A Short Rant about the Demands of Contemporary Poetry

Original status update: I am sick of poems in which the white space says more than the spilled ink

David Kellogg I don’t know

Ian Swords Mayville Down with haiku

Sam Witt I like poems with some substance. There’s a downright conspiracy against that, unless you have a name. And it pisses me off.

Luke S H Wright Isn’t that the most powerful sort of poem when done intentionally though?

Sam Witt Not to me it isn’t. It’s one way of writing poems that has come to dominate because editors simply don’t want to give poetry space, and there is this perception that the shorter the better. Funny how that isn’t the case with other stuff–movies, video games, wine–I think it’s a conspiracy to make poetry decorative and unchallenging, and I for one don’t care for it. The New Yorker is a prime suspect in this. Why don’t they have a poetry issue ever? (I am wet dreaming now) or a center fold three page poem once a year? It’s one of the reasons that “poetry” in the new yorker is “so bad,” which gives the whole thing a bad name. Think about the great poems of the modernist period. Do you remember “Earthy Anecdote” or “The Idea of Order at Key West?” The truth is you remember both. And I would posit that long poems–as Luke’s dad taught us–should possess all the traits as short ones in terms of condensation of language and innuendo. So these editors make it about length, when it’s really about substance and texture despite the length. That’s what I am really trying to say. If you write a long poem today, and you are able to publish it (good luck) and you aren’t a famous poet, people almost always say to you: Boy, this would be really great if you cut it down to under a page. I hear that all the time. A really good poet who is a friend of mine recently was bragging about publishing a one line poem. Good for him. But my wit of the stairwell question for him: When did a one line poem come to trump a 300 line poem? What’s so great about brevity? It’s a way of cheating poetry, in the end, and it shouldn’t come as a surprise that poets come cheap, as another colleague once said to me, when suggesting that a major poet wasn’t worth his fee. This fee was, incidentally, a third of what we paid a vastly inferior speaker who happened to write prose.

Luke S H Wright Sorry: talking at cross purposes. I was talking about stanza and line structure and the black against white contrast– in other words shaping your stanzas with an awareness of how they physically appear on the page. That was the intentionality I meant. It seems I touched a nerve (and that’s not meant to be a snide quip). I do agree with what you say about longer poems.


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