Friday, June 04, 2004

Jorge, you are undoubtedly right--the end justifies the means; and furthermore, there's a long tradition of great poetry being intimately linked to the personal. In fact, I would dare say that it would be nearly impossible to find an example of a good poet whose work does not belie a trace of autobiography--Plath is such an obvious example, but also O'Hara, Dickinson, Rimbaud, Baudelaire, Keats, even Shakespeare's sonnets. Stevens might be an exception... Pound? Maybe Ashbery is an exception, too? Paging Dr. Bienvenu...

Baudelaire said something interesting regarding the personal or autobiographical in poetry. In the second edition of Fleurs du Mal he added a new section of poems, several of which were inspired by events of his childhood. He wrote a letter to his mom about them that said something to the effect that he was rather uncomfortable whoring elements of his private life.

And I do think there are several dire corrosive sides to this, especially in the 'pop' realm, which I think is what sparked this discussion. For one, it sends the message to young poets that you have to be a lunatic to write good poems. Lunacy can certainly be an ally, but more often than not this notion produces armies of posers full of self-import and programatized 'weird' behavior.

And again, there's something to be said for the artless, the non-self-conscious text which is more a part of life than the boxed up, jewel of a literary text. Heck, that was one of the aims of surrealism--to break down these barriers.

I think ultimately, to get back to the point, poetry is still hardly ever a way to exorcise demons because good poetry cannot be so reductionary. I do believe a good poem leaves too much unsettled to really do away with any haunting aspects of the inner/personal life. But then again, perhaps just getting it on paper is relief in itself.

As for Trillin, you're right (Chad, calme-toi). He knows he's a hack & he seems to have fun with it.


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