confuse simplicity with simple-mindedness

I think the over-emulation of strangeness in modern poetry has led to something pernicious, a shunning of named emotion, direct statement, as though these were, by definition, unpoetic. Reading world poetry in translation, I'm struck by how naturally poets of other cultures can say a thing like "I am sad today” – the simple articulation of a state of mind – and how moving and human such a naked utterance can be, set amid the imagery of a poem. Why does our current aesthetic reject plain statement? Do we confuse simplicity with simple-mindedness—have we come to regard plain speaking as simple-minded? Are we so in thrall to the Creative Writing doctrine of "Show don't tell" that we have lost our ability to appreciate "telling" under any circumstances? Used judiciously, I vastly prefer direct statement of feeling to the fashionable poeticisms proliferating like an algae bloom in contemporary Canadian poetry: lapses into rhetorical, heightened language, solemn quasi-philosophical pronouncements that are really a kind of posturing, neither grounded nor emotionally honest – a retreat into high-sounding vagueness that dodges real emotion to deliver pseudo-emotion.

- Robyn Sarah, from her essay "Poetry's Bottom Line: Towards an Essay on Poetics" in Little Eurekas: A Decade's Thoughts on Poetry. You can read the whole essay here.

1 comment:

daniela elza said...

here, here

I too think we should bank on this most beautiful technique--simplicity.
What power lies there.

I agree with Robyn Sarah and share her poetic sensibility. I have been thinking lately about how I much prefer poetry that may not be verse (provided that we can agree on what verse is), to verse that has not a smidgen of poetry in it.

The guidelines (to what is a good poem) ring true for me. When I read a poem I am not counting beats, I am more hoping to be taken on a journey from which I can come back in some (small) way full. And I am hoping that the poem creates its own ecology, its own poetic logic that would want me to keep coming back, to the page, the words, or the thought patterns it evokes and conjures.
thanks for pointing this out.