The following was written by poet Allen Taylor. It was posted originally at his website, www.worldclasspoetryblog.com. You can get to that post by clicking on the title of this post.
How Many Types Of Poetry
14 August 2008, the poet @ 9:29 pm
The problem with didacticism isn’t that you take a position, it’s that you take it from the start — maybe it’s as simple as the reader’s trust, and being suspicious of rhetoric. Although I think it’s more than that — I think it’s hard to write a poem that isn’t dull without surprising yourself.
I’d like to thank Jim Murdoch for his response to my last blog post. I think anyone who reads my blog long term has figured out by now that I don’t believe that a poem is a poem just because somebody decided to throw some lines on a page and call it a poem. My point for that post was two-fold: No. 1, I just wanted to be a wise-ass and make fun of myself a little bit, and, secondly, just prove that I’m a bit of a contrarian on these matters. I don’t follow rules too well. I prefer to deal with principles because principles are flexible; rules are not. That doesn’t mean that everything is equal. To echo the words of the Apostle Paul, the author of much of the Christian New Testament, all things are permissible, but not all things are profitable. In other words, anyone can call himself a poet and just toss words onto the page, but the real test of one’s work is not what he himself thinks of it, but what the aggregate of posterity thinks of it.
I’d like to issue a third thank you. This one to G.M. Palmer who writes the Strong Verse blog. He’s drawn a bit of a line in the sand over there about what constitutes good poetry and what doesn’t. I certainly give him credit for his passion. I like many of his ideas and agree with them. But he’s got a few as well that I think are a bit stuck in the barn.
- In his “Modern Aesthetics As Sola Fide” post he criticizes contemporary poets for their “it’s poetry because I say it is” position then he turns around in less than one week later and makes the argument that Language Poets, Spoken Word poets, and avant gardeists are bad because he says they are. Well, I think he owes it to us to defend his position with some examples rather than saying Google will lead you to the self-evident truths. Sorry, bad positing.
- In his bio he says his favorite book is The Divine Comedy by Dante then he says in “Why I am a Skeptic” that he dislikes anything trendy or experimental. This is really quite laughable. Dante himself was an experimenter. All great poets are. Dante’s experimentalism is evident in his use of the terza rima, which was never used before he employed it in The Divine Comedy. Dante’s work went on to inspire Petrarch and Chaucer, who borrowed the form for English literature. Other English language poets followed, all the way down to William Carlos Williams, who is perhaps an iconic figure in the avant garde traditions. Personally, I’ve got no use for any poet who doesn’t step outside of the ranks and do a little experimenting. Who wants to read the same rehashed lines over and over again?
The answer to the question, “How many types of poetry are there?” is this: As many as people read. The poetry tent is big enough to hold the Language Poets, the New Formalists, and everyone in between. It’s big enough for lyric poetry and narrative poetry. It’s even big enough for a few lyric-narratives. Perhaps we’ll all have to tolerate a little bad poetry in order to enjoy the good, but the good that is there is really good so why let the rest get us down?