Youmans (pronounced like 'yeoman' with an 's' added) is the best-kept secret among contemporary American writers.--John Wilson, editor, Books and Culture.

Monday, December 03, 2012

To the poets--

Thoughts after reading some contemporary poetry... They might be in place of a few reviews, or maybe they're reminders to me about things I knew but felt like jotting down. 

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If you are [insert sex or color], please love the world's people in your poetry. All. No matter what color and sex. To put it another way: give the people in your poems your full and fair attention, even if their behaviors are feckless or monstrous.

Aspire to be like God. Remember this? "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten...." Give your only-begotten verse child to the world so that people may have more life. More life, raised and intense. (That means the poem must have life. And that's a difficult demand.)

Love the reader. He does not need to be clubbed on the head with your ideas of social justice. In fact, lay off the ideas of social justice in your poems. If you love the world well and truly enough in your poems, you don't need to "say" a thing about social justice. Go volunteer at your local food bank or soup kitchen; you'll be a lot more useful to this world. And you might get some of those raised and intense poems out of the experience...

Forgive. Have mercy. If you don't forgive and have mercy, your poetry will be marred by hate and rigidity and the inability to remove your metaphorical sunglasses and see the world's light, falling without passion on all men and women everywhere.

Careful about your progenitors. Never follow writers who are possessed by a spirit of rage and unforgiveness that leads toward the use of poetry as a form of vengeance.

Sit with humility at the feet of the great masters.

Be willing to suffer transformation.

Even if you write short lyric poems, don't leave out story. It worked for Homer, Shakespeare, and Yeats. It can work for you and me.

2 comments:

  1. Morning words... And since they please you, thank you very much!

    ReplyDelete

Alas, I must once again remind large numbers of Chinese salesmen and other worldwide peddlers that if they fall into the Gulf of Spam, they will be eaten by roaming Balrogs. The rest of you, lovers of grace, poetry, and horses (nod to Yeats--you do not have to be fond of horses), feel free to leave fascinating missives and curious arguments.