Sunday, February 06, 2011

Poetry and Disaster

One of my more uncharitable thoughts not too long after our 7.1 earthquake last September was "Maybe I should stay away from open mic poetry readings for a while, there are going to be so many bad earthquake poems around".

Which is why I found this week's feature article at Poetry Daily especially interesting. In it Katie Ford writes about the duty of the poet, with reference to New Orleans post Hurricane Katrina. This is the line that drew me in:

A reader recoils at the thought of large, painful subjects being written about poorly. I felt very validated on reading that line

I was intrigued to read further and discover this:
Perhaps, then, poets should not set before themselves the task of writing "about" anything in particular. Our task is blind, we find our way by feel—a sensation that can grow confident and nimble in the absence of full sightedness.

The whole article had me thinking - or rather, extended the thinking I had already begun - about the way I write. Usually, I start with an idea and try and make the words fit. I'm becoming more interested in starting with an interesting line, and exploring where it takes me. I haven't come to any conclusions yet. I do think that starting with an idea can work, but not always. That could be why I have so many failed poems! A proportion work, and many more don't quite make the grade.

Click the link if you want to read the whole article, the daily poems are archived on the site for a year, but I'm not sure how long the feature articles stay available, so it would be best to try sooner rather than later.

1 comment:

Kathleen Jones said...

I do so agree. Tutoring creative writing has brought me into contact with rather a lot of 'occasion' poems turgid with emotion and cliche. I wrote a poem after an earth tremor in Italy, but couldn't write anything after the Canterbuy Quake. It was too big an experience. Maybe one day, if I have anything to say.....