This is just poetry. It won't save you, but it may locate you so that a rescue party can be sent out. — Dean Blehert

Friday, February 6, 2009

A Comment on Comments on Poems

Someone recently asked why I write comments on the poems I post. Here's what I replied:

I comment on my own poems from time to time for the following reasons:

1. Because one isn't supposed to. It's part of the sacrosanct high priesthood of Poets. I try, in a poem, to say something of interest and, in a comment, to say something else of interest. To me the idea that a poet shouldn't comnent on his own work (and this IS a big taboo in certain circles) is something worth violating, as it implies that a poem is something other than live communication. It may be high quality live comm. (effective) and it may use certain conventions associated with poetry, but all this may be true of the comment as well.

2. Because, I'm of the "No Reader Left Behind" persuasion and have found, too often, that while some get it, some are left at sea.

I recognize that there's a down side to commenting: Sometimes, inadvertently, I limit the poem needlessly. Sometimes I insult the intelligence of those who get it. And sometimes, enjoying myself in my little riffs, I bore or overrun the reader. It's a trade-off.

My favorite comment on the relationship between the poem and the commentary is a brilliant and hilarious novel by Nabokov called PALE FIRE.

I am also glad to explain my puns to people. When I know I have delivered a groaner, but someone didn't groan, I simply explain the pun and extract the groan, good as new, not at all dessicated by the explanation. I try to make my puns and my poems good enough to survive explanation. After all, I live in Virginia, a place full of ex-plantations. (That one is not good enough to explain. [A desert is an ex-plain.])

1 comment:

Cheryl King said...

I especially appreciate reason #2, since I’m the reader who often gets left behind. Reason number one is delightful – the more breaking of fixed ideas, the better, in my opinion.

I think some people are very sensitive to the fact that a poem takes on a life of its own. It means different things to different people, just like other language. I’ve been touched by the fact that a poem I wrote and thought very little about had a great impact on one of my daughters. Other poems are very important to me and draw little attention from others. Maybe some people are afraid that if they know what the poet was thinking, they won’t be as free to get their own meaning from a poem. However, that’s just a theory; I don’t find that to be true for myself. I actually can think better if I am not in mystery about what you mean, or whether I am missing something profound.