Friday, March 04, 2005

On Whimsy on (metrical) Poetry

I’m thinking my subscription ran out with last month’s copy of Poetry but luckily Jeffery Bahr (wait I need to switch my view to large in order to read his otherwise brilliant blog) reviews (in his own exceptional manner) this month’s copy and maybe I’m not missing much. It’s fascinating (as he often is) to see his take on some of the metrical (if even loose IP) stuff.

On McClatchy: “The poem eventually mentions Plato's Republic, and the usual mandatory classical allusions, and eventually turns lyrical.”

On Hadas’ triolets: “With this kind of metrical baggage, it's hard to believe one could be effective.”

On Koethe: “rambles on in loose IP,… but…you just want him to get on with it.”

On Dubrow “works of blank verse end with a rhymed couplet that seemed strange and tacked on.”

Which is actually a pretty good list of problems that I too often have with formalism (even my own). Too many classical allusions (well, not mine), form for the sake of form (just my own nonce kind and maybe a sonnet or three but that one’s a classic that keeps on ticking), slackness (working it), and rhyme for the sake of rhyme (although I love a good couplet at the end of a stanza and will continue until I get it right).

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Update:

Well, I guess my subscription hasn't yet expired! After reading the above poems in question, I mostly second Jeffery's estimation. I'd add: McClatchy is metrical only by accident and waxes classical for no reason at all; the settings for Hadas' trite triolets are, oh of course, Greece; Koethe I wouldn't add anything because enough is enough already; Dubrow I like although the last lines in each poem sounds a bit forced and Krakow is oddly such a breath of fresh air amid such classical gas.

2 comments:

Mark said...

The problem with many who make allusions is the same problem that the 18th century German archaeologists had when they were exhuming, recording, and, to some extent, inventing what we know as the Greek classical tradition today: treating the texts and objects as if we can fully undertand their exact meaning and historical significance. Closed chapters, stories already written. Which is not, in fact, the case. We don't know, and will never know the full story of antiquity. This is how one should use an allusion, not as a dead metaphor or metonymy, but as a living enigma or ambiguity.

Or for fart jokes.

Greg said...

Mark, I completely agree with you. The Classical Greek experience is something akin to the missing link, when humankind transitioned worlds. By that nature it's unknowable. To assume it's so easily translatable to some suburban experience is hubris at its worse. But of course farts are the universal language.