Friday, April 5, 2013

"Life is a Mess and Art is Form" Conversation With Poet Billy Collins (Cortland Review Link)

Is life really a mess as someone told Billy Collins?  An enlightened being once said life is how you see it. Then there is that old familiar line about its not what happens to you but how you react to it that determines the quality of your experience. I think both are true. I also think personality, genetics, family systems and some luck play into  how we react to our lives. I do think it is hard to change basic things about yourself like if you are a half empty person or a half full one. Some people get rattled by everything, other people are laid back about  most things. The laid back people call the rattled people over- reactive and the  over- reactive people call the laid back people simple or procrastinators or insensitive. Is life a mess? I  go back and forth between the half empty and half full glass. In a "good"  poem the glass of life is always full for me. That is why I read and write poetry. It is an affirmation.

So where is my rambling leading me when it comes to the Billy Collin's interview?  When he mentioned that writers spend their time lying to people in a way to make them think the work is about the reader when it is really about the writer set me to thinking. When he said poets need only one story (their own) that they  vary  in each poem bells and whistles went off. That is what I do.  I tell my story over and over again with few exceptions. If I am not telling an actual story of mine every poem reflects my pov on all things.

Recently I  have been reading lots of  current poetry and find I don't like much of it.  Why? Well, I am not really into poetry that is so dense you need a jungle guide to plow through it or poetry that waxes poetic about life and death or poetry that is nature oriented that describes the breezes blowing or narrative poetry that could have been written as  prose.  Then there are the extremely crafted poems, I feel like they are in a straight jacket. I am looking for something new. I yearn for newness, freshness of language and vision. Not everyone feels this way about the poetry that is out there today. I don't mean to sound like the styles or themes of poetry I mentioned can't be inspiring or even great.  I meant to say that it is originality  within the style or theme I am seeking. Sometimes I find that newness or originality in prose poetry with its element of magical realism and sometimes I find it in Billy Collin's poems. He often just gets to the heart of an emotion and experience and it is clear and plain. I feel  yeh, that is life.

 Poets need to energize the word.

If anyone wants to suggest a poet to me, I'd be grateful. I want to find some nitty gritty down to earth poets or poets who are so sublime in their use of words or vision that I am  left breathless for a moment. The element of surprise is what I am seeking in a poem  these day.

The form  of a poem is vital as Collins said in the interview. That is perhaps what I am writing about, how to make the form vital and new and connect it to relevant content. It is a difficult task. It is often what is left out of the poem, the silent part that holds the most surprise. It is the part the reader has to fill in and this is where the poet  artistically lies to the readers skillfully pulling them into the poem until  they are almost hypnotized.

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