Monday, April 26, 2010

What we've got here, is a failure to communicate. . .

Over the years, I have participated in discussions and arguments regarding what constitutes 'good' writing. Many of these happen over poetry in the endless debate between 'accessible' and 'arcane' poetry.

For some reason, (probably the same reason for the town/gown split between writers of genre fiction and literary fiction) accessible has gotten a bad rap in poetry circles. It's often used as a term of disdain. As if, if *anyone* can read it and understand it, it must be terribly pedestrian/cliche/banal/bad. Take your pick. I've heard it all.

On the other side, are poets who refuse to see any value at all in a highly crafted piece of writing that asks for partnership between artist and audience to construct its meaning. If it's not laid out, plain for anyone to see, it's elitist/intellectual/pretentious/bad. Again, take your pick.

At the end of the day, don't we make art to communicate? Art is a conversation, not a one way lecture. For a poem to be effective, it needs to be understood. (That does not mean the reader will find exactly the meaning the poet believes he or she crafted. Our subconscious minds are tricky places, and much of creativity resides there.) A poem that is not understood, in my thinking, is a failed conversation.

I don't blame either the poet or the reader; rather I believe something went amiss in the meeting between them.

I don't want to read work that makes me feel stupid. Nor do I want to read work that tells me what it's about or what to think.

I do believe there is a middle ground. It's the place where we can communicate as equals, where resonance happens, and meaning unfolds.

What do you think?

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