Anyone who's read my attempts at reviewing lately will note that I'm having more trouble than usual with poetry. I'm happy to enjoy poems that I don't "understand" but when I neither enjoy or understand a poem I start asking pointed questions. Sometimes the obscurity of one poem in a book makes me distrust others. I have a fair knowledge of literary/art movements. I need to see individual poems analysed. Books that have helped me in the past include
- The Poem and the Journey (Ruth Padel)
- 52 ways of looking at a poem (Ruth Padel)
- how to write a poem (John Redmond)
- Nearly Too Much: The Poetry of J.H. Prynne (N.H.Reeve and Richard Kerridge)
These tackle (sometimes successfully) poems by the likes of Prynne, Jorie Graham, etc. In Not so difficult poems and Obscurity I tried to explain how I deal with some common obstacles. Now it's time for me to look for more help.
- Michael Snediker's review of "Infidel Poetics: Riddles, Nightlife, Substance" by Daniel Tiffany makes it sound like a valuable contribution to the obscurity debate - "The ambitiousness of Tiffany’s argument is exceeded only by the dazzling success of it.". However, the review's penultimate sentence might make one reconsider - "The delight in discovering, across the time of reading, that perceived tenuity patiently could await its being reassessed as a new and significant lucidity - that an infrastructure already had been in place without one’s registration of it - describes the good fortune of a new book so self-abiding in its convictions that we learn to trust it, such that an earlier sense of unfamiliarity alchemizes into the gratitude of learning where we least expected it." What I understand of this could surely have been said more simply.
- I'm looking forward to reading Stephen Burt's "Close Calls with Nonsense" - ("If you are a new reader of poetry, Stephen Burt will help you figure out techniques for approaching difficult writers" "Burt pursues his argument in a manner which is always as rational as it is accessible")
- "The Art of Recklessness: Poetry as Assertive Force and Contradiction" by Dean Young has its fans.
SF writer Arthur C. Clarke's Three Laws are unexpectedly apt -
- When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right; when he states that something is impossible, he is probably wrong.
- The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.
- Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
I sometimes think that it's impossible for a certain text to be usefully described as poetry. I think it's necessary to go slightly beyond poetry to determine its limits. Most of all, I think that the "magic" of poetry is largely explainable in terms of technique and analysis. I think it's possible to speak simply about at least some types of obscurity. So I'll keep searching. Maybe Arduity: clarifying difficult poetry is useful