So on day 30 of our POETRY CELEBRATION, the last day of our month long party, we welcome our last guest, Poetry by Marianne Moore. See here how, at first, she resists poetry: https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/poetry
She quickly states in her first line of the poem (which Moore created four different versions of in her lifetime) that “I too, dislike it:”
Well, this creates an awkward moment for us considering we have been celebrating the thing she dislikes all month here. Well, rather than wonder if she read the invitation right, let’s just get into why she may not like poetry. Let’s give her a chance to explain herself before we send her on her way.
“When they become so derivative as to become
Oh, we get it now. She doesn’t like the pieces that are too hard to figure out. The pieces that are in imitation of what a poem is thought to be. Those highfalutin pieces that need the assistance of an interpreter even though it was written in our native language. A poem that makes their reader feel as useless and blind as “the bat.”
So let's welcome her now and urge her to go on.
Poetry should be useful, she continues. In Poetry, she quotes Tolstoy (“business documents and school-books”) and Yeats (“literalists of the imagination”) and even the poet writing this poem, herself (“imaginary gardens with real toads in them”) as they search to define what isn’t and is poetry.
It is not until the last lines of the last stanza that she realizes the poetry that she does like is honest poetry.
“In the meantime, if you demand on the one hand,
the raw material of poetry in
all its rawness and
that which is on the other hand
genuine, you are interested in poetry.”
She urges us, now, to require that poets combine their imaginations with their realities. One part heavier than the other only leads to bad poetry. Not until the poet has a good balance of the two will it be useful for us.
And so we look around this party, back to the month of poems that have gathered with us here during our POETRY Celebration and we see, just as our final guest has, why, we too, like that poetry. It’s the useful kind.
I have seen it for myself, the stigma that is placed on poetry just because someone reads a bad poem once. That person then is done. That person now dislikes poetry too. It’s like when you take a gulp of turned milk, it’s awhile if ever again, you want to take another sip.
I have also heard horror stories of readers being in a room and being forced to beat a poem close to its death just to get it to talk the way the instructor wants it to. Who would ever want to continue such abuse? That poem should have never been held captive by an instructor anyway.
The best teachers know that poetry cannot really be taught.
Poetry is the real teacher.
An instructor, a critic, a blogger, etc., should offer services like a party host introducing you to the guests (poems) you may not have met yet. The host may say, “Oh, come with me, I have someone special I really think you should meet because of you both: love dogs, or have children, or have suffered a recent loss, or are in love, or, mainly are alive and human. That host then leaves you to talk amongst yourselves hoping you that you make a connection. But, there is no pressure to make one. There are plenty of party guests that are eager to chat if you are not clicking with your first introduction. They are not aloof or intimidating or discriminating. They are just looking to share with you an experience. You just need to be open to meeting them.
I guarantee it’s going to be some to best party conversation you will ever have: “raw” and “genuine.”