Friday, July 31, 2009

What makes it poetry?

From Bob and Margery:

Sarah Palin was a source of found poetry during her Vice Presidential campaign. Now, her farewell speech as she stepped down from the office of Alaska Governor on Sunday has been dubbed a poem by Conan O’Brien and read in Beat fashion, with bass and bongo backup, by William Shatner on the Tonight Show.

The question arises: Where does the poetry come from? Is it in Palin’s writing or Shatner’s reading? As a humorist, O’Brien recognized the natural images, wandering line, moments of obscurity and slightly skewed word usages in Palin’s speech as indicators that “it’s a poem, it was always meant to be a poem.” And Shatner’s hammy, Beatific performance pours her words into an ironic jazz poetry mold that makes it seem as if that was her intent. But who, really, makes this a poem, good or bad? Palin, who wrote the words? O’Brien, who called it a poem? Shatner, who performed it as a poem? Or your Poetry Guide, who transcribed Shatner’s reading with line breaks that make it look like a poem?

Interesting question. I don't accept intent as sufficient for a poem, and I find delivery to be an exciting but nonessential part of the poetry experience - the wasabi to poesushi, as it were. I always come back to the same thing: The conscious selection and informed deployment of poetic device.

But now that I see it in writing, I think I need an hour or two to work out exactly what I mean by that. Again. But one hint: there's actually no poetry here. Parody, perhaps. Some G-O-Peeved people, maybe. Funny as banana slippers, no doubt. But no poetry.

Let me ruminate. See you later.

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