Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Time: Is It On Our Side?

Josh Corey articulates something today that helps me understand better the tend toward complexity that he and others prefer. He says: "I've sometimes made a fetish out of difficulty, but difficulty is not the point: the point is that the poem has something in or about it that makes me experience the time of reading more vividly." His point is that good prose makes you lose yourself, often for hours at a time, giving yourself over completely to the story. A good poem, in this comparison, would make you more keenly aware of every second, calling you back completely to the moment of the poem, or the phrase, or the word.

Ron Silliman has said that he finds it difficult to get all the way through a book of poems, especially if they are compelling. Without meaning to compare myself to either Ron or Josh, I've experienced the same thing -- good poetry doesn't become the vortex that good prose is. As an example: Against recommendations, I started Disclosure after dinner one Sunday and put it down when I finished it, having not gotten out of my chair at all for several hours. I recently read Meg Kearney's The Secret of Me, a novel in verse (much shorter than the Crichton book, to be sure), and it took me a week; I kept stopping and rereading - going over poems and paying attention to different things, one time the story, one time the form, one time the word selection, and so on.

Josh adds: "Image-production is the poetic mode most readily assimilated by narration/timeless reading; that's why I've gone over the course of my short career from being highly enamored with images and imagisms toward a more suspicious stance." If I understand this correctly, he's saying image-rich poetry is toward that time-capturing prosey mode. Poem sparse in images and deep in language, reference, difficulty(?!), etc., keeps you in that reading moment.

Hmm. Have to process this a little more, but I feel a seedling of understanding inside me. Of course, that could be the orange pit just swallowed, too. More to come, by the way, on Meg's terrific book. Hopefully soon.

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