Tuesday, April 7, 2009

On Poetry

My critics are those that want me to learn to write poetry 
their way, and I say there are as many ways to make art as 
there are to make  love…someone gets off on Van Gogh, 
someone else on Norman Rockwell… it’s not so much that 
some art is intrinsically better….it’s the art’s ability 
to communicate that measures it’s worth. Poetry 
uses language as it’s palette, but it is an art of communication, 
not of language, just as music is not an art of sounds 
and painting is not an art of paints.

I could be a “better” poet, and I am from years back, 
but my goal is not to be a better poet. it’s to write poetry. 
For many years I rarely shared my writing, but now that I’ve 
achieved a certain level of mediocrity, I’ve found that some 
people like some of my poems, so, my ambition has found it’s
natural limit. If I become a better writer, it’s merely a side effect.

Allen Ginsberg was a brave man, and one attitude he had 
towards poetry that I loved, was that everyone should write 
poems to each other, that it was amenable to community and 
sharing and fun and why not? There’s always the effete
faction that considers whatever art there is to be subject to 
their sublime judgment, but that’s a lot of horse manure.

I think Ginsberg’s “Howl” and either “The Love Song of J. 
Alfred Prufrock”or else “The Wasteland”, by Eliot, are at least 
two of the greatest English language poems of the Twentieth 
Century. Their subjects are exactly the same,and they each are 
 eloquent in their own style. The effect they each had was
vastly different. The intelligentsia ga gaed over Eliot in part 
because of the intricate weaving of classical references in his 
poems….you didn’t have to know Greek and Latin and a dozen 
other languages to appreciate his poems, but it didn’t hurt. 
Meanwhile he was addressing a world societal upheaval and
change that would be echoed down the line by Aldous Huxley, 
Orwell and others…the death of the soul in modern society. 
Eliot was one of the documentarians of that zeitgeist.

“Howl” was not the logical death knell one would expect 
would be the pronouncement on what had been happening 
historically over the previous forty years. It was a call to life, 
a battle cry of the sacred tender heart that would not die, and 
it arose precisely at a time when there were a multitude of ears 
ready to hear just that. “Howl” was a bombshell that helped waken
the children of the fifties from the engineered stupor that 
was the legacy of the process that Eliot saw.

And what does this have to do with the subject? Ginsberg 
and the Beats were vilified by a writing establishment that 
worshipped the style of Eliot, but not the substance. Truman 
Capote called “On the Road” “typing”, not writing. As the world 
changes, art changes, because art is “now”. Ginsberg and Burroughs 
were given establishment honors in later years, Mother Columbia
clinging the world renown successful artists to her ample and fetid bosom.

I only had one professor in college that said anything that 
made a lick of sense. He was one of my English professors, 
and he said: “If you want to be a writer, write!”


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