How To Write An Essay About Poetry

Years ago I used a sentence that sounded fine and that I never understood: "Information is the enemy of art." Now maybe I know what I meant.The air around us is laden with electric facts, words not for reading but for providing wedges of detail, reducing language to numbers and touch screens.

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He would not equal Wyatt, Shakespeare, Milton, Herbert, Herrick, Traherne, Carew, Sydney, Marvell...

How many young poets, now, have spent much time with the 17th century, reading the best poets of our language?

That is, that there was something about the level of language — its beauty, complexity, or heightened qualities — that gave a piece of writing the status of poetry, and distinguished it from prose.

The more poetry I read and wrote, the more clearly I saw that there was really no such thing as “poetic language.” The words in poems are for the most part the same as those we find everywhere else.

Do graduates of MFA programs read as far back as John Ashbery?

Once I read a contemporary poet remarking that when he went to college one professor was a Pound man.The poetry crowd’s rush toward creation is reaction to the technology that usurps the public air. Donald Hall received the Marshall/Nation Award in 1987 for his "The Happy Man"; both the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Los Angeles Times Book Award in 1988 for "The One Day"; the Lily Prize for Poetry in 1994; and two Guggenheim Fellowships.A poet dedicates herself or himself to a universe of feeling not facts, to the pursuit of beauty not information. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.I hadn’t been an English major in college, nor had I read much American poetry. But I also often doubted myself, and felt like I was looking in the wrong place, or missing what was really important.So I felt simultaneously thrilled, destabilized, and confused. At that time, I had the vague impression that poets used poetic language and techniques to express important thoughts or ideas in a more beautiful, complex, or compressed way than prose.Whether the poets write well or not, they define themselves as seekers of the sensuous and emotional. Technology is black and white, art is the palette of Matisse. When I was first starting to write poetry in my early 20s, I didn’t really understand much about it.Way back we didn't call ourselves or they were nothing.When poetry began to spread through the population, I gave a talk that began, "I see no reason to spend your life writing poems unless your goal is to write great poems." My talk went on to invent the Mc Poem, promoted by Hamburger University, and provided countless other bits of snottiness. One poet friend—born the year I was, a winner of prizes, a Poet Laureate—wrote me a letter some years ago.There are infinitely more self-identified poets than there were in the 1920s or the 1820s, or the 1620s. Thousands more poems are published in hundreds more magazines. Some are good, but globalization always begets Balkanization.There are hundreds more books, thirty first book prizes. The general reader has disappeared, who moved among history, fiction, biography, and poetry.


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