As I sit here reviewing the poets that I return to again and again (when I remember that poetry exists at all), I'm struck by something that I failed to make very clear, very plain from the outset: I don't know what the hell I'm talking about. Not really. Not in the academic sense. When I boldly declared a "let's all appreciate poetry" week late on Sunday night, I had no grand visions of poetry analysis, of discussing the merits of various forms and their place in the shifting landscape of poetry through the centuries, of comparing the differences in structure between poets & their relevance in the artistic world. I only meant to say - hey - the beauty of a well crafted phrase, of a carefully chosen word, can inspire those of us who write longer works and so what of it.
Instead, I'm afraid (and I believe you are as well) it might appear as if I've invited you all to provide some sort of academic treatise on poetry. There seems to be, among most of the writers I've spoken to in the last 24 hours, a real hesitancy to comment on anything related to poetry because there is an inherent "academia" angle that none of us wants to touch with an 80 foot pole. We aren't poetry scholars after all and so what could we possibly contribute that would add value? Shed light?
But that is exactly my point.
For me, poetry has always had the stink of PhD analysis and academic importance. Weight. Heft. All those things that a fiction writer might not bother with once they are out of the academic life. It was only when I started to see poetry as something that was less scholarly -- and more accessible -- that I began to appreciate it. I suspect this is true for many of us, which is why we twitch and twitter at the thought of discussing poetry. For the most part, we read books. We discuss them at length because we feel comfortable doing so. We can talk about narrative threads and leitmotifs and all those things that make a novel a novel because we have more practice reading them and writing them. With poetry...eh...not so much. We are out of practice, our poetry instruments rarely, if ever, tuned.
So, with that, I will say this: let's get down and dirty about it. Let's toss the snobbery and snootery out altogether. Let's just be frank. Whose poetry do you read and why? What do they do for you that you can't get from another writer? If you don't read poetry, why? Throughout the course of this week, I will likely mention poets you've never heard of that have never won a thing and won't be found in any canon. You may dislike everything they've ever written. You will likely highlight poets that I've never heard of and realize I want to learn more about...or not. Someone may decide to chuck poetry altogether after a few quick glances at the poems posted. You may point out that poetry to you is the third verse of a Radiohead song, the opening line of a Dylan anthem, the words written on a notecard from a friend, a quote you keep toting around year after year. That is what it's all about. Taking the precious out of the poetry. Can we do that? Am I crazy?