...whatever people want to say about David's (nota: I guess that's David Lehman's BAP) annuals, I know for a fact there are a couple hundred poems published every year that I'd be willing to show just about anybody and say "Hey I liked this one a lot." Are these lost Yeats poems? No, they're just all there. (Some of them are spacey, but they're all up in that spaciness.)
Right now my problem is with inert poems. Poems that float a half-cute line or semi-relatable experience, and are done. No crazy language no wiggly perception nothing unknown. Nobody needs poems that don't do anything. I get no culture ruboff, no actual sharing in someone else's experience, no insight, nothing.
Based on my reading, I'd estimate these inert compounds take up three-quarters to five-sixths of poetry publications. Most people would call that a generous estimate. I'm really not that harsh a reader. And I desperately don't want to give any poet what they used to call a complex.
I'm just not looking forward to telling the truth about this, which is that when a journal gets one out of three poems right, it's a keeper. That ratio should be more like three out of four. A few journals have made it there this year: Superflux, the Massachusetts Review, The Canary. And it's not the editors' fault, I know, I'm an editor. The poems come in, they are good enough to get all Winnicott about it, and voila, print.
What I'm saying is NOT: Edit, self-punish, work harder, strive, or please the great-withholder-in-the-sky. I'm saying, no more "I have three unpublished manuscripts." Make them one good manuscript and get it in the hands of somebody who loves it. How to do that: Get some friends you trust and let them tell you -- not what the good ones are or any other horrifying inhibiting complex-inducing phrase -- let them tell you which ones they liked the most, responded to, remember. Look at those. Work on them. The other ones, you don't have to file them in the trash, you liked them enough to put them in "the manuscript," you just didn't like them enough to put them in other people's heads. That's ok, it's not easy.
Monday, May 22, 2006
The all-there poems and the inert whatyoumaycallem's...
Every so often I come across a blog entry that's so right-on I save it in my own archives for future reference -- if only to have it on hand to help me formulate a (perhaps) more comprehensive prefab opinion of my own. (So much of blogging -- indeed, human communication-- consists of passing on the words of others, in various guises, if not outright quotes, as here...) Here's one from Jordan Davis from a month or so back, a particularly well-put variation on the 90%-of-current-art-is-shit theme: