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A site for exploration and discussion about verse, poetics, the aesthetic, and creative writing in general.

Because there is a profound difference between writing something to be read and writing something worth reading; and in that difference might beauty be found.

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Tuesday, February 5, 2013

"The Horses Are Fighting" by Jill Osier -- Poetry Daily, 2/5/13

from Green Mountains Review (2012)
poem found here

first lines:
They stand scattered and not
facing each other. Like black-eyed


the emotion bomb

-- edits made 4/25/13
-- reformatted, minor edits 11/24/2013


I will be honest here, since this will come up quite frequently.

I have come to the point where I hold little more than contempt for poems such as this, poems whose entire merit hangs upon the sudden appearance in the poem of some emotional bomb or hook. So much so, that I can not really enjoy very much any more even the ones that are well written: and there are very, very few of those.

Why: because, almost always, all the rest of the poem is trivial, banal, not well written, or otherwise forgettable. Those few that make up the rest of the group might actually have been good poems, if reconceived without the bomb, without what has go be the cheapest, least artistic, least aesthetic, and  least effort-filled trick in the book.

Bombs show only that the poem has no organic whole. It usually shows that the poem had no where to go without the bomb. And the thing is, this poem actually has the energies for something good: horses, goats, and a funeral. Why the cheap bomb -- except literary laziness? And if I don't stop I am going to tirade.

Let me make it clear, though. I am not talking about a twist -- a volta, as it were -- otherwise I would be condemning the whole of the sonnet tradition. I am talking about trying to state worthiness of a poem through dropping an until then unforeseen and unforeseeable emotional powderkeg. (OK, I admit, you do get to the point where you start to see bombs coming in texts, because of the absence of value or depth in the text thus far. Makes for good, mass plot spoilage when you see it coming in a film.)

I thought of a successful bomb: the closet death scene in Jude the Obscure. Though, the reason why it is skillful is that --  as with all such -- it is not a true bomb. There is warning of such before hand; and, when it comes it is delivered with skill, so that even foreshadowed it delivers a level of violence wholly unexpected.

Final statement: this type of poem is one of the variety of poems for which the word bathos was invented. A word every poet needs to study, hard, and make part of their vocabulary and aesthetic reality.

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