Wednesday 29 January 2014

A Way To Enter

In a recent interview, Karen Connelly describes the changes she's seen in Canadian poetry:
Obviously, the influence of the academy and postmodernism have changed The Canadian Poet. Compared to when I started writing and going to poetry readings thirty years ago—I went to my first readings when I was about 13, and I am now 44—I understand less of what I hear. And I feel it less. You’d think that after more than thirty years of reading and listening, I would be more clever, but I do not understand what some poets are trying to tell me. So I remain curious, puzzled; I try not to be too judgmental. The people I brought with me recently, to group poetry readings in western Canada, the people who support my work and and have always read it (family, friends) are people in various professions and the trades; they, too, had no idea what a good number of my fellow poets were trying to tell them.

The poets were working in conceptual and avant-garde modes, employing intellectual conceits and sometimes powerful, complex ideas; they were playing with those ideas through original language. Fascinating work, pyrotechnical, investigating language and science and social media. I could appreciate it with my brain but not feel it in my guts. I could play along, because I am interested in language being stretched and used and broken open. But my cop sister and my welder niece, and the builder who used to shovel my mother’s front steps, and even the museum curator in Winnipeg—had no idea what my fellow poets were up to. They listened and felt alienated, outside.

It is important to me that anyone who reads English reasonably well can enter my work the way you enter a room, simply, through the door or (if you are locked out) through the window. No one understands everything in a poem, just as we don’t understand everything in a room that is strange to us, full of someone else’s history and personal objects. That not-knowing is what makes poetry useful and delightful. But you have to be able to be in it somehow, even in its strangeness, and at least in its music, its lyricism. There must be a way to enter.


Rebecca said...

By that logic, all presentations at welders' conferences should be easily accessible to non-welders, and never get too technical or hard to understand

Zachariah Wells said...

No, not at all. Welding is not an art, it's a trade. It has no relationship with an audience. A welder's conference would be an event for a closed circle, a guild.

Rebecca said...

And welders should only weld things that are useful