A large theme of the discussion last week between Todd and I was purposefulness. More specifically, we started talking about choices in poetry. I believe I was the catalyst for such a discussion, contemplating the idea of spacing in poems. A trouble I often have is reasoning or justifying my choice to indent a line or word, or to otherwise make the page “more busy.” With left aligned poems, the majority of what I write, linebreaks themselves come to me for reasons of sound or emphasis, typically. But, the whole business of pushing a certain word over to the one side or excessive tabbing has yet to find a place in my style, if it even should.
I’m reminded of a sentence towards the end of Pinsky’s book, where he says, “What must be pointed out is the horrible ease with which a stylish rhetoric can lead poetry unconsciously to abandon life itself.” It seems more in the context of language use, but with this statement, Pinsky is also making a point about purpose. Where does a choice overtake the reason and become a stylish element?
I’ve heard the question raised about the aforementioned Daniel Bailey and his choices with the Drunk Sonnets, especially in terms of writing his versions of the sonnet and the use of capitalization. For me, these choices are justified because of the tone, lonely and angsty, that Bailey utilizes. Frankly, they are love poems written while drunk, hence sonnets disobeying many of the “rules” of sonnets written in all caps.
Todd mentioned the poem “America” by Claude McKay. I’d read it in the past, and after re-reading it, I find great depths in his choices as well. A black man writing about America in the form of a sonnet certainly has a special agenda behind it. Similarly, his language evokes thoughts of strong purpose and statement. As Todd pointed out, it is as if McKay is pointing out how he can play America’s game, writing solid traditional poetry.
I’m not sure how unconscious or conscious these types of decisions are or should be in poetry. Rather, I’m pointing out that in one shape or another, they’ve come to work. In my writing, my aesthetic as taken me towards discursiveness in my poems, a focal point of discussion as Pinsky’s book comes to a close. The problem I’ve encountered lately is turning it on and off, finding the purpose in my actions. As I progress forward in this study, I’ll continue to keep in mind these types of main ideas Pinsky has imparted.