Sunday, June 14, 2009

i didn't write it

There are more than two types of poets, I imagine, but I'm thinking of these two:

First, poets who write books.

Second, poets who write poems (which are eventually published in collections) . . .

There is a difference between books of poems and collections of poems, isn't there? There seems to me to be a difference, but I may be wrong.

Poets who write a poem for the sake of a book, with the thought of its placement in a book. The point being its inclusion amongst the other poems in the book. The point being the book comes first and the poem second. Any individual poem must conform to the uniformity of the book.

And the opposite: Poets who write a poem for its own sake, with no thought of how or where it may end up within a collection of poems. With no thought of anything beyond the event of the poem itself. With no hope that it may contribute to, or constitute part of, a greater whole.


(I'm not making value judgments here; I'm speculating; I'm trying to configure my thoughts, not promote them to the status of statements.)

The poet who writes books-of-poems.
The poet who writes poems.

Don't you have to write poems to be a poet? Evidently not. You can be a poet by writing, not poems, but books-of-poems.

Anne Carson is a great poet, according to her admirers, and who am I to gainsay their consensus.

But has she ever written a poem?

A great poet who has never written a poem.

A paradox—but "genius" transcends categories.

The book-poet believes; the poem-poet doubts. The devout and the atheist.

The book-poet always has something to do; the poem-poet never has anything to do.

A collection-of-poems was written one at a time, and should therefore be read one at a time. Ergo: read as a whole.

But a book-of-poems can never be read at a time. Only that which can be read at a time is whole. Thus a book-of-poems lacks finish/completion.

I've read a poem, but I've never read a book-of-poems.

The latter can never be read at a time. The putative and conceptual experience is attenuated and extended beyond any occasion.

A quote from Holderlin:

"There is only one real quarrel in the world: which is more important, the whole or the individual part."

Poetry (or the book-of-poetry), or the poem?

I'm sorry, but I don't think this "one real quarrel" can be ended or resolved by proclamation—

Of course you can always assert that your "American [sic] Hybrid" has transcended this argument,

and sell your illusory empty amalgam,

market your scam . . . but?

In any case, I think I prefer to read poems in anthologies. A poem is never really complete until it appears in an anthology.

Even in collections-of-poems, the poem is vitiated by its contiguity, weakened by association.

Or on a sheet of paper blown to my feet; or inked on an animal-hide snatched from a stream. . .

Of course there is always the unhappy realization that occurs when reading a poem;

whether I read it in a book-of-poems or a collection-of-poems or an anthology,

or on an anonymous gutterflap or a cave-wall: there is this sorrowful inevitable certainty, which devastates me each time I read a poem,

which confounds me as I finally understand what reading it means:

it means I didn't write it.