I was drawn into the Scoplaw blog by a conversation on the values of poetry, and the need for a common vocabulary with which to discuss and criticize poetry, and then drawn further and further along to read about the esthetics of poetry, what is needed to encourage quality poetry, the writer”s adventures as a poet on the internet – and eventually to other poets carrying on serious discussions about contemporary American poetry. Make that Contemporary American Poetry. R.J. McCaffery is the mind behind Scoplaw – and a number of other sites that really belong on your must read list. Why?
Because poetry is about more than scribbling down your feelings. It”s about more than rhyming and counting meter. There”s an artistry to it, and that artistry is often dismissed as unimportant and outmoded in today”s poetry. At the same time, there is a place for those who write poetry to please themselves and their audiences – but the poetic snobs among us would dismiss their attempts at writing as pathetic and misguided. Scoplaw and Ron Silliman and Seth Abramson – just to name a few of the conversationalists – are important to read because they open intelligent, if sometimes contentious and overblown, discourse about Poetry with a capital P. They are worth reading because they point do more than talk about poetry – they read it, they review it, they publicize it. They introduce their readers – most of them have more daily readers than most literary journals – to poets and poetry that they believe set a standard of excellence in poetry.
And they write poetry – poetry that is highly regarded enough to have garnered awards, appointments, editorships, publications. That means they have the chops to discuss poetry and what makes it good, and how to judge what is good and what is not, and why it is a crime that popular American poetry is not always GOOD American poetry.
What makes all of this especially interesting to me is that this discourse – which places itself outside the academy, but is certainly academic – mirrors a great deal of the conversation going on in the bastard child of poetry – the spoken word and slam poetry communities. In those communities, there”s a great deal of talk about concentration on the mechanics of poetry, and learning the craft of writing poetry from the ground level up. There”s discussion of how to quantify the aspects of performance and poetry, how to sort one out from the other, how to rate what is good poetry and what is simply popular performance.
There are – or should be – other parts to this conversation as well. Why is one form of poetry more valid than another? Isn”t there room for excellence in variuos genres of poetry? Why is there not consideration for the artistry of a HipHop artist as a word stylist, or the slam poet who works with words and performance or the cowboy poet who”s work is possibly closer to nature than that of most poets writing today when we speak of “contemporary American poetry”? These are questions that I”d be interested in seeing discussed.
[tags]poetry, poetry blogs, Scoplaw, poetry discussion, performance poetry[/tags]