...there’s [a] difference between a game and a poem. Both should be played with as much skill as possible, but a game is played for its own sake, while a poem, and our pleasure in its gambits, depends on the recognition it is saying something true about life. A poem, essentially, is a game with a single price of admission: that its rules aren’t cut off from the sadness, exultation or distress that pushed the poet to fashion those rules in the first place. I’ve reconciled myself to the fact that we’ve moved past poetry as the zero-sum sport Frost called ‘prowess – something to achieve, something to win or lose’. Yet we seem pretty far from the only other option likely to generate memorable work: the clue-gathering Auden called the ‘game of knowledge, a bringing to consciousness, by naming them, of emotions and their hidden relationships’.
- Carmine Starnino, from his essay "Steampunk Zone" in his collection of criticism Lazy Bastardism. The whole essay has been posted on Lemon Hound, and you can read it here.