Monday, November 22, 2004

Corey, Tate, Snider, Difficulty

Among the people I have on my blog roll is Josh Corey, a poet who is capable of some pretty stellar expository. Check out his posts starting with Nov. 18. I had never really read James Tate before reading this, but after reading a few poems in my Norton Anthology, I could see exactly what he was talking about vis-a-vis this guy, and ibid for Billy Collins, Sharon Olds, all these easy, popular poets who nevertheless are lauded (with reservations) by the literati, included in major anthologies, etc.
This had lead to a debate between Corey and one Mike Snider about the value of difficulty/abstruseness in poetry. My take on it is that there is a certain degree of difficulty, of challenge, of pushing the limits in poetry that is of value, and the limit varies with eveyone. I like intellectual challenge and scope , arcane vocabulary, purely "expressionist" use of language, etc. My limits go to say, Eliot's Wasteland. Pound, or, among our contemporaries, G.C. Waldrep, poets I find immensely rich and enjoyable. But if poetry becomes too impenetrable, cryptic, private, "cerebral", devoid of evocative imagery -- again, what is "too" is purely personal -- well it tips the scales into a kind of abyss.

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