Thoughts on Poetry
People ask me sometimes why I write poetry when the general public seems to flee from the concept. This is a little misleading because poetry is still widely involved in people’s lives in the music that we listen to. But, with a few exceptions, poetry is not at the top of the reading lists of most of the public.
I thought the holidays might be a good time to talk about my thoughts on poetry and why I continue to write despite the obstacles erected by the publishing industry, the sometimes stultifying views of the internal gatekeepers in the medium, and the efforts of many universities to make poetry as unreadable as possible.
Writing poetry is one of those pursuits that everyone thinks they can do. One of my workout friends is always composing little poems (usually that start with someone from Nantucket) and criticizes me constantly for not writing more poems that rhyme. Poems can be short, they can be about anything, and if you are suitably inscrutable in what you write, everyone will think you’re a genius.
I had noticed in college that all the old guidelines had disappeared. The key to a successful poem was to get out there as far as your imagination would take you, and then throw all the words off a cliff. If they landed in a way that made no sense and had no relevance to life, you became famous as a “breakthrough” artist. This is still the case, as seen in an essay by Tony Hoagland a few years ago in Poetry magazine. He stated that “systematic development (of a poem) is out: obliquity, fracture and discontinuity are in”. In general, it seems that Poetry magazine has remained true to that approach.
As a college student, this seemed right up my alley, so I became a poet. The trouble started when I wound up in Vietnam and realized that the mangled obfuscation of modern poetry was just as irrelevant to the real world as the mangled obfuscation of what the war had become.
So I started writing poetry that actually made sense to me. This, of course, totally blew my credibility among the purveyors of dissociant free verse and ended my dreams of hanging out in coffee shops with wasted groupies who wanted to toast my brilliance.
So now I hang out in coffee shops with people who drink real coffee, and read newspapers which will soon be lost to a dissociant society. I suspect that many modern poets will hardly know the difference.
In the meantime, as a relic of the old days, I will continue to write poems about real life that I hope will find their way to those who actually stop and look at our universe without electronic filters, and aren’t studying the latest fashion highlights of the “emperor’s clothes”.
Glenn K. Currie