Intuition and Guile

I’ve been thinking about poetry lately, my own and others. A friend sent me someone’s poems to comment on, and not long ago I read an article about some poet who had lied about his academic qualifications and was fired. The guy's poems were energetic and interesting, but not especially because the poems themselves were any good.

They were interesting only because the poet had led an interesting life. Beyond the experiences he wrote about, the poems, line for line, didn’t have enough of the extra-linguistic aesthetic quality that I seem to think is a requirement for poetry. They were loaded with sense; they lacked sound. Poets are a lot of things, but in the end they must be someone who, with intuition and guile, stands in a place where ideas and the vast textures of sound flash out to one another.

This is the great trick. Lots of people can craft strings of words that enchant the ear; many can write about their fascinating lives or make astonishing observations, but only a rare few--an astonishingly rare few--can do both at once. I know I’m a lousy poet, but from time to time I like to think I manage, if only for a few moments, to get all the balls into the air. They don’t stay there very long, but for those few seconds before everything crashes to the floor, I am almost able to think to myself "Hey, look, I’m doing it!"


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