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« Robert Pinsky on Radio Boston: The "weird majesty" of American poetry | Main | Introducing the Orchestra and its Creatures [by Lera Auerbach] »

April 03, 2013


This brought tears to my eyes. I'm afraid to write because I'm afraid of being awful.

Wallis, Don't let fear of being awful stop you. Everyone is awful at some point. Give yourself permission to be awful. If you have the chance, track down first drafts of some famous writing and you'll see what I mean. At the same time, I do think that it's perfectly OK to judge something as awful;that's what one is able to do with a lifetime of education and study. But it's important to know when to keep those judgements to oneself.
Much to comtemplate here and in previous posts Sydney. Thank you.

I agree with Stacey here. I like Don Hall and quite a bit of his poetry, but his assertion (I am not quoting but glossing) that you must attempt to rival Yeats or Milton or whomever each time you sit down to write is the purest nonsense. Who, including Don, cold ever hav e truly started a poem with sort of inbuilt challenge. I recently went back to some unpublished work by my hand and thought, "Well, this is no good. But I just hadn't put in the time yet to have the skills to handle it. Let's try it now." I'm not the one to judge the results objectively, but the experiment was fruitful.

Yet what I was really getting at was the fact that patently awful poems -- Hallmarky stuff, say -- often resonate more profoundly with the Common Reader than a lot of our more sophisticated efforts. We need to ponder that, not that I am offering a pat conclusion.

Maybe by the artificial standards of the poobahs of modernism, who think poetry is just a language game, those poems were "awful", but I consider them valuable since they served well their intended purpose of personal communication.

There are many levels of poetry. Epic narrative, gritty satire, Hallmark sentimental lyric, angst existential diatribe, political jeremiad, romantic song, blues, folk, rebellious rock, assertive rap, commercial jingle, tragic ballad, and many more.

Academic language games are just one small field of the poetic country.

Having just read your poem Beautiful Miles at the Poetry Foundation that I thought was truly awful, it's clear that, in my own judgement at least, your own idea of what good poetry is - is truly awful.

You don't offer us any evidence to make up our minds about these poems, but anyone who comes up with the lines:

A snake always lisped, jetting its feces. They reeked.
A single peek,
And the younger boys thought, This is danger. But each a child,
Each smiled

...shouldn't be writing poetry. It is truly very bad. Reeking feces, each child smiled, god no wonder you're confused.

Nah. They were awful.


I always feel that no matter how awful a poem may be, at least the person made an attempt to express their thoughts.

Better to have awful poetry than silence or groans.

Gee, coming from the creator of "Merry 'N Square & A Poem," that really hurts. I'll out me quill back in me goose, and bow down to your the high mythic Oirish majesty.

I'm with you, kid.

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