Thursday, February 10, 2005

Poets' This, Poets' That

My college poetry professor, Ed Foster, was interviewed recently over at Here Comes Everybody. I remember loving his classes not only for the poems we studied and the poets that came to campus (Pinsky, C.K. Williams, McClure), but for the arguments we had in class. Even as an engineering school, we had enough students in the room for (occasional) quality disagreement. And it's testimony to his ability to teach that despite how different his interests and likes were from ours with our limited worldviews and math-and-science brains, he was able to direct us to appreciate the art we were studying.

What I find interesting today is the bang-on similarity of two of his answers at HCE to the way I would have answered: (7) Have young children write poems rather than try to define them and (8) The poet's role is to write poems - not more and not less.

My poetics could not be more different from Ed's. I write a narrative, character-and-scene driven, punny sort of a poem; you could call me "mainstream" and not offend me. I don't know how to characterize Ed's without oversimplifying so I'll send you here and here and ask you to judge for yourself. And yet we have the same opinion on two issues which are fairly fundamental to how poets interact with the world. Hmm.

Has anyone else noticed that when we permit ourselves to step back from our differences (such as that recent string of thoughts separating "My Kind" of poetry from "That Kind"), our similarities are usually more striking?

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