Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Dead Poet Society
I read in bed nearly every night; propped up on pillows; buried beneath layers of blankets; snug, warm and secure. It helps to quiet my mind. My current read (again) is The Best American Essays 1996, and last night I came upon the passage regarding competition between artists and how they responded to contemporaries. What was their response? Did they compete for the top spot or give up? Did they sulk or support? I was especially intrigued with the poets and the strong opinions they had of each others work and how they judged it both graciously and harshly. What grabbed my attention was the ferocity of judgment by some towards another’s writing style. Now, I’ve read poetry for years, and written a bit myself, albeit not to the caliber of published authors, but getting back to the point, the current read gave me no choice but to get up from my cozy haven and retrieve another favorite book, The Best Loved Poems of the American People, and search for authors like Keats and Wordsworth and Byron.
My reading of poetry has always been a mishmash of poems and poets read at the same time and never, in all these years, have I sat down to read through the writings of one poet at a time. I’ve never gotten to know a poet. This time, however, I read all the poems I found of one author before moving on to the next. Huh! I’ll be darned! Not only did these authors have strong egos (gleaned from between the lines in the essay), they had completely different writing styles and it’s no wonder they had such nasty things to say about each other. In reading the essay, and without having read the poems, I was inclined to prefer Author One over Author Two simply because of Author Two’s attitude towards the others. Upon reading the poems, I changed my mind and can better understand Author Two’s judgment.
Silly me. Though I understand the difference in painting styles and why I prefer a Vermeer over a Van Gogh, for some reason I never gave it a thought as to why I preferred some poems over others. Now I have to go back and read poetry with a much more critical eye (ear?) to see if I can find a style that I prefer. This might be interesting.