revisiting ten questions for poets – on poetry, publication, technology

This series represents a wealth of poetry and po-biz wisdom from a bunch of awesome contemporary poets. I used to have these linked as separate standing pages, but didn’t refresh that format when I changed blog themes recently. Have just added these standing pages back to the left-hand column, and got lost in re-reading while I did so. Thank you once again to the generous poets who participated for doing so! That wonderful group includes Ron Silliman and the late Reginald Shepherd.

TEN QUESTIONS SERIES
poets on poetry
poets on publication
poetry editors on publishing poetry
poets on technology

a poem is like a perfume because…

In this post, Sandy Longhorn writes about writing a poem for an anthology based on perfumes. Reading her post reminded me of the fascinating perfume blog, Now Smell This, and the following extract from the blog’s Perfume FAQ, which I’ve blogged about before:

What are top notes, middle notes and base notes?

Top notes provide the first scent impression of a fragrance once it has been applied to the skin. They are usually lighter, more volatile aromas that evaporate readily. Their scent normally lingers for between five minutes and half an hour.

Middle notes, sometimes referred to as “heart notes”, make up the body of the blend. They may be evident from the start, but will usually take ten minutes to half an hour to fully develop on the skin. These are the notes that classify the fragrance family – green, floral, aldehydic, chypre, oriental, fougère or tobacco/leather.

Base notes are those with the greatest molecular weight. They last the longest, and are important as fixatives – they help slow down the evaporation rates of the lighter notes, giving the fragrance holding power. Common base notes include oakmoss, patchouli, woods, musk and vanilla.

And so, you imagine, the perfumer constructs the perfume, thinking top notes, fleeting notes – enticement, bewitchment; middle notes, middle notes – heart and body; base notes, long notes – grounding and remembrance… And you think that although the poet may not envision the construction of a poem in the same way, still, when a poem really works, we perceive that it has base notes, middle notes, and top notes, too.

‘A poem is a state of perfection at which a poet has arrived by whatever means’

Love this, and not just because I’m an Yvor Winters fan:

A poem is a state of perfection at which a poet has arrived by whatever means. It is a stasis in a world of flux and indecision, a permanent gateway to waking oblivion, which is the only infinity and only rest. It has no responsibilities except to itself and its own perfection – neither to the man who may come to it with imperfect understanding nor to the mood from which it may originally have sprung.

from the Volta Blog, quoting a foreword by Yvor Winters.

slower in a good way?

“Writing on a manual [typewriter] makes you slower in a good way, I think. You don’t revise as much, you just think more, because you know you’re going to have to retype the entire fucking thing. Which is a big stop on just slapping anything down and playing with it.”

Typewriter is free software that doesn’t have backspace, delete, or cut-and-paste functions. A la manual typewriter.

Or stone tablet.

More here.

“the answer to the war between the reader and the poet

…is not less poetry, but more poetry. I think that for every poem that we have to say the meaning of, we must read and simply read ten poems without discussing their meaning. I think that we should be allowed to say, “I don’t know what this means,” and just move on to another poem.”

Pet theory of the moment: There are only two things in all of poetry and in all poems and in all poets – story-telling and/or mood-making. Some poets are master story tellers. Some are master mood-makers. Some poems tell stories to make moods. Some make moods to tell stories.

Pet counter (kinda)-theory of the moment: maybe all poets and poems are telling stories whatever they do and the over-arching definitional problem is that we tend to think of stories as linear things with a beginning, a middle and an end. Which starts when we are tiny, sitting cross-legged on the carpet in preschool listening to once upon a time/happy ever after fairy tales.

Someone should, unless someone (apart from small children because in fact that’s what they already do in their teeming flashing little amazon jungle heads before linear fairy-tales-in-books mess them up) already has, start writing non-linear, impressionistic, mood-ist preschool fairy tales.