Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Art at Work

Came home from Thanksgiving Holiday to find an email from Paul Tulloch at http://www.livingwork.ca/index.htm telling me that a poem I had submitted back in April or May had been short-listed in their contest, Art at Work.

I barely remember entering it......which only goes to show I need to start writing this kinda stuff down somewhere again regardless of the fact that I submit very little anywhere anymore and I am convinced that due to sheer lack of volume that I will remember when I do (because obviously I don't.)

The interesting thing about the whole thing is this: The poem which was picked (out of three which were sent) is the one I was least sure had value. It's an old one and I remember workshopping it on Eratosphere some years ago to some really bad reviews. The general consensus was "too emotional, too overblown, too too" and "this is one to keep for yourself but not to show other people because it's poorly executed and you can do much better." And they're right....it IS emotional, and it is overblown and perhaps I can do "much better" but "much better" means different things to different people. I've always wanted to write poetry which people other than poets would appreciate. I was pretty sure then (and I still think so now) that some times both of those groups can be reached by the same poem (although apparently I am often mistaken about that particular line of thought.)

I'm often caught in between two worlds - the gritty one I've lived and worked in, and the "other" one where people write beautiful words which mean essentially nothing to anyone but other well-educated and refined poets. I can mimic the refined and I can fake the well-educated but more and more I ask myself, "Why bother?" Truth is - I'm neither of those things and I'm not convinced that my poetry has to be either of those things in order to be successful.

They're breeding emotion out of poetry now days. Virtually every poem I read which is current ends up boring the shit out of me. It's either sleek and sophisticated or it's full of gimmicks - and either way, it's more often than not as dull as hell. I don't want to write safe clean poetry which isn't dripping blood - even if the blood I have to drip is my own. I don't write often for that reason. It's painful, it extracts too much from me and leaves me with virtually no protection. And yet, it feels too much like cheating when a poem is written without some sort of personal emotion being not only involved but expended.

So, in a sense, I feel somewhat personally vindicated by having
Paul Tulloch and the other judges of Living Work having picked the free verse poem "Bless the Babies" for their short-list over the other (and more formal) poems which I submitted to them. It means that I had the courage and the conviction (and yes, the ego) to still feel something was good even when I'd been told by some of the best formal poets around that it wasn't.
It's good to believe in yourself.
Really good.


Julie Carter said...

I know what you mean, Lo. Formal poetry, especially, seems to fall prey to the pretty-pretties, where it says nothing and means nothing and feels nothing but it's got rhyme and therefore people praise it.

I know I go too far the other direction and have death and destruction too much, but dang it, I want to say something.

Lo said...

I'm good with death and destruction. I'll go so far as to say I particularly like death and destruction in ababab but it doesn't always happen that way.

I'm souring on the whole formalist movement, I think. No reason why people can't write both free verse and metered verse. No reason they can't do both well, either. I'm tired of people telling me differently.

GEL said...

Yes, it should be a choice. Writing poetry is an artform and there are many ways to express oneself. All should be recognized instead of the "current fashion."