|Photo by Robin Rudd: The Throne of Psyche, 2011.|
A reply to Notes on poetic form at Via Negativa
I'd say that you are continually finding the forms that suit you, as am I. I like the way you work, and I don't think that you are on a plateau but are moving on and searching, as you should be.
But to say that does not mean that my use of more or less "set" forms is confining or limiting. All we have to do is look at any major poet in the history of culture to know that is not true (look, say, at blank verse in Shakespeare--or in Wallace Stevens! He was the first poet to make short blank verse an important part of his work, though I don't think anybody talks about it much. Good thesis topic for some poor graduate student, I suppose.) For me, the way forward demands passing through the tradition, but I am just one person and clearly that is just one thread in the wild pattern of poetry these days. In general, it is a less fashionable thread, of course.
Nor do I think that form means you must stay more "on the surface." It has not meant that for poets in the past, and some human beings are still wanting to pour their words into vessels, to fight with the angel of form to receive a blessing. But because poetry is not taught as it was once taught in childhood or read as often as it was once read, many young poets don't have a sense of the natural shape of a form. But is just as possible to "dive" and to feel "free" and to lodge truth and beauty in an ode or long blank verse as in anything else. I feel liberated when I write in form because for me, form brings surprise and vigor and unexpected connections--and then I can also feel what Whitman or the Modernists felt when I occasionally toss away set form to find my own.
When I listen to the voices out of poetry world, I find that the manifold put-downs of people who write in forms or people who write conceptual poetry or people who write language poetry or flarf or whatever are pursuing the wrong thing. For me, it's not whether a particular kind of poetry is "right" or "wrong." I don't even find that those choices are in the realm of "right" and "wrong." What I care about is whether an individual poem lives and whether words have managed to fountain into the world with a certain vital energy that lasts through re-readings.
It's as in any creation. I want my Adams and Eves of paper to live rather than lie on the floor, inert and never waking. For me, if there is no meaning and no word-pleasure in a writer's work, then it is simply dead leaves. (Of course, there are some groups of poets who would reject that view entirely--and with those poets I agree to disagree. Some of them would rather not agree to disagree, but that does not bother me either.)
I am glad you write the poetry you write as you write it, and I am glad of your manifold and interesting web self, which I value as much as I value the flesh-you that I met in Wales. And now I go off to polish fiction.