Saturday, February 02, 2008

Back From the Ether

I have been offline for some months writing and trying to figure out what computer to buy.

Taking a break from poetry boards has always worked for me to re-energize and make me consider my perspective. It's like the person at a party who speaks too soon without consideration because - well, the party is going on and they want to charge ahead. But only reading and not posting makes me think and think again about what happens to the reader while they read a poem. And, does what is happening have some value?

Then the next knotty issue: if it has value, can we adequately say what it is if we critique? That part is the hard part.

I often feel like I am attempting Casaubon's Key to all Mythologies when I am struck by a good poem and try to say what makes it good. I find myself trying to explain why a line, word or whole poem is good based on its parts but have difficulty to find the language that expresses how the magic of all those parts work together.

As I considered the enigma of the good poem's resistance to definition, I began to think of the good writer as illusionist, a trickster who plays with our perceptions in just the right way. One of the pleasures of the text seems to be the pleasure of being tricked along the path of content.

Poetry boards are rife with critiques that state what makes a particular poem lousy, or what part of a good poem is lousy.

This year, I want to go looking for better ways to notice the illusory how of good poems.