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On Typos In Poetry

Typos - beauty mark or cancer on the face of our poetry collections?  What poet does not turn to their poem, their bio, in a journal, to see if it has been blighted?  What book, no matter how carefully screened, vetted, pruned, pried at, inspected, and glowered upon, does not seem to smuggle in a typo, or two?  Like bedbugs - where do they come from?  Something there is in language that does not love perfection - or at least, in type-setting.  Even with a slew of eyes on the text, they come in, unwanted visitors, stowaways, thieves of our ideals, mocking us, belittling the book.  Or, should they be read as delightful imps, welcome scallywags?  Reminders of our flaws, modest interlopers, gadflies of marring benevolence?  Either way, what you print is not always what you get, or what you wanted is not always what's inscribed.  Eyewear is riddled with them, so is the wider world.  Let's dunce.


Sheenagh Pugh said…
I think a poet's own typos are often the subconscious mind working; we should be prepared to let the keyboard join in the creative process. But typos happen in the printing process for two reasons. First, poets seldom have any real training in proof-reading; they read what they expect to see, like most folks. I used to work in a government legal division proofing statutory instruments; if you get it wrong there. you're looking at expensive amending legislation, so you don't, mostly (because you use techniques like reading the text backwards and cross-checking with someone else).

The other reason, I'm afraid, is that too many poets and editors these days don't know "it's" from "its", and similar potential errors, in the first place...
Dan said…
I don't unerstand wat you're talking about.
Poetry Pleases! said…
Dear Todd

The surprising thing is how often a typo actually improves a poem! I agree with Sheenagh. I think it's (correct, Sheenagh?) sometimes the subconscious mind endeavouring to have the last word.

Best wishes from Simon

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With the death of the poetic genius John Ashbery, whose poems, translations, and criticism made him, to my mind, the most influential American poet since TS Eliot, 21st century poetry is moving into less certain territory.

Over the past few years, we have lost most of the truly great of our era: Edwin Morgan, Gunn, Hill, Heaney and Walcott, to name just five.  There are many more, of course. This is news too sad and deep to fathom this week.  I will write more perhaps later. 

I had a letter from Ashbery on my wall, and it inspired me daily.  He gave me advice for my PhD. He said kind things about a poetry book of mine.

He was a force for good serious play in poetry, and his appeal great. So many people I know and admire are at a loss this week because of his death. It is no consolation at present to think of the many thousands of living poets, just right now. But impressively, and even oddly, poetry itself seems to keep flowing.