Friday, January 1, 2010
Walt Whitman has no snags in his poetry - it's smooth, round, and alone (like e.e. cummings says of a stone) - there's nothing to catch on or critique. But for me it means I don't have to read much of it; it's okay to just read some and feel the glow. It's very good that it is there. Maybe this is the reaction to a certain kind of masterful artist. Or maybe it is a mechanism of the distraction all around me, that I cannot settle wholy into smoothness, aloneness.
Hart Crane, Emily Dickinson - there's lots to snag on - you get caught in their knarly branches. Structure, sentence order, where is the verb this time? What on earth are they talking about? Images, sensations, words are tossed out a seemingly purely sensational place - from nowhere, but they catch you, they hold on and make you work them out. They come into focus only after multiple readings. There's the chance for imperfection. There a chance for the poem to NOT work.
Emily's poems usually work - she does it again and again - simply, beautifully, maddeningly, but she's hiding her tracks even as she tosses you a bone to knaw on - or a flower to pivot - or a jewel to dazzle. She is a master at obscuring while revealing. Hart wants, oh he wants, to serve his heart to you on a platter - but you have to run an obstacle course to get there.
Allen Ginsberg sends me back to Whitman - he's using a more contemporary forthrightness, or crudity, bareness, bleakness, but his incantations pour over into affirmation of "holiness," in all meanings of the word.