A poem on the current state of poetry

A Note On Verse Style


(Written in 2004 as a preface to a chapbook.)

In many of the poems here, I've used a verse style drawn on the ancient mode: declaiming for a present audience from memory, instead of modern styles meant to be read in silence, monk-like, slavish word and jot and tiddle softly tick by tick exactly from a printed page into the velvet cave of single consciousness, preferably, for mercy's sake, without your lips even moving.

Therefore here extreme metric elasticity, scafoldings of metamorphing metaphor behind all merely aural dissonance or rhyme, and other technical peculiarities of pseudo-extempore verse you may be unfamiliar with unless, of course, you've ever heard a good announcer on the radio.

Apologies for any inconvenience.

But may I be quite frank in my opinion?

Poetry in America today doesn't work very well.  It speaks thinly and vaporously, compared with what it ought to do.  It's far too dogmatic in its recipe of sweet luscious distillate of consciousness of consciousness.

You'd almost think that ours are not the broad horizon days of Homer nor of Shakespeare nor (to put the case more seriously) of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, despite the obvious fact of course they are.  Our poets chain themselves to Robert Frost, the watercolor man, with rare exception, all in fear of exile into Tartary.  Even our primordial Titan of the worldscape's edge, even Ginzberg, felt required to stand still in some private room behind his eyes or in some small walled garden such as Dickinson kept so fragrantly watered, as his starting place for each striding out to meet the universe.  Your average poet scarcely peeks outside the realm of "me!"  at all.

No wonder so few people listen to the stuff.  It's mostly dull as dust.  It's ready for a re-think.

But me?  Well, I plan to seize the listener's attention.  I want to grab him by the short hairs of his brain and shove a picture in his gaze.  Is that too rude or something?  I have a lot to say.

We have a lot to say.

It's time to tell our story.

I don't mean journal entries.  I mean it feels as if the world is tumbling upside down and there are cries all over of alarm.  I mean it seems like Sartre said: the god who led us here is dead and we are left to riddle out the horrifying situation.  Like Jung and Joseph Campbell said, we need to tell the truth in such a way that we can understand it fully deeply broadly with our whole selves.  It's really not enough to press our faces on the page.  We need real paintings too.

It's now as though the hallways of Lascaux stand empty waiting for a brush.

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