Monday, July 2, 2012

The Biggest Mistake Poets Make

So I call Finley tonight to listen to a poem I'm working on. Who knows....if I catch him in the right mood, maybe he'll want to collaborate.

He tells me to read the poem, I do......and within 4 seconds the critique begins.

"Isn't this based on a blog post you wrote recently?" he asks.

"Yes" I confess with embarrassment, because I know where this conversation is going....

"There is prose, and there is poetry" Finley reminds me "and if people would just remember that most items were meant to be used as prose...there would be far less shi*** poetry" Mike says as he laughs.

I knew this, then I forgot it because I flattered myself to believe that I could turn anything into a poem.

"Remember how much we both loved Dylan's CHRONICLES - VOLUME #1 book?" Mike asked.

"Why did we like it so much? I think that book was far more generous than all of Dylan's poems combined. Bob is/was wise enough to know that poems should be written sparingly."

Now I tried to redeem myself from falling in such an obvious trap........

"Yeah, we should only write poems to express love right?"

Then Mike pauses for a bit......

"Maybe, yes maybe you are right. As long as you realize that love is broad and can cover many topics. I mean your poem.... Dan it wasn't generous. It was boiled down. Why do you think everybody hates Ezra Pound? That's what he did.He boiled topics down so much nobody knew what the hell he was talking about. But I would agree that many poems are written by self serving devils."

I pause before asking..........


"Well look at Nicole Kidman." Finley says.....

"Basically she is just a devil. What has she really done from a creative point of view? I think she is just kinda a devil that takes up space so you can't inhabit it. And that's what so many poems do when they are written. They serve no purpose if they don't sweep you off your feet. Yeah....stay with your fireball concept. Write about things you love if you want to write poems, otherwise.....just stick to your blogs."


  1. Pound -- he described his imagist poetry as the product of condensare e distillare -- boiling down, like in cooking. Boiling down is good when you can still figure it what it is -- less good when it becomes hard to understand. Today, a lot of poetry is too distilled to understand -- perhaps because the though underlying it is maybe not so strong that the writer wants to be crystal clear.

    I think it's a good test to run every time you have an idea: What is it about this idea that can;t be expressed in simple prose? If you can make prose work, go for it, because people generally like prose. Intentionally expressing a thought as a poem is like conceding that no one will want to encounter that thought head on.

  2. (But Pound was right, too -- poetry should be spare, no flab, no chat.)