The cage match offered no new insights for those who have been paying attention to Canadian poetry, but hopefully clarified some ideas and positions for some who don’t yet know. It’s clear to me who made sense, and also who was listening and who was not. It also made me realize that we in Canada have been locked in this dialog now for over a decade… That’s a long time. That’s becoming entrenched…but as Christian points out, there is a whole other world outside of that little dialog.
Meanwhile here’s Christian over at Poetry Foundation making great headlines. (I don’t really believe Christian thinks that poets are necessarily lazy and stupid, I know he isn’t lazy, and I know he believes poetry is hard work…but…) But he makes a good point. I never did understand the assumption–in my earliest poetry workshops for example–that what we were all there to learn is to confess, or reveal some inner wisdom, usually very pat, that made everyone in the room go “ohhhh.” Really? Why did we need a workshop to be told to make our poems feel more? And I rarely thought then, or think now when I see those oh moments in poems, that they are worth a pause… When a poet has poetic skill and insight it’s marvelous, but my is it rare. Why not focus on craft, constraint. Or engage in a campaign of seeing, really looking at the quotidian, not just offering an unrefracted account of it. To me, conceptual artists–Marina Abramovic, Zhang Huan, Vito Acconci, know more about the human body and feeling its abrasions with the earth than most poets. It isn’t that I don’t want poetry of feeling, it’s that I am simply unmoved, or unconvinced by much of it, and would rather have those feelings expressed through more finely thought terms, in a bigger context, and in more finely crafted vessels. Paul Durcan I trust has some insight. Seamus Heaney has some insight, Dennis Lee, Erin Moure, Christian Bok, insight, John Thompson, Lisa Robertson, insight. And all of the above happen to also have abundant, astounding poetic craft. This is no small commodity. Insight rarely comes of living a mundane anti-intellectual life. It rarely comes without taking enormous risks. That is what is rare in the world it seems to me. How do you measure that?