Saturday, 9 May 2020

Beyond The Pronouncement

In a 2018 interview, Jericho Brown expresses concern that poets are prioritizing their political message rather using the form to surprise themselves:
No matter the race of the poet, I’m much more interested in a poem that is like the life we live. I want the poem that is like, “I saw that people got shot at the synagogue today, and I had a sandwich, and I miss my daughter.” And in actuality, that’s what a day in our life looks like, and the poem has to carry the tones of all those emotions. Sometimes I think that poems lately are interested at the outset in settling on an emotion, as opposed to gradually discovering several tones and seeing if those tones might accumulate into a single poem.

But I also think that part of this has to do with the fact that I am directing a creative writing program and that I am teaching and that I am teaching much more intensely than I’ve ever taught before, so I’ve been thinking about pedagogy a lot differently. I think one of the troubles of being a younger writer, of being someone who wants to write poetry, is that you put the cart before the horse. You put the ideas that you want to get to, or that you think you want to get to, before your language. If you put language first, then you can discover your ideas. But if you are thinking about your ideas, then you’re going to be at the mercy of the language you already know instead of one that you can figure out. And so maybe what I’m seeing in the writing of my students I’m ascribing to contemporary poetry at large. But I also do feel like I’ve read a ton of books in the last couple of years, and there’s a lot of knowns that I see coming through in the poetry, as opposed to unknowns that the poems discover.
He continues:
I do want poets to feel empowered to announce politically, but I also want them to go beyond the pronouncement. What happens at the beginning of your poem has to—because it’s a poem—be transformed by the end of your poem. So if the triggering moment for the beginning of your poem is a known political moment, I am fine with that, that’s great. But as I’m reading, I expect it to change because that was just the trigger. So I’m let down if everything is only some form of outside political thing or even inside political thing. I want the world in the poem to expand. I want the world in the poem to change. At least I want that for my poems. If I start with my mom, then I might end with the police. If I start with the police, then I might end with my lover. But if I start with the police, I don’t imagine I’m done with my poem if I’m still talking about the police.

No comments: