Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Poet's Choice (1)

Editors: Paul Engle and Joseph Langland. New York: Time Incorporated. 1962.

Why read it? First the poem. Then the poet’s comment on why it is the favorite poem. The explanation is often as cryptic as the poem. The poets offer comments on the nature of poetry, how the poems originated and the many different reasons that they have chosen that particular poems as the favorite. They also write a great deal in a few words about the process of writing poetry. That alone is reason enough for the interested reader to become involved.

Several themes seem to recur: the importance of the poem’s being read aloud. Sometimes the poem seems to write itself, as if it is being dictated and the poet merely records it. Or the poems take on a life of their own. Poems can be viewed as games with words and rules. The poets and their poems become separate entities. The poet seeks to make the poem objective, an object. Certain poems represent specific problems in composition and the poet tries to solve them. Almost all poets are Aware of the difference between the conception and its embodiment. The poem can be an act of discovery. A poem can be a search for self-realization. Poems often deal with moments in the poet’s daily life. The material of poems must deal with what people of the future will recognize.

Allusions are often private, making the poem seem to be obscure. Some poets could not choose a favorite poem because they saw their poetry as a lifetime achievement, and individual poems only a piece of the total. Sometimes poets began with a single word that led to another word and then to another. Sometimes, poets began with the form, like a sestina, and then filled it in with their thoughts. Some poets separated the poem from the poet. Some didn’t. Only occasionally, do poets write immediately following an experience. Most need time for reflection between the experience and the poem. Poets sometimes feel that they can say in poems what they cannot say in any other form. The discipline of poetry helps create the emotion in the meaning. Some poets enjoy a poem because of the amount of work they have put into it.

For some poets revision is never completed. Some poets are surprised at what they have accomplished without realizing they were doing it. Generally, poets are not surprised that readers find things in their poems that they never intended to put there. Poets found that writing a poem helped to clarify an experience. Some poets found that poems they have written are too personal and they cannot judge them as they can other types of writing.

This book puts the reader inside the minds of poets. The experience of writing poetry is rich and poets write poems for many different reasons. This book, Poet’s Choice, comes close to being one of my favorites. I would never want to lose it. RayS.

To be continued.

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