up.

by doing this editing I think I can get closer to the work. If it is mine, or if it is yrs. I can see the poem more clearly. I learn where things are by addition and by subtraction.

I’ve never been convinced by a scholarly argument that a poem is good. It either works or it doesn’t. and this working only occurs inside of me. really it is a feeling. I like this feeling. trust it. it is where my work comes from. everything is done by feel. Don’t see why I can’t read someone else’s work the same way.

6:30 PM


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