Letter To Pam Brown.

March 18, 2009 at 6:29 pm | Posted in australian poetry, memoirs, poetry, sheer selfindulgence, writing | 8 Comments
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Oh no, Walt Whitman most notorious of self-publishers, tell me it isn’t true. Pam Brown tells me that practicing poets should read poetics. I can’t think of anything more stultifying to my practice of poetry than reading lots of jargon and waffle written by academics with no sense of rhythm. Poets should read restaurant menus, graffiti, each other, newspaper horoscopes, ancient maps of sunken isles, the minds of small furry creatures, the patterns of grain in acres of sorghum rushing past the train

on its way to the cattleyards of Roma.

(Pam Brown is the Associate Editor of the infamous Jacket Magazine and I apologise unreservedly for quoting the fantastic Ms Brown, who rocks hard, out of context.)


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  1. hmm. I think my opinion falls somewhere in between you and PB, but then, I’m a fledgling writer and don’t possess any mastery over the language, etc., but yes, of course: poetics is never ever ever ever a substitution for inspiration, only a matter of craft & form, and though I am personally interested in the concept of poetics, I also feel (and have experienced) that poetics can kill inspiration. And yet, it can also teach a trick or two, you know? and on that note, because it’s almost 4 am where I’m at, I’ll stop wittering, because I can’t tell what I’ve written makes any sense or not.
    It makes perfect sense, Harmonie. I was careful to say “my practice”. I certainly wouldn’t want to make any generalisations. And you do possess mastery over the language. It belongs to all of us.

  2. Ancient maps of sunken isles…

    I like that as a concept…

    Legendary lost lands have quite poetic names; Lomea, Lyonesse, Ys, Atlantis…

    Sorghum as well, rich word…
    And also the symbol of the Former Kings of Burundi, I believe.
    I didn’t know that Crushed. I might make this a very long list of things poets should read and turn it into a pome, I think and then submit it to Jacket and see what happens.

  3. While we’re on the subject of requiring poets to do anything, in America, poets are almost routinely required to hold a Master’s Degree in some sort of writing. Pick up a copy of Poet’s and Writer’s magazine and look through the poets profiled, the “experts,” the judges’ credentials, and they all have Master’s Degrees. I’m still paying off student loans for my useless Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology. I have no intention of returning to school. Instead, let me remain unqualified to judge contests. I’d rather study at the University of Gingatao.
    Cool, we agree on most things, Bryan. The only thing you are likely to learn around here is how to sabotage your career in poetry by upsetting people, oh well. It’s the same in Australia, it’s like a post-graduate degree qualifies you to write which even those who have them would admit is ridiculous.

  4. A *good* poet cannot be a poet just by learning, just as a musician cannot be a musician just by being able to read music. There has to be an instinctive nugget of something or other indescribable that means they cannot help themselves, because of the rhythm and the pure joy they feel in creating. However, I do agree that reading as much as possible about techniques etc., does allow a certain freedom rather than a constraint, if that instinct is there within you. I am forever grateful to the variety of poets that have allowed me to work my own way through the amazement. Ohhh it’s a wonderful world with endless possibilities (generally speaking).
    Life is an amazing adventure, Narnie. The musician comparison is perfect. Music is one thing you can’t fake which is one reason gingatao is so committed to the rise of musicality in contemporary poetry.

  5. Poets should read fables, children’s books; look at paintings and see the truth in people’s eyes.
    Very true, Selma.

  6. Caught your comment to Narnie — musicality combined with evocative imagery makes poetry, for me, irresistible. And jargon and waffle — heh. Nothing poetic about either. (Unless you’re talking about a delicious waffle which inspires a poem. 😉 )
    Yumm, waffles, ice cream, hmmm

  7. you can’t tell someone how to hiccup. Same thing here, poets just do it, and look at themselves after the hiccup and smile…

    all these feasts of words are just to put a smile on poet’s/writer’s own face…

    so, you are right, Po!
    Yayya, I am glad you think so, Hayat.

  8. Narnie, how well you tell it, that is what I always loved about you.
    (hi Paul, ha ha)
    Hello, I think Narnie is still recovering from the launch of her book, Harmonie.

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