Ugh, poetry.

Since the play I’m working on will include long passages in verse, and I’ve always had an antagonistic relationship with poetry, my friend lent me The Sounds of Poetry by Robert Pinsky. I read it while lying in the grass in Madison Square Park. The text was very elegant and easy to follow. In the opening chapter, Pinsky introduced a line of poetry, and encouraged me to read it aloud. I did, three times. I felt pleased and happy. And then he went on to break down the rhythm of the line in a completely different way than I’d read it, and moreover, qualified his interpretation with words like “unmistakably” and “clearly.”

I was like, See, here, this. This is exactly why I have an antagonistic relationship with poetry. It’s like when a sommelier tells me a certain wine has a “pepper finish” or something like that. Or like what astrology does, in surveying the vast field of stars and picking a few out and saying “This is a constellation that has this accumulated meaning,” whereas I could just as easily draw another constellation and make up another meaning. Discussions of poetry feels the same to me: arbitrary.

I like some poets—my father, especially—but I get impatient with almost all others. But I can’t believe that an entire branch of literature will remain forever beyond my liking. That’s part of why I’m writing a lot of it for THE PENTAEON. Before, I wrote poems very rarely. Fittingly, one of them is about burning a book of poetry.

Louise Glück in the Fire Pit

Nothing against
the poetess,

but it did my soul
such good to burn
her First Four Books of
Poetry. A gift

misgiven, by
one who thought
I “should get into”
poetry. I watched

the pages curl and
burn, turning in,
black rose closing
up again.

2 Comments on “Ugh, poetry.”

  1. augustschulenburg says:

    For me, poetry feels like cheating on plays, all of the joy, none of the commitment. The downside is my plays smell the verse on my collar and get upset.

  2. Ha! That’s hilarious—I feel like writing plays is cheating on my fiction, because it’s all dialogue, so it’s “easy.” Just tell your plays they can’t fulfill all of your needs. Reference Dan Savage if necessary.

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