February 22, 2010

The Tedium of Other People's Dreams

Sometimes it seems that among contemporary poets there exists a tacit agreement that poems should adhere to the following model:

1. Introduction of scenario or thought, phrased strikingly enough.
2. Image.
3. Associated image.
4. Associated Image.
5. Associated Image. (Multiply as necessary...)
6. Concluding (grand) gesture towards original scenario or thought.

Lest folks think I’m slinging mud here, my own work often follows this model, which is something of an image lasagna. The connections between images are often so obtuse and strained that any sentiment (beyond tone or metonym) is lost. It looks like a poem and quacks like a poem, but is finally as compelling as “Chopsticks” played at a recital.

The effect of reading a poem of stacked, associated images is similar to the experience of listening to someone recount a dream: as enthusiastic as the person may be in the retelling, the significance of the dream’s movements and the great leaps in the dream’s setting and circumstance communicate little beyond the teller’s genuine but inarticulate enthusiasm and the byzantine nature of thought. I’ll be honest; other’s dreams generally bore or alienate me.

One of the reasons that I have written these lasagna poems in the past is that they are inscrutable enough to be nearly impossible to critique. It’s a cowardly way to make a poem unimpeachable, I admit, and far too many editors pass these poems along because they are indigestible but still full of poetic quacking.

Or perhaps we’re all fumbling in the dark for the vanguard. I just don’t understand why the vanguard is so fucking inarticulate.

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