A year ago, my blog contained a complaint about a poem in Harper’s that struck me as too inscrutable to mean anything to anyone except its author who, incidentally, won a Nobel prize for his art. Recently, a reader replied to that blog, offering his understanding of the piece. The interpretation was plausible, but I replied with another interpretation just as plausible — my point being that when a poem means everything to everyone, it means nothing.
I felt like a curmudgeon as I wrote. But I take umbrage with poetry that coils in upon itself like a nautilus seashell. I want reflection that dazzles and reveals. When meaning becomes too abstruse or images too private, the link between the artist and his or her audience is broken. A parasite invades, known as “the critic.”
In my view, art shouldn’t need an intermediary and frankly, those who claim expertise can be as deaf, dumb and blind as the rest of us.
Imagine my joy when I recently discovered I am not alone in my peevishness. Mark Edmundson, who teaches English at the University of Virginia, likewise complains that, “our poets now speak a deeply internal language.” (“Poetry Slam,” Harper’s July 2012 pg. 62.) To him, It would almost seem as if the goal is to become culturally irrelevant.
…at a time when collective issues –communal issues, political issues – are pressing, our poets have become ever more private, idiosyncratic and withdrawn. .. too hermetic even to overhear with anything like comprehension. (Ibid, pg. 62.)
Here! Here! Mark Edmundson. Welcome to the wasteland.
(Courtesy of www.innermichael.com)