Monday, December 31, 2007

New year's irresolution

I am tired of reading bad poems and worse poems and, every once in a while, not-good poems, which cheer me up, because, though not good, they are better than bad and worse. The remedy is in my own hands, of course. I need to spend less time reading new poems online and more time reading old poems in books. The fault is not entirely with the online poetry sites I visit. Most new poems are bad--at every time and in every place. We forget that because history is an editor, and time has winnowed what we know. It is possible that were I to see as many brand-new Elizabethan and Caroline poems as I see Bushy verse, I should be as dismayed by then as I am by now. (I don't really believe that, you know.) But I don't. The moiety of those new poems lined pie pans and lit fires, so I never have to take them into account.

Anyway, it may be that too much brand spanking new poetry, read online or off, is not good for you. I need to find out.

P.S., a day later:

I can't imagine how editors cope with this phenomenon. One told me recently, apologizing for a cursory reading, that she receives 1000 poems a week. Almost all of them must be dreadful, but even if they weren't, how could she know? Gentle Reader, would you--literate, experienced, sensitive connoisseur that you are--have been able to sort the Tennysonian wheat from the Victorian chaff if it had come to you, a single poem concealed among 999 others, with 1000 still pending from the week before and 175+ more about to arrive in that day's mail? No wonder most of them give up and settle for publishing their friends or, if they publish the poems of strangers, selecting those which look most like the poems they published last time. 52,000 poems a year! And that's one editor at one magazine.