The very clever & cunning Chris from escapegrace has graced us with her thoughts (post birthday rock & roll karoke hangover, no less! happy birthday!) on her on-again/off-again affair with poetry. She mentions one of MY most favorite reads for 2006 by Maggie Nelson -- please run to buy this and read this! She also explores the idea that I think we're all secretly laboring under -- when did poetry get so damn serious and how can we make it fun again?:
When I was in third grade, I transferred to a brand new elementary school designed on the classrooms without walls model. If you were bored, you could look through the bookcases at the grade next door. I don’t think I was bored very often though, because I spent much of my free time that year composing an epic poem in rhyming couplets. (This was years on from the early experiments of “I see a flower in a tree/I see a flower on a bee” with illustrations.) To remember this shocks me because I feel so estranged now from poetry as a way to express or entertain myself. Callie’s request for poetry reflections made me wonder why this is.
Often times when I read poetry, I can’t find a way in…someone to talk to, or more specifically, someone to tell me a story. My first reaction is to describe this as a lack of “voice,” but the problem may be that I’m just not listening closely enough. Reading a novel is relaxing – the narrative is usually clear in even the most avant-garde fiction – but with poetry, the meaning and movement are more subtle. Frankly, you often have to work for it. Having spent the entirety of my adulthood pursuing a doctorate and “working” on literature, I didn’t want to work for pleasure. As a result, I read less and less poetry as time went on. In my few attempts to write poetry, I felt I was writing a story with line breaks and sadly, I am no Robert Browning.
Now that I’m through with school – walled and unwalled classrooms alike – I’m finding my way back to poetry slowly through the incredible privilege of having poets as friends. Jean Gallagher came out with two volumes in the past year or so – both of which are stunning: This Minute and Stubborn. Ali Liebegott won a Lambda Award for her prose/poetry hybrid The Beautifully Worthless last year, though I have to say old habits are hard to break – I’m even more excited for the new novel, The IHOP Papers. My excellent advisor and two former classmates also have recent collections worth checking out: Wayne Koestenbaum’s Best-selling Jewish Porn Films, Maggie Nelson’s Jane: A Murder, and Geoffrey Jacques’s Just for a Thrill.
In considering the titles above, I think that part of the reason I’m being drawn to this poetry (aside from knowing its creators) is that the genre is becoming more fluid, allowing bits of prose to poke through without somehow undermining the seriousness of the poetry. Perhaps it’s an image problem. Somewhere along the road – taking the long way to avoid Bukowski’s house after the Beats off-ramp – poetry got so serious. I’m glad to see there’s some play at work in the genre, making it more available to be the voice of serious times.