Saturday, September 29, 2007

Poetic Closure

I woke up in the middle of the night in something close to panic.

The last line of a poem--one that I'd recently submitted--I knew it was wrong, but I didn't let it register. I could read it in a certain context and not notice. But out of sound sleep, it attacked me like...

like what?

This is how you set yourself up. You write the word "like" and the next thing you know you've hung yourself from a dead simile.

I spent the better part of the day reworking that line. It was the last line in the poem... not seldom a problem. Why? Because "closure" itself is a cliché. A can of worms. A temptation to kitch. If you care about form, a temptation that's especially hard to see--you find something that appears to solve the formal, structural problem and it overwhelms all the other critical senses. That was the problem here. I had a line that brought the poem to a perfect closure. Sealed and shut. Nails in the coffin.

Poem D.O.A.

This was no case of mailing off a poem before it was ripe. (Let me check my log... 7/6/06... with subsequent revisions and drafts)

The Last Line Problem.... Classic Case.

So I worked on it, and I think I've worked it out... the new line flows from the rest of the poem as the other did not. Draws on the same vocabulary (weather... important here... Title: Meteorologist in Love), and stripped of the false sentiment (is there another kind?)--the rot in the old line.

I think I have Jonathan Mayhew to thank.

I've spent a lot of time on his blog in the last few days. He irritates me to distraction at times, but it's the kind of irritation you know is good for you. It wakes you up.

Agreement, disagreement... means nothing.

Why... and How... that's what matters. Like what I've been finding in Zizek. Mayhew's made me go back and reexamine some basic assumptions.

Nothing better to take off twenty, thirty years. Beats Botax all to hell!

Now, if I could only convince my students...

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