THE ARC OF "COLLECTED POEMS"
I'm interested in the unavoidable narrative arcs of poetry collections (whether or not said arcs were intended by their authors). And recently I've been trying to read more and more poets' COLLECTED POEMS. I speculate that COLLECTEDs say something about a poet's life -- I'm particularly interested in how they address the question of whether it had been worth it for that person to be a poet. (I'm talking about some "worth it" value that's different from the position that if a poet felt it worthwhile, then the poetry life was worthwhile.) The next step then, as I imagine this exercise further, is to compare my conclusion with the insights from a poet's (auto-)biography.
I'm interested in this exploration because my work has significant "opportunity costs" (to lapse to moi ex-Wall Street parlance, tho I ain't talking about $$). Anyhoot...
I still remember shocking a pal who happens to be a fabulous poet-critic over how, after reading his COLLECTED (I think it was COLLECTED vs SELECTED), I concluded, "Hey, that Stanley Kunitz was a damn good poet." I guess my pal, who'd been reading Kunitz all along -- or more than I had been on an ongoing basis -- didn't think highly of Kunitz's poetry. I had had no particular interest in Kunitz's poetry; I had picked up Kunitz's book simply because it was a COLLECTED. I'm thinking that this example confirms how it can be difficult to gauge a poet's prowess (hm. is "prowess" the word here?) based on reading invididual poems here and there (I've occasionally had a poetry-reader say s/he was surprised at one of my poems -- specifically how that poem seems so unrelated to other poems of mine.) Sometimes, the indepth immersion in a poet's work offers revelations not possible in any other way.
This probably shows me to be more sympathetic to looking at a poet's overall work -- including process -- versus looking at individual poems. That's true. But it has nothing to do with taking sides over poem (work) versus poet (biography). And I still appreciate the individual poem on its own. It's just that I believe you don't need to be a "professional" poet to be able to write a killer poem. I think everyone, whether one calls one's self a poet or not, is able to write a great poem.
But there is a difference, surely, in the occasional wonderful poem versus what happens when one keeps keeping at it, day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year...etcetera etcetera... (Sometimes, that difference is not for the better in terms of the actual poems...)
So I'm interested in those who consciously choose to live lives as poets, how they manifest that, the work that comes from that approach, and then connecting the dots of these decisions to learn _________[fill in the blank].
Anyway, I recently Allen Ginsberg's COLLECTED POEMS: 1947-1997. What that COLLECTED clearly shows is how, yeah, despite finding several individual poems unreadable, this person's life was worth living as a poet. Of course, weak poems are an occupational hazard -- and should be (?) -- in COLLECTEDs; they reveal the result of a poet continuing to push, eh? (Having said that, and having also read Gregory Corso's MINDFIELD, his SELECTED poems, I can see how some peeps consider Corso a better poet than Ginsberg...but such comparisons ain't the point of this post, is it, so I move on...)
Anyway, yeah -- I'm interested in reading COLLECTEDs, and I guess thick SELECTEDs, out of this curiosity about whether a poet's life would have been worth it.
Although, it just occurs to me as I type this post that I have to say that I've yet to read a COLLECTED that made me conclude: How sad that s/he spent his life as a poet and this is all that came out of it...! And I think there's a message there...though I'm still fairly early on in looking at COLLECTEDs...
Meanwhile, here's moi latest relished Whines and Wines:
WIND IS WIND AND RAIN IS RAIN, poems by Brynne
NO SOUNDS OF MY OWN MAKING, book-length poem by John Bloomberg-Rissman
T TO C: SUN, novel-in-verse by John Bloomberg-Rissman
THE PLANT WATERER AND OTHER THINGS IN COMMON, poems by Kathryn Rantala
LIGHT HOUSE, poems by Brian Lucas
COLLECTED POEMS OF ALLEN GINSBERG 1947-1997
RADISH KING, poems by Rebecca Loudon
YIN, poems by Carolyn Kizer
GONE, poems by Fanny Howe
MANGYAN TREASURES: THE AMBAHAN: A POETIC EXPRESSION OF THE MANGYANS OF SOUTHERN MINDORO, PHILIPPINES, Compiled, trans. and explained by Antoon Postma (thanks for the gift, Rochita!)
ROBERT CREELEY: A BIOGRAPHY by Ekbert Faas (I didn't "relish" this book so much; found its approach to biography repelling)
STRAPPED: WHY AMERICA'S 20- AND 30-SOMETHINGS CAN'T GET AHEAD, investigative journalism by Tamara Draut
INTO THE WILD, investigative journalism by Jon Kraut
CLEARING LAND: LEGACIES OF THE AMERICAN FARM, meditation by Jane Brox
A SCHOOLTEACHER IN OLD ALASKA: THE STORY OF HANNAH BREECE, Ed. by Jane Jacobs
GOOD DOG: THE STORY OF ORSON WHO CHANGED MY LIFE, memoir by Jon Katz
FREE LAND, novel by Rose Wilder Lane
ORDINARY WOLVES, novel by Seth Kantner
THE DOG WHO SPOKE WITH GODS, novel by Diane Jessup
INCIDENTS IN THE RUE LANGIER, novel by Anita Brookner
ALMOST, novel by Elizabeth Benedict
MASK MARKET, novel by Andrew Vachss
2004 Dumol Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
2003 Schloss Schonborn Beerenauslese
2000 Dutch Henry cabernet
1995 Thadgara shiraz Show Reserve
2000 Abreu Madrona Ranch cabernet
1994 Kistler chardonnay
2002 Luce Abbey cabernet
1986 Ch. De Fargues sauterne
Labels: Relished W(h)ines