Archive for January 5th, 2011

January 5, 2011

not to piss anyone off

by jhon baker

Yesterday I was reading and interview with a so-called poet who wrote this tremendously bad poem (which I would offer a link but do not want to as I have no reason to hurt this mans feelings), I don’t know why I was interested in reading the interview after reading the poem but I was. Or maybe I read the poem only after reading a statement that knocked me cold.
The statement was (by memory) – “I am not acquainted with styles or technical jargons [sic] known to trained poets and therefore I write unrestrictedly [sic].” This is probably extremely close to what was said or exactly what was said.

I was struck cold by the statement that this so-called poet believes that he writes without restriction. Absurd. the two statements that make up the quotation do not follow. While I am not sure that I write “unrestrictedly” I am also not sure I would want to. My training as a poet is lack and as where I have studied several forms intimately, I am still studying fervently.
I wanted to reach out to him or comment, neither of which I did, and inform him that he is most certifiably restricted. In not knowing how to write in other styles, forms or what have you means simply that you are restricted to a single form – free form, that’s it. complete restriction – an inability to create outside this single parameter.

My greatest strength in writing is that I wrap myself in language and wear it as a skin. I am forever obsessed with it, and what can be done with it. My second strength is my understanding of the line and how it works and how it doesn’t work.
This is all from formal training and training as an obsessive autodidact.
To be without restraint is to know intimately and abandon it at will as it suits the purpose and created form or lack of form (which is still a form mind you.)

This person goes on to say that he doesn’t read poetry – only poetry by his fellow bloggers. I have to add that this is a further mistake.  It is a common thought that writers should spend more time reading than writing – I don’t know that I fully agree with that but certainly most of us are not so prolific that we cannot read a lot of what is offered – both academic and not. I tend toward the less academic but have a healthy regard for what has come before. Even Picasso studied the masters first and continued his regard and admiration of others works throughout his life.
I would think that not knowing what has come before – meaning that not only was there not a decent perusal of the subject but a complete and willing ignorance – would place you in the aspect of recreating the art from near scratch – this may seem intriguing and almost preferable when trying to create a new style or completely eschewing style altogether, but what you are doing is futile. One mind does not create a history, one mind does not invent wholly from nothing. Without a decent regard to style (meaning here writing in general, as in style manuals like strunk and white), and a decent regard for language (which how do we know language but by living in it and surrounding ourselves with it) what you end up creating is a jumble of words lined neatly along the left of a page (or center, or left). This is not poetry. Poetry is not anything and everything by choice in the matter. What is created is simply what has already been created, commented on and moved beyond.

I really don’t mean to offend anyone and am reasonably sure that the so-called poet in question doesn’t read this blog and has not heard of me at all (why would he?) – I do know that the connection I have to this person does occasionally read my blog and I do not want to offend her or put her in a position to feel like defending herself. I don’t honestly know that she would be up to the task anyway of defending this particular so-called poet. She requires no defense as she is a good person out in the world trying to do good things – I regard her highly and understand that she is only giving equal time and space to everyone who seeks it, my opinion of her selection of this particular person is not meant to reflect on her character, and should not be taken that way.

I also do not mean that he shouldn’t write – everyone should give it a try, much like waiting tables or receiving military type training, I mean to say that his regard for himself is self-centered in the extreme and he would benefit from some humility in his regard to his creations and seek to learn more about what he is trying to do. Seek to learn anything!

You cannot learn to write poetry from reading prose, you cannot learn to write poetry from doing nothing. The argument would then be that the masters would teach you to do nothing to perfect your writing – but therein lies my argument. You must first learn to do something correctly to later forget that you know it. There is a difference between someone who has learned deeply and proceeded to put it away in his/her mind than someone who has never learned at all.

Without knowing the restrictions (constraints) how can one possibly hope to avoid them?

That persons statement gives me energy to go back and get my MBA.

I reserve the right to change my mind.

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