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Thursday, 14 February 2008

Love, Poetry

What place does "Love Poetry" have in the 21st century, especially, shall we say, in the romantic quarrels between various suitors for Poetry's austere attentions - the post-avanters, the courteous, the discourteous, the mainstream, the innovative (all mere labels, just words, but with some force, one supposes, for all that)? I tend to want to think about poetry, these days, as something to do with artifice and emotionality - and feel the marriage of these two aspects, or elements, within poetry, is vital, and generates good things. I say emotionality, also, because while I agree with Charles Berstein that multiple (heterodox) styles and even voices within a poetic work can be admirable, it is not the case this invalidates the significance, or use, of the individual "voice" (though its primacy, in a polyphonic composition cannot be guaranteed, of course). Love poetry is usually lyric poetry - emanating from some "megaphone" - be that the idea, or reality, or semblance - of a self. Selves may have voices. But more interestingly, I think, regardless of what theory of self a poet holds to - how does the poetic text "express" (or is it inscribe, or produce?) feeling?

Or display feeling. Operatic, rhetorical, subtle, or repressed. Too much worry goes in to establishing conflict between categories that need not be arrayed against each other (form and craft, versus the eclectic, the open) - a work can be a work of complex, shifting variation, and be formed (that paradox we all know) - for poetry is an artifice. The question, it seems, to me, is, where do poets place love within the artifice? Rough or smooth, the texture of love runs along many types of fingertips and tongues. Auden's "lay your sleeping head, my love" or Bernstein's "once you came to me in a shadow" both appear in works of high artifice - and yet both, potentially, allow for emotionality, for reader, for writer. I say this because there is, in some ways, a contemporary disdain for sentiment in poetry: the cool, the ironic, the rational, the academic - seem all the rage. Poets love poetry or are not poets. I simply wonder, then, what to do with how one wants to feel and form, cerebral maybe, guided by voices, or a poetic. Love is all you need?
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