Tag Archives: writing

Poetic Idealism and the Search, pt. 1

Many of the readers who end up at this blog do so by searching Google with the phrase “idealism in poetry” or something similar. While I think the overall contents of the blog offer my thoughts on the topic, I am sure that many of these searchers are looking for research for their undergraduate or high school papers. This post will offer some reflection on the concept in general, but I would like to also point them toward the recently updated “plagiarism note” in the right column. Your teacher/professor will recognize a voice other than yours, and drop text into Google to figure out where it came from. Then you will fail the paper, if not the course. Be forewarned.

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June Jordan and the Political

Every poet claims that poetry is political – or at least that the act of writing poetry is a political act – no matter what the poem’s contents are. Jane Hirschfield, Richard Hugo, David Orr, Susan Stewart, and Stephen Dunn are just a few of the poets investigated this semester who wrote or intimated this idea. The statement that poetry is political requires a certain understanding of the “political,” meaning an exercise and projection of the voice in the face of the vast ease of being silent. This idea, that saying what needs to be said – whether about a white spider on a sprig of Queen Anne’s Lace, or about the unequal gender treatment in our current society – is a political act opens more than just poetry to political statement, but all fields of art. As a result, the question of which writing is political, and which is not, becomes very important. To hazard one possible boundary, writing which does not offer some access to Truth, or which deliberately obscures Truth (or truth), falls on the far side of the political; these kinds of writing result in either apathetic consumerism, or worse, outright propaganda. Much popular music falls into these categories. The reader (that’s you) may object that even apathetic consumerism or outright propaganda fall somewhere on the political spectrum, and the author (me) may agree. In that case, let us use “political” – in terms of writing and poetry at least – for the positive – seeking awareness and Truth – end of the spectrum, while the previous terms (apathetic and propagandist) can apply to the other, obstructive end. Continue reading

The Pitfalls of Outright Political Poetry

This post is inspired by an essay I wrote about June Jordan’s Kissing God Goodbye, in which I address some of these issues by looking at how she manages the problems. That essay will soon appear here (as soon as it’s turned in), but in the meantime, and as a way to clarify my own thinking on the subject, I offer the following thoughts on pitfalls facing political poetry.

“Political” requires some definition, for which I’ll steal my own introductory paragraph:

Every poet claims that poetry is political – or at least that the act of writing poetry is a political act – no matter what the poem’s contents are. Jane Hirschfield, Richard Hugo, David Orr, Susan Stewart, and Stephen Dunn are just a few of the poets investigated this semester who wrote or intimated this idea. The statement that poetry is political requires a certain understanding of the “political,” meaning an exercise and projection of the voice in the face of the vast ease of being silent. This idea, that saying what needs to be said – whether about a white spider on a sprig of Queen Anne’s Lace, or about the unequal gender treatment in our current society – is a political act opens more than just poetry to political statement, but all fields of art. As a result, the question of which writing is political, and which is not, becomes very important. To hazard one possible boundary, writing which does not offer some access to Truth, or which deliberately obscures Truth (or truth), falls on the far side of the political; these kinds of writing result in either apathetic consumerism, or worse, outright propaganda. Much popular music falls into these categories. The reader (that’s you) may object that even apathetic consumerism or outright propaganda fall somewhere on the political spectrum, and the author (me) may agree. In that case, let us use “political” – in terms of writing and poetry at least – for the positive – seeking awareness and Truth – end of the spectrum, while the previous terms (apathetic and propagandist) can apply to the other, obstructive end.

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“I Didn’t Know How Good the Poem Would Be” – Hugo and Finding Out

Richard Hugo continues the sentence in one of the most powerful essays of The Triggering Town by writing, “but it would be honest and I would like it because it wouldn’t be any tougher than the human heart needs to be” (96). “Ci Vediamo” barely resembles other essays in the collection, with very little direct advice, but instead reflects on Hugo’s return to the little Italian town where he was stationed in WWII. Despite not directly conveying advice to writers, Hugo imbues the essay with a well-modulated experience which brings the reader to tears with the author at the end. This control of modulation offers enough to study in itself, though this response is not the appropriate place. Instead, this essay will examine the way “Ci Vediamo” and other essays in Hugo’s collection urge the reader toward an honesty and openness which leads to better poems.

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Reflection on Oliver de la Paz’s Requiem for the Orchard

An Important Announcement on Plagiarism

Oliver de la Paz’s collection, Requiem for the Orchard, relies on two organizing threads throughout. Those are the “Requiem” poems, which originally appeared as one extended poem in Guernica Magazine, and the “Self-Portrait” poems which appeared in various places. De la Paz confronts the construction and obfuscation of identity and self through these two threads of interrogation, and it is important that the collection resolves with the two threads together. Continue reading

Reflection on Into These Knots

An Important Announcement

            How does one write poetry about grief, or heartache? Allen Ginsburg’s “Howl” and “Kaddish” might be one approach, but it is a rare poet who can operate in the verse-libre and still convey the absolute misery without devolving into melodrama. Many poets resort to form, which forces a constraint upon poems. In the case of Ashley Anna McHugh, the constraint of form has allowed her to explore loss in great detail. Continue reading

What Makes for a Successful Literary Submission?

So many submissions come in to the literary magazine I help staff – a relatively new literary magazine – that examining the framework of a “successful submission” becomes a lesson in self-reflection. From my experience working on various literary journals, the submissions that find a way through the editorial process have similar characteristics, even though the journal, the editors, and the submissions may be vastly different. For the most part, this framework can relate across different literary journals with different scopes as well. At the broadest level, I see the framework resting upon awareness. Continue reading

On the Control of Movement through Image, pt. 3

Self-portrait in a convex Mirror

Image via Wikipedia

In the case of longer poems, movement control through image becomes a much more involved task. John Ashbery assumes this task in his long poem, “Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror,” which reflects on Parmigianino’s painting of the same name. While the impetus for Ashbery’s poem is ekphrastic, and he returns often to this originating source, he eschews the traditional impulse to control the movement through narrative or language. Most longer poems rely on either narrative (as in epic poems), or rhythm/rhyme constructions (as in ballads) to control their movement. Ashbery, in contrast, uses image to control the movement of his poem. Because this method is non-linear and a-logical, teasing out the movement of the poem can become difficult, as has already been shown.

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