Tuesday, November 4, 2008

August 2008 page 4

resisting fossilization

what is a contemporary poet?
what is contemporary poetry?

"to be or not to be" just maybe the real question,

Of course a dead poet can be considered contemporary, but only relative to his or her era, a more functional definition requires the poet to be alive and among the living.

Contemporary poetry is a reflection of the living poet, the documenting and exploration of cultural praxis with no regard for the presence or absence of poetic form,

and for the lucky,

maybe years, decades, centuries later,

exumation of your poor bones to be exalted, classified and labeled like anthropologists do with dinosaurs.

There's got to be more to it ... eh?
one might start to think that contemporary poetry is a crap shoot that never pays off and anything under the tent is possibly ok ... and that's just not right ... is it,
the budding Atwoods and Bukowskis need something more substantial to gnaw on, something to mould their nibs into unbreakable styli that will this drip literary gold.

Among contemporaries we can only be connoisseurs, willing to sample a fellow poet's experience, sniff out essence, swirl in the possibilities. And we subject what we have read to a set of comparables that come from our life experiences and what we learn from others. The more we read and the more we experience, the wider our range of acceptance becomes. But the range of taste becomes wider as well, making it difficult to distill contemporary poetry into a single bottle that can be served to everyone.

And the definition continues to be diluted by the liberties of online publishing and easy-bake forums where self-made anti-poets, the refined and righteous, flourish in a literary half-hell, fornicating with lacey phrasing, gyrating with lyrical song and dance.

There is only a small salvation in knowing that the wine may pour in the same direction, we need to become more familiar with some of the more common ingredients.

let's consider this recipe:

1 part a.) exploration of social praxis
1 part b.) the absence of device and bias
1 part c.) accessibility or accountability to at least one reader other than the author
1 part d.) written by a living poet

Surely a.) is essential if you want to stay within the definition, if you are not writing thoughts occuring as a result of experiences in your life, I am not sure that this is poetry of any consequence to the contemporary world.

Then b.) of course, where the hoo-haw begins, a question maybe of whether literary device enhances the reading experience or whether filling in the blanks and giving it all away limits the ability for the reader to participate. It would be difficult to remove device completely from most poetry, but the trend seems to be moving towards minimalizing it's useage (i.e extended metaphors, excessive repitition, aliteration ... etc). In addition we have to consider reader participation, though it should be the ultimate goal, you may not always be able to remove the author's bias from a poem.

And c.) is the killer, possibly the reason for the demise of many poets ... can anybody connect to what you have written. Sometimes it is a question of the wrong venue, or sometimes just the author's desire not to submit to more popular content or construction, who knows, but at least one reader has to validate your experience, poetry as an introverted art form is a self-extinguishing notion.

And d.), well it speaks for itself ... unless of course you die, I think you have anywhere up to 100 years or so before you lose your exclusive entitlement as a contemporary poet ...

by Bernard Alain
The Cartier Street Review

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