Thursday, May 31, 2007

You never know, do you?

Today someone arrived at this blog by performing a Google search for "tapir fucking at the zoo." Wonder what he was hoping for.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Why do fools fall in love?

What holds message boards together is the need for praise. For all the blather about how poets just want straightforward criticism so that they can grow (you can do the same thing at The House of Pies, and it tastes better) (are there still Houses of Pie?), what they really want is acclamation. So they forum shop till they find a place where other posters either like what they write or are willing to say they like it, in exchange for reciprocal tub-thumping.

Anyone reading through poetry websites/message boards/forums will find himself saying over and over again, "Anyone who likes that would like okra boiled with Gummi Bears." But the answer is pretty obvious, really: today's gushee is tomorrow's gusher. And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make. Workshop-wise.

It's a nicely-nice thing, I suppose: a place for everyone in the internet poetry universe; and if the stomach sometimes recoils when drivel is overpraised, well, our turns will come, too, when we have found the right foster family----change places, and handy-dandy, which is the justice, which is the thief?

Sunday, May 13, 2007

What about Gutenberg?

One of my poems appeared this week in an online journal. It looks fine; the "magazine" itself is neither better nor worse than the print outlets in which my poems more commonly appear; and the editors deserve thanks for their doubtlessly unremunerative devotion to the art. But for us sons and daughters of print, there is something oddly unsatisfying about e-journals and online publication. It seems so ephemeral and provisional. (No offense to that other magisterial symbol of our times, The Shit Creek Review.)

I know this is illogical of me. Scholars, fans of poetry, and potential biographers are not going into Widener, browsing through bound back volumes of the DeKalb Literary Arts Journal or Phoebe in the hope of finding a dimly remembered poem of mine. And yet. And yet. They could. Is the same going to be true of my latest electronic incarnation?

Tuesday, May 08, 2007


Many beginning prosodists treat metrical variations as though they were vermin: find them, identify them, then ruthlessly exterminate them. But variations are neither good nor bad in themselves; they are only prosodic tools. All that matters is how they're used and whether they work. When you've noticed that Shakespeare's

What studied torments, tyrant, hast for me?
What wheels? racks? fires? what flaying? boiling?
In leads or oils? what old or newer torture
Must I receive, whose every word deserves
To taste of thy most worst?

is not perfectly regular, your analysis has only begun, not concluded. Too often, though, I see "critiques" which are little more than lists of metrical variations, as though they were spelling errors, and the critic had performed some regulatory action by ferreting them out. I usually respond with some reference to Milton's

Rocks, Caves, Lakes, Fens, Bogs, Dens, and shades of death[,]

since critiquers are a tad hesitant to claim either that every other word must be stressed or that Milton didn't know what he was doing. (They may think, "If only he'd had access to The Gaz," but they aren't quite brave enough to say it.)