So a friend has pointed out that I have been veering from the straight path of poetry and investigating all kinds of apparently nonpoetic things, and she is not wrong. At first I thought this was simply a result of my writer’s block, again, and to some extent it is. Then I thought about how I started this blog in part to figure out my poetics, that is, what the Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics defines as “a systematic theory or doctrine of poetry” (Preminger 636). What do I think counts as poetry and where do we draw the line? Is it enough to “not be prose,” i.e., to have lots of short lines, some of which may happen to rhyme? Is it likely to have more elegant language and imagery than non-literary prose generally uses? Must it be beautiful? And what do we mean by beauty?
And then I realized that some of what I have been unconsciously doing is figuring out my aesthetics, which oddly enough, Preminger does not define, although he does include aesthetic distance and aestheticism, this last of which he seems to define as art for art’s sake, although he takes several pages to do it. I think for me defining one’s aesthetics is about defining what one as an individual, artist and nonartist, find beautiful and not. What draws you, as the bagpipes drew me before my mind had realized that my legs were moving? What repels me, as the sonorous, groaning organ does, even though it has great symmetry and harmony and All The Things, and can move other folks to tears for Very Different Reasons?
And I have been fascinated by our recent popular culture projects, because they have been drawing me in a similar fashion. Some of what I like is the smart juxtaposition between apparent opposites that we often get, the mixing of deadly serious and light wit, or dark, almost Gothic environments mixed with warm companionship. Or just high school students reading 500-year-old texts in an actual library to learn about the demons they are about to face. These tinctures in the story-telling of our time fascinate me, and I hope are teaching me about how to tell a more beautiful story, whether I do it in poetry or prose or some other way.
But for those who came for the poetry, here is a poem from last Monday when I got soaking wet about three different times.
Suddenly the air
is awash front to back
with water, which once,
before today, used
to be ocean or cloud.
And walksign people
scurry and slosh across
sidewalks become rivers
for a moment or two
too long for dry shoes.
Only the dry ones, those
who planned ahead,
stay anywhere near dry
carrying their nylon roof
on a stick.
Preminger, Alex, ed. Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics. Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP, 1974.
“Must it be beautiful? And what do we mean by beauty? And then I realized that some of what I have been unconsciously doing is figuring out my aesthetics…”
Wow, you & I seem to be wandering through the same rabbit hole.
And, like you, I’ve been a bit distracted from the poetic on my pages (and in life) recently…though I am still writing poetry, quietly, in stolen moments.
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As long as the rabbit hole is beautiful!