Thursday, 11 October 2012

Half the Fun

Christian Wiman covers a lot of ground—Modernism, mystery, religion, the lyric, poetry's place in our culture—in his introduction to The Open Door. But the following passage jumped out at me. Keeping alive the possibility of an "eccentric canon" is one of the most succinct defenses of why it's essential (contra Jan Zwicky) that reviewers and critics be given a wide berth when expressing their opinions:
"For all the canons and anthologies, for every rock-solid reputation and critical consensus, poetry is personal or it is nothing. That is, until a poem has been tested on your own pulse, to paraphrase John Keats, until you have made up your own mind and heart about where you stand in relation to it, and it to you—until this happens, all poetry is merely literature, all reading rote. It’s true that some people are better readers of poetry than others; that some people’s judgment matters (for the culture as a whole) more than others; that, just as with music or art, there are elements of craft and historical perspective essential to being able to formulate a meaningful response. But still: poetry is made up of poems, and poems repulse and entice in unpredictable ways, and anyone who reads independently and spiritedly is going to carry an eccentric canon around in his head. This is half the fun of it all."

1 comment:

Zachariah Wells said...

This strikes a chord with me: " Craft matters because life matters. Craftless poetry is not only as perishable as the daily paper, it’s meretricious, disrespectful (of its subjects as well as its readers), and sometimes, as Pound implies, even unethical."