Statement of Philosophy

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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The Rules

The purpose here is to hopefully promote discourse about poetry, poetics, and aesthetic literature in general. I am using the poems on Poetry Daily and Verse Daily simply because (1) they are readily available; and (2) they are generally from published books or journals. In that act of being published they are by their very own authors pushed into the discourse on poetry, and are fair game to fair criticism -- if it is not more properly said they demand such criticism in that act of being published.

 

The First and Foremost Rule: Refuse the assumption that simply because a poem is published then it must be good. Equally, the assumption that because the poet is famous then the poem must be good.

In fact, the history of literature proves to the opposite. The people we now read and study in literature classes and texts are the smallest percentage of what was published at the time. The rest was banal, repetitive, shallow, derivitive, or, simply, just plain bad. And yet, it was published. There is nothing different now. If you are serious about poetry, then you should be seeking out not the commonplace, but the best. And you have the right to demand the best. So also, you have the right to say, "you know, I don't think that is very good."

 

The First Corollary To The First and Foremost Rule: Do not assume that you are supposed to be able to read and enjoy everything that is put before you.

Sometimes it will be over your head. Sometimes, it will simply something different enough that you have to figure out how to read it; and, sometimes, you won't be able to, until your own sophistication in that nature of poetry develops enough. (That sometimes means lateral development, not just vertical development.) Sometimes, it's simply not to your taste. (I have had enough WWII concentration camp stories and poetry to last my life time. It doesn't matter how good it is anymore; the subject is no longer to my tastes.) Sometimes, it's not what your your brain is hungry for, and so it's not wanting to engage; but, later, when you're brain is done thinking about sonnets, you'll be all over it. Curiously, the more sophisticated the writer/artist, the more idiosyncratic their work becomes. So it's not necessarily a simple jump from Eliot to Olson. (Think about it and it makes sense: the less sophisticated something is, the more it is like everything else.)

 

The Second Corollary To The First and Foremost Rule: In the context of your writing, you should recognize that nobody starts out writing The Duino Elegies.

You develop over time. And no matter where you are, you can continue to develop. Great writers demand this of themselves. So it is quite alright if Billy Collins is your current exemplar. Just recognize that Billy Collins is no way the rarified air of poetry, and you should be striving to better him, not merely emulate him. And when you do, find some new targets, just out of reach, and strive to better them. At some point, you are no longer striving to better: this because, as I said, the more sophisticated, the more idiosyncratic it starts to be. You cannot compare the merits of The Waste Land and Briggflats. It's pointless to try to. (That said, there is never a point where you are not "goddammit that's good, you bastard; I hate you and your children. Now, please excuse me, I now have to lock myself in my tower and try to make something that can stand beside it." It's simply the number of people who do that to you rather shrinks.)

 

The Second Rule (As Regarding Posts): Keep in mind, my rhetorical stance here is not meant to be didactic. Rather, my intent is to be discursive. My purpose here is not to state dicta, but but say things and say things in a way that will prompt thought. Of course, since the nature of the endeavor is that I am the first speaker, much has to be said. And though literary and language theory (especially as regards the aesthetic) very much informs what I am doing here, when it comes to the praxis of creative writing there can only ever be discourse -- and such is the nature of the aesthetic. (This Rule is pointed also and equally at myself.)

 

The Third Rule (As Regarding Comments): There is no demand here for brilliance in comments.

The demand is only for discussion. Enter in earnestly, whatever your starting point, and you can do no wrong. Yes, there are stupid questions. But earnest stupid questions are often amazingly fruitful. Not always, mind you; but often. (It depends on if you can get past its surface and to its heart.)

To say, I will tend to delete comments that serve no discursive purpose, be they positive or negative. (Especially if anonymous.) There is go gain at all to be found in brief replies that take little effort and less thought.

 

Finally, I recently came across this moment in the opening of T.S. Eliot's essay "The Music of Poetry." The idea within it fits well with this project. It is as good a way as any, maybe a better way than most, to close this list.

I can never re-read any of my own prose writings without acute embarrassment: I shirk the task, and consequently may not take account of all the assertions to which I have at one time or another committed myself; I may often repeat what I have said before, and I may often contradict myself.

As for the general stuff -- the rules of the site as it were -- perhaps I can suggest some things to keep in mind:

  • Discourse, obviously, is the point. Do not write if you do not have something substantial to say. Do not write if you are not looking for someone to engage you. I will tend to delete short posts that do not serve the purpose of the greater discourse. I'm not saying I'm looking for 3000 word posts; but don't waste space and time by offering short "I agree!"s or "Look at this, too"s. Say something.
  • I'd rather the discourse not be attacks on the poems -- even though I do agree that many of the poems on these sites are, to be blunt, pretty bad, and I will myself be on no infrequent occasion pointing that out. However, I'd prefer the poems be launching points, tbe examples to explorations in poetics or aesthetics. You can often learn far more from what has gone wrong than from what has gone right -- which borders on the hack, but is so very true. (My first real moment in understanding lighting in movies was seeing a very poorly lit film. (I don't mean not well lit, I mean botch job.) Until I saw the bad, I could not even see the good.
  • Let's keep academic rules, here. Do not include whole poems in your posts. If you want to refer to other poems, quote only a couple lines, or do it by reference: if the poem is online, include a link in your post; if it is not online, try to include a book in which it may be found.

 


 

A note on the texts of the poems: I realize that there is always the possibility that Poetry Daily or Verse Daily mistyped a poem. (Far more than a possibility with Verse Daily.) Still, it is the poem as presented that I want to discuss. So I will assume it is correct. (Unless the error is blatantly obvious.)

 

A note on me putting links on this site: Because of the nature of this site, I will refrain from making links -- in list or page or whatever form -- to poetry journals, publications, e-mags or anything that is a publisher of poems. I think everyone can understand that policy. Were such moments to occur, they would be only in the most particular situations.

While I am interested in possibly setting up a link page to other non-publication-centered sites, right now such an endeavor is a bit beyond my resources. And, besides, there are other quite capable sites who do dedicate resources to that end.

 

A note on editing This blog is a private project, which I write as often at a Starbucks as not. As such, typos and other editing issues will go unnoticed. (Especially if I am using the ipad, which seems to be packaged with its own random typo generator.) Because of that, I go back now and then and re-read and edit posts, to fix grammar, or clarify confusions, or simply make the post better.

If a post is marked with a "edited on" line, that signifies that I have made changes beyond basic grammar/typo correction. If the editing significantly changes the position or thought of the post, I will make mention overtly. So also if I add significant text to a post. This does not apply to pages, such as this one, which will undergo significant change as I slowly build them to where I want them to go. (Though, as you see just below, I still might keep track of when I make changes.) I generally do not track modifications to posts made in the first couple days after posting.

Last edit/rewrite (minor changes): 9/30/2015.
Previous edit/rewrite: 5/6/2014.
Previous edit/rewrite: 5/23/2013.
Previous edit/rewrite: 5/5/2013.
Previous edit/rewrite: 5/4/2013.

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